A mom whose video on the less glamorous realities of motherhood has been viewed nearly 5 million times said social media contributes to an unrealistic view that other families are perfect.
Sarah Van Sickle told “The View” co-host Sara Haines that she recorded the now-viral video afer several days of dealing with her son’s “terrible tantrums” while also juggling her job as a trainer and attending court sessions to get child support from her son’s biological father.
“I was already … just tired; he hadn’t been sleeping at night,” Van Sickle said of her son, Koa. The family lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. “I had to put him in the car because I had to go to work … It probably took me about three minutes just to get him down into the car seat. He was flailing himself everywhere..."
Van Sickle said “something just flipped in me, where I was like ‘I need the noise to stop!' That’s all I wanted… I didn’t care [how] — I was screaming at him at the top of my lungs … I mean like ... sounding like a lunatic. But I just, I felt like I lost it.”
“No matter how prepared you are, you’re not ready for those moments,” Van Sickle said. “There’s such a different level of shame and guilt and embarrassment attached to not being able to control your kid.”
That embarrassment is magnified by the dearth of public discussion about the more trying parts of parenthood, she said.
On social media, parents see only “highlight reels, and we kind of compare ourselves even if we’re not meaning to,” she said. “You see all these images of perfection there and you’re losing your mind … we just feel like failures.”
In her video, Van Sickle tearfully speaks to the camera as Koa screams from the car's backseat. Moms like her are "doing the best we can," she says. "This is me just trying to be real, showing what mom life can be like because it's hard ... Yes, we put up cute pictures of our kids — but this, THIS, is real life!"
Sara Haines shared how much she could relate to the panic of trying to calm a child in the throes of a tantrum, “I’m beating myself up for not being able to console my child," Haines said. "I can’t think of what to try next, I start to get impatient and then I feel guilty I’m impatient and that my poor child is stuck with me. It’s a never-ending cycle of not being able to solve a problem, topped with guilt — you beat yourself up!”
Van Sickle said she received a "sea of positive comments" in response to her video. "Having the solidarity of these amazing, strong, encouraging women who do not know me ... just loving on me and encouraging me … That’s been awesome."
“It was really nice to know I’m not alone… and I’m not crazy and I’m not a terrible mom,” she said.
Sharing her unfiltered story with the world on social media also brought some negative responses, she said.
"There were some comments that were just outrageous ... and regardless of the sea of positive comments, I’d look at the negative ones and be like, 'I’m a bad mom.'” They ranged from criticizing how she was dealing with the tantrum to saying Koa should be given up for adoption, Van Sickle said.
She added that “some comments that were really well meaning ... made me an absolute wreck,” saying some some viewers posted diagnoses of her son, including developmental disorders and even cancer.
“I panicked and I got an appointment with my doctor immediately,” Van Sickle said. “He thoroughly evaluated him and... at the end … just a hot-headed little boy who’s teething."
Overall, the experience of making the video and the big response helped Van Sickle come to a realization, she said.
“I do tend to be so independent … I keep trudging, keep putting my head down and go to work, take care of my kid, 24/7,” she said. “I just really had a wake-up call that I need to have some self care and that I need to lean on people some more.”
Haines shared a very similar experience she had bringing her son Alec to “The View” before he started walking — “I was so excited! … I thought because it was a baby, [the comments] would all be positive!”
Haines also addressed the tendency by some people to post judgmental comments against mothers.
“People everywhere, but specifically women and moms, can do better,” Haines said. “If you don’t have something nice to say in the comments, don’t take the time to write anything … If we’re not cheering each other on, we should just … take a rest from the keyboard.” Haines said Van Sickle's video helped her: “Your admission brought me to tears, because you were speaking my inner monologue, that I hear sadly too often. It empowered me, it made me feel stronger and most importantly, it let me know I’m not alone.”