Facebook Motherhood Challenge: 'Smug and offensive' or 'just a bit of fun'?

Thousands of women have been 'tagged' online to show how 'good' they are at parenting

Victoria Richards
Wednesday 03 February 2016 10:13 GMT
Mother pushing her daughter in a pram
Mother pushing her daughter in a pram (Getty Images)

Every day brings a new challenge - at least, on Facebook.

In recent years we've had the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the No Make-Up Selfie for Cancer Research and the dubious and downright inadvisable Duct Tape Challenge, to name some of the most notable - or notorious.

But now there's a new virtual competition in town, and this time it's parenting.

The Facebook Motherhood Challenge has been doing the rounds for about a week, and asks women to contribute by posting a series of photos that make them "happy to be a mother".

They are then encouraged to "tag" people they think are "great mothers", to post their own pictures.

Unlike some other viral memes, there is no discernible pay-off - no money being raised for charity, no heightened awareness of breast cancer or reminders of the dangers of giving whole grapes to toddlers without slicing them first.

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This time, the point of taking part in the craze sweeping social media appears to be to show how successful you are as a mother, and to namecheck other mums you feel do a similarly sterling job.

So far, so seemingly harmless - but the phenomenon has been met with some consternation from critics.

Flic Everett, writing in the Guardian, says the Motherhood Challenge "made her want to punch her computer screen", branding it a "smug club" that "fetishises motherhood".

The most "offensive" part of the whole idea of the "challenge", she says, is the idea that it's a "challenge" at all.

"A challenge is coping with grief when you wish you were dead, or pushing your mind and body to the limit in a feat of superhuman endurance," she writes.

"It’s not posting a few snaps of your toddler and waiting for your friends to type “aw gorgeous hun xxx” underneath.

"And it’s unclear whether the challenge in question is to prove what a great mother you are, or merely to challenge your friends to prove that they are too."

She adds that there is a world of difference between happiness and smugness (defined as “having an excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements”).

"Many mothers simply feel inadequate most of the time, and that sense of failure is exacerbated dramatically by others boasting about how easy and rewarding they find it all, from first “latching on” to graduation (“So proud!!”)," she says.

Blogger Leigh Kendall, who lost her baby son, Hugo, when he was just 35 days old, writes: "For me, Facebook (and all social media) can sometimes feel like returning to the school playground – and in a negative way. All that competition!

"The sense that you need to prove yourself and your abilities. The Motherhood Challenge also has me pondering these questions: If you haven’t been tagged, does it make you a bad mum?

"If you are a woman but aren’t a mum (whether by choice or by circumstance) does that make you less important because you can’t join in?

"If you are a mum who has lost a baby or child, do your friends not tag you for fear of upsetting you?

"By tagging x amount of your friends, are you saying mum friends you haven’t tagged aren’t good mums?"

A separate post on Mumsnet, titled: "Am I being unreasonable to be really irritated by the Motherhood Challenge?" asks similar questions.

One user, Kitkatmonster, writes: "I seem to be the only one who thinks this is a nonsense, and a bit worrying as the number of photos of Friends of Friends' children that I've seen this weekend is actually scary. Does no one lock their page down as private anymore?!

"Am I being unreasonable in getting irritated and wondering how many women have shed a tear secretly over seeing this, the ones battling infertility, having accepted infertility, the ones right now miscarrying a longed for baby?

"It seems insensitive and crass, who needs to post photos to the fb world that make them happy to be a mother? What about the mum with PND who gets inadvertently tagged? Isn't something like this likely to make her feel pretty rubbish?

"Are we all just so selfish and desperate to show off our perfect families that we have to take a 'challenge' like this without any concern for the people among our friends who might be experiencing one of the above?"

Her comment has been met with mixed reactions from other mums.

User Fanjoforthe mammaries writes: "Sorry but I do think you are taking it too seriously. It's just an excuse for people to reminisce and post a few pic of them with their kids as babies."

She adds: "It's the infertility that sucks not other people and their children."

And user PenguinsAreAce writes: "Surely anything I post about parenthood/kids could be upsetting? We passed a significant 'last' milestone recently.

"Should I not mention my twinge of sadness at moving onto the next phase in case it triggers something painful for my bereaved/infertile/struggling with newborn friends?"

But user Tigresswoods agrees with the idea that it could be insensitive.

"I was nominated yesterday & while I'd LOVE to post I remember where I was 7 years ago," she writes.

"We were struggling to conceive & while I had no where near as bad a journey as others I was in bits at every scan or baby photo online. I just can't post as I hate to think what others are going through."

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