When Facebook was in its infancy, and people began posting shots of their offspring in their infancy, I made a private vow: In the interests of discre- tion and not turning into a wannabe stage mother, I would refrain from posting pictures of my own infant, should I ever have one, to any social media site. I reasoned, however, that my cats were suitable subjects, as cats are the irrepressible Kardashians of the social media universe. (Plus, if I were as good-looking as my cats, I wouldn’t mind having my portrait up in Times Square.) So I proceeded to post occasional shots of myself with Baby Lemon at the peak of her destabilizingly adorable kittenhood (a mother’s prejudice).
Years passed, and then I had a (human) baby, last year. In my post-partum haze, when I was forced to give up things like REM, I swiftly turned into my own worst nightmare. I was told repeatedly that when- ever the baby slept, I should sleep, too—sound and sanity-preserving counsel. But while Baby Leo snoozed, instead of napping, I was busy snapping endless shots of him in various stages of slumber, which I hastened to post to Instagram. When he was awake, I’d photograph him in all his shiny-eyed freshness (at least one of us was looking good). Perhaps the impulse was to protract the fleeting and capture the rare and miraculous— like a National Geographic photographer shooting an eclipse. But it was also to curate the fantasy (read: lie) of order and serene maternal delight; to make it seem as if all was peaceful and perfectly lit.
I’m hardly the most prolific poster: Instagram is a rabbit hole of aggressively adorable baby pictures, unwitting subjects captured in their dimpled splen- dour, bedecked in their finest for all to “like.” It has turned parents (of humans, hounds, felines, etc.) into Anne-Ged- des-esque photographers, prop stylists and set decorators. Not that we’ll admit it. As I defensively replied to a friend who said as much: “I posted a shot of Baby Leo in a Petit Bateau sleeper—not in, like, a sequined bustier.”
She wasn’t swayed by my compelling wardrobe argument. She pointed out that I was photographing the baby in his most bunny-soft French sleepwear, among his most photogenic playthings in the most optimal lighting. So, she wondered, was I really that different from a pageant mom?
The truth can be glaringly unflattering—but that is surely something a Valencia filter can fix.