Jonathan Bentley illustration for column
Jonathan Bentley illustration for column

Is Instagram the new competitive mother’s group?

I sent my husband a text the other night as I sat in the nursery, scrolling through my phone while I waited for our two young daughters to drift off to sleep.

It's become something of a bad habit of mine, texting my husband from another room in our house.

That particular evening, the message read: "THIS is getting me excited!" It was accompanied by half a dozen images.

I don't know what hubby was expecting to see, but apparently it wasn't the screenshots I'd just sent through - photo after photo of immaculate, uber-organised kitchen cupboards, where little matching glass jars of herbs and spices were lined up like culinary soldiers, identifiable by the perfect calligraphy script of their custom-designed labels.

I think the low point of this message exchange for my husband was the final image; a revealing glimpse inside the cupboard under the sink of some random Instagrammer. The clever woman (I'm guessing it was a woman) had a series of identical slate-grey baskets, each with pretty little labels reading "cleaning cloths" and "dishwasher tablets".

I was impressed. To me this was a road map to a better, more organised life. He was not.

You see, for a few months now, I have been suffering from acute Instagram-induced pantry anxiety.

Okay, perhaps that's not an official diagnosis, but it's the gnawing sense of #shame I feel when I open my kitchen cupboard to get out a muesli bar, and the chaos that greets me is a world away from the impossibly perfect pictures of tidiness that litters my Instagram feed.

Cupboard envy is real. Picture: Jonathan Bentley
Cupboard envy is real. Picture: Jonathan Bentley

Somewhere along the way we seem to have become so comfortable with social media sharing that we're not only letting our online friends (and strangers) into our lives, we're throwing open the doors of our homes, our laundries, our playrooms and our pantries. And it is increasingly becoming a game of one-upmanship.

My Instagram feed has begun to feel a bit like the mothers group I feared I would be landed with - a collective of competitive women whose seeming dexterity at managing #mumlyfe only serves to make me feel inadequate. (As it turned out my own mothers' group IRL was an amazingly refreshing bunch of ladies.)

And it's not only pantry #shame I'm suffering from, the Insta-pressure I'm feeling is literally leaping out of the cupboard and onto the plate.

I regularly feel guilty that the meals I'm serving up to my family have a distinct shortage of chia seeds, quinoa and kale. There's no hint of #breakfastgoals in the instant oats I plate up in the mornings, but sadly my attempts to serve my toddler green smoothies and organic peanut butter only end up on the floor.

Ultimately, it's my own fault. I'm a time-poor mum. I could have been spending that half an hour finishing the last 50 pages of the autobiography that has been sitting on my bedside table for more than eight weeks now. Or finally writing that email to my dear friend in the UK.

Instead I'm gawking at the pantries of total strangers online, trying to figure out how they disguise their ugly, oversized cereal boxes.

Is that #livingmybestlife? Probably not.