Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding every week.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I need help navigating a very tricky issue with my wife—it involves social media use and our kids.
We have three kids under 10. They are great kids—pretty well behaved save for the usual kid stuff that we’ve mostly been able to navigate. My wife quit her job when we had our middle child and the cost of childcare became unsustainable. We live in a big city with a lot going on, but my wife struggled to build adult friendships when she was spending so much time at home with the kids. Her solution has been building community online.
In theory, this is great—I want her to be happy and feel connected! But in reality, she spends up to four hours a day on social media (not counting nighttime use), posting four-to-five times per day with pictures of our kids, extremely public sharing about private things (like early puberty), as well as general Karen-esque complaints (a list of the grocery coupons the local store refused to honor, for instance). This behavior drives me crazy. I think it’s a huge violation of our kids’ privacy and dignity. I also think it shows our family in an extremely negative light.
At the same time, my wife is a full adult who has the right to do what she wants, and I don’t want to be controlling or abusive. Our oldest is 9 and just old enough to want a little more privacy. My wife has generally been deaf to these requests (to be fair, our kiddo hasn’t been very forceful). How should I navigate this?
Dopamine is one hell of a drug, er, chemical, and social media exploits the need for that chemical every day. Your wife is one of millions addicted to receiving “likes” and “comments” on her Facebook content, so I wouldn’t shame her for that. However, you certainly have every right to rein her in when it comes to oversharing content about your kids, which we’ll discuss in a minute.
To be clear—I fully understand that many introverts and others who are having a tough time transitioning back to the normalcy of in-person interactions love social media as a way to connect with others. That said, you gotta pick your battles wisely with her. If she wants to share so-called Karen-esque behavior about stores not honoring coupons, then I would quietly cringe in private, and leave it at that. You can tell her you don’t think it’s a good look to share that information publicly, but it’s up to her to determine whether she should continue with it or not.
Oversharing about the kiddos is a completely different story. Maybe it’s just me, but I always get uncomfortable when parents share private information about their children on public platforms. Who are we as parents to tell others about when our kids reach puberty, have an embarrassing moment, or anything else? I know your kids are young, but I think it’s time we empower our children to take control of their lives. I ask my kids if it’s OK for me to post photos or videos of them on social media—and oftentimes my introverted 11-year-old daughter says no. My 8-year-old is a pretty good basketball player and loves it when I share her skills. The key is that I ask for permission every single time, without exception. Honestly, I don’t think you should bend on this one because the last thing you want is one of your wife’s posts to come back to haunt your kids in the future. It’s simply not worth it in order to get a few likes on Facebook.
Finally, you should also do your part to connect with your wife. Without knowing anything besides what you’ve written here, I’ll venture to guess she’s using social media as an escape for what’s currently going on in her life—and that includes your marriage. Take her on some date nights where you leave your phones at home or in the car and engage in some old-school face-to-face conversations. In doing so, hopefully you’ll rediscover the woman you fell in love with, because it’s pretty obvious to me that you’re feeling some serious resentment based on her social media usage.
If that doesn’t do the trick, then you both may need to sit down with a therapist to unpack all of this.
More Advice From Slate
My wife is planning to attend a professional conference in a few months in a warm location while I stay at home with our two young boys. In years past I have gone with her, but this year one son is in school. As much as I’ll be frazzled by five days alone with them, I’m happy that my wife is able to build her reputation. But she will be attending the conference with a guy I don’t care for, because he acts like he’s my wife’s best friend.