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.
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.