In the hyper-connected world of Facebook, I’ve been able to keep tabs on my friends’ milestones – new beaus, break-ups, new jobs and a host of life’s many firsts. Over time, my friends have posted photos of rocks on ring fingers and dresses made of flowing tulle. But now I’ve reached the age where my news feed churns photos of black-and-white sonograms, leading to babies just hours out of the womb and inevitably toddlers in doll-sized dresses.
Yes, baby posts (and okay, cats) are all the rage on social media. A recent poll reported that some 94% of UK parents post photos of their children on Facebook and many waste little time. Newborn photos appear online as quickly within 60 minutes of birth.
I’m approaching my dirty 30s and I don’t have children. I’m practically married to my boutique public relations agency Commas & Industry. My news feed is a horde of selfies, photos of my cats in compromising positions and evidence of my careless gallivanting with friends.
But don’t get me wrong. I go goo-goo over babies as much as the next person (“Little fingers and toes!”). I’ve made shameless (but successful) attempts to become godmother to my friend’s daughter, bribing her by making DIY baby shower decorations and ‘full-moon’ greeting cards popularised by those perfect, self-styled blogger mums.
I’m happy for my friends who have become new parents, and am as proud of them as I am when they receive promotions, buy a house, or quit their nine-to-five to travel South America.
But in all honesty, the barrage of baby posts sometimes make feel a little conflicted. In fact, anxious.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as I’m a poster-child for anxiety. Recently, over drinks, my friends asked me, ‘If I could have a disease named after me, what would it be?’ I said it would have to be a mental disorder called The Yings that would be the ‘Fear of Missing Out’. You’ve got The Yings when you get that dreaded feeling that you should’ve joined your friends at Changkat, just when you’ve settled in on the sofa to binge-watch the latest Breaking Bad episode. The fear that you’re not living life to the fullest, or that you’ve still got some goddamn potential left untapped.
Looking at those status updates about the darn things kids say and videos of babies laughing makes me think. I’m afraid I’ve got The Yings when it comes to childbearing and rearing.
I’ve dodged enough conversations with prying aunties about having children of my own (“Old already lah. Faster have babies lah. Don’t regret later!”) Up to now, I wasn’t ready to have children. I wanted to get my business off the ground to secure my financial independence and frankly my relationships were going nowhere. With time, increasingly, I find that perhaps I could choose a childfree life.
Sure, there’s that pesky tick-tocking of the biological clock. When I see little girls with their cute china doll bobs, I do wonder if I’ll ever see a mini-me behind those heavy, jet-black fringe.
There are plenty of women like me, who either haven’t, won’t, or want but may never embrace motherhood. They too must wonder, ‘Am I going to feel left out?’ as marriage and motherhood are often seen as rites of passage in a woman’s life. Am I going to feel like less of a woman if I never earn my tiger stripes in childbirth?
These questions remain unanswered. And social media voyeurism does not hold the answers. The Internet often hyper-glamourises the events in people’s lives. A week’s holiday in the Maldives captured in a Facebook album isn’t representative of what is often a pedestrian life – but it often triggers envy.
A recent study showed that people who spend too much time consuming Facebook’s oversharing of “party photos, meal/pet/spouse/children status updates” experience lower life satisfaction, that manifests as feelings of alienation and loneliness.
For every instagrammed moment of a beautiful child, what I never see are the fears, worries and sleepless nights that I cannot begin to understand.
Having children is an immense responsibility. I now remind myself that if I decide some day to try for a child, I hope I do so with real conviction. Not just because it’s trending.
Ooi Ying Nee is the owner of public relations agency Commas & Industry Communications. She promises to cut down on her Facebook cat photos overshare. She aspires to be the cool aunt or godmother with whom you can say anything!