Our culture has a modern obsession with new motherhood that begins early on. We’ve all seen the posts and we’ve all seen the pictures; the pregnancy announcements and gender reveals, the young, luscious pregnant women with their beautiful curves and glowing skin—often times not a stretch mark in site—and then the photos of those beautiful bundles of joy. Each unique and each stunning.
A mother seems to hold a special place in our society, especially a new mother. She’s often adored and prized and cherished for her new life. We place her on a pedestal. And when the new baby comes, the two together, mother and infant, are fawned over and praised; a symbol of life’s cyclical nature. But after this fleeting phase, we become less visible.
This is particularly true in the world of social media. Everyday, we see posts idolizing pregnancy and newborns. It’s not to say that these things shouldn’t be idolized (because they should!), but that they are disproportionately shared over the real-life experiences of mothers with children past this stage. And when posts or stories are shared of older children with their mothers or even mothers without their children in the photo, they don’t get as many likes, comments, or shares. This comes from first-hand knowledge within the industry.
As we all know, babies don’t keep. Once our children grow beyond the infant and toddler stage, our visibility as mothers seems to deteriorate. Is it because our fertile window is now gone? Or the fact that we’ve ‘aged out’ of the new mother phase? It’s such a small amount of time, having an infant. As our children grow beyond the baby stage, our value continues to grow as well. So why do we become less noticeable?
It’s particularly interesting that mothers of older children are not cherished as much as new mothers, when the fact is that once we’re past that new baby stage, motherhood is just beginning. There’s a whole lifetime of experiences and wisdom ahead of us to relish in. Learning how to navigate each subsequent age range is no less difficult than learning how to navigate the newborn phase. There’s a sense of community that comes from growing through these ages together and it brings us closer to our fellow parents.
I’ll admit that my children are not old at all at two and four, but I still yearn for the visibility of older mothers and their children. I hardly ever see posts shared about mothers with school-aged children or teenagers. After all, these are the next phases of life I have to look forward to. I don’t want to keep looking back forever. It leaves me feeling left behind as I navigate the next step of my mothering experience, so I can only imagine how it feels to actually be a mother with older children.
Navigating past the baby stage can be increasingly confusing because it also leaves us with feelings of self-consciousness. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that I’m not as valuable now that my children are growing up and I’m done having any more. We uphold youth as the prime of life, so as I age, I often wonder where my future value lies. It’s important to try to look beyond these thoughts and take pride in my life and role as a mother where I currently am.
If we can band collectively and share photos and stories of life past the infant stage, we can feel supported together. We can work to add visibility to our lives and simultaneously provide a future glimpse into each phase of life for new mothers.
Our relevance and beauty as mothers never disappears, especially as we age. We are still important caregivers. We need to realize that we can be empowered as our children grow past the infant stage and confident in knowing what to do next. With a lack of representation on social media, it’s important to celebrate and be out in the open together, relishing in our shared experiences. Our voices deserve to be heard, and our faces and bodies deserve to be seen.
Words by Melissa Curman