When my daughter was born, my vision was so blurry from the exhaustion of new motherhood I had no idea who the baby was that I was holding. All I saw was the baby my daughter "should" be -- and wasn't. She "should" be sleeping through the night by now; she "should" be crawling; and she "should" be perfect. The fact that her pediatrician said she was completely healthy and developing right on schedule meant nothing to me. All I cared about were the "shoulds."
I was also obsessed with the "shoulds" in regards to my mothering. I "should" have been able to breastfeed my baby, I "should" be blissful 24 hours a day, and the fact that I am not all of these things I "should" be is why my baby is not all of the things that she "should" be which is why I am horrible and "should" not have become a mother in the first place.
With all of this negative thinking, it's no surprise that I had to be treated for postpartum depression. Therapy and medication helped to some extent, but my recovery didn't fully begin until I started blogging. When I was at the depths of my depression, the one thing that made me happy was putting my daughter in cute clothes. Like most new moms, I took a ridiculous amount of pictures of her to share with friends and family on Facebook. Sometime around my daughter's 6-month birthday, I noticed that I felt more confident as a mother behind the camera. I have no formal training as a photographer, so this was all new to me. I have read many articles about the possible harmful effects today's children will face from their every move being photographed and documented on the Internet. While these arguments are valid, I think the positive effects deserve some attention as well.
For the past year, I have posted pictures of my daughter almost every morning. This is exhausting, but for the most part, I am happy and proud I have made this commitment. My mother lives miles away, but every morning, she wakes up and gets to see new pictures of her granddaughter while she drinks her coffee. I have made "mom friends" from all over the world and when I need advice, these are the women I turn too. I am also able to see the humor in situations that would have previously been a nail-biting and hair-pulling experience. When my daughter locked me out of our apartment so she could eat dog food, I wrote about it and got advice on how to start "time-outs." When I didn't have time to shave and my daughter started petting my legs and saying "Good Puppy," I wrote a funny blog post about it. When my daughter got so mad at me she threw her break-dancing Mickey Mouse into the street and we both watched in horror as he got hit by a New York City Cab, I comforted my daughter with laughter and tweeted about it. The mom I was during the first six months of my daughter's life would have been crying hysterically, but the mom I am today is able to take care of her child, put her to bed, and once the door is closed, laugh hysterically at all the ridiculousness parenting has to offer. I don't know if this could have happened without the over-sharing made possible by the world wide web.
My daughter feeding the family dog
The most rewarding skill the Internet has given me is the ability to see my daughter objectively through the lens of a camera and the HTML coding of a mommy blog. The "shoulds" that plagued my early days as a mother are meaningless to me now. My daughter will never do the things a perfect kid "should" do and I will never be the perfect mom I "should" be and I am completely and utterly happy with this. My daughter likes to wear Mickey Mouse Ears while she pushes her stuffed Malayan Tapir in a stroller, likes to have tea parties with a pink giraffe and she falls asleep each night cuddling a Cerberus. She is a better than the baby I "should" of had and she "should" have been and on days where she is saying throwing temper tantrum after temper tantrum and I find myself wandering back into the black hole of "shoulds," all I have to do is turn on my camera and look at the pictures I took of her earlier in the day and I am reminded that all the tears, sleepless nights and headaches are worth it because she is better than any perfect baby I could have imagined. She's my daughter.
Follow Shannon Sutherland on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shansutherland