Triggers and parenting in a time of loud volume and perfect filters

We live in a time of triggers. It’s the name of a new book from a member of probably the triggery-est family in the country. It made things a little awkward at Northwestern. And it seems like it’s always a trending topic on Twitter.


Stories about “angry” Elizabeth Warren? Trigger. Photos of people holding “Women for Trump” signs? Trig. Ger. Commentary by former White House Photographer Pete Souza about living through the worst day of President Obama’s administration when 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary? TRIGGER.

While the word is having a moment, triggers have always been around. The only difference now? We know what to call them. A few triggering topics in particular have been around a while: Womanhood and motherhood. It feels like we’ve always been circling around what goes into doing them perfectly and pointing fingers at those we consider to be doing them incorrectly.

With the power and lightning fast reach of social media, along with our insistence on quick and damning judgement, it’s heartbreak waiting to happen. We’re literally figuring out together, right now, life with social media that gives each person the option to be really loud. It’s a scary time just as a human being, but as a parent? It can be terrifying.

What’s funny (coincidental?) is that I didn’t know social media until parenthood. I created my Facebook account in 2008 for a few reasons, including:

  1. Everyone was doing it.

  2. My son was just a baby and posting pictures of him there seemed easier than sending emails.

  3. It was a way to communicate with the world at a time when I was figuring out my place in it as a new mother and a journalist.

My early experience with Facebook? Talk about triggered. All the “other moms” had perfect post-baby bodies and clean houses and (GASP!) work-life balance.

And as we know now, posts lead to comparisons. Comparisons lead to joylessness. Joylessness leads to hopelessness. Maybe it’s the sad mom version of Yoda’s “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." But we didn’t know that then and we had to go through time, as well as the filters of perfection, to get to the core of reality.

I have to say: I’d rather feel real feelings, be “triggered,” by honesty than shamed by fake perfection. I think “trigger” for some can be an easy word to express complicated feelings. Our minds often go to negative thoughts and feelings when we hear the word “trigger.”

What’s funny (coincidental?) is that I started writing about this word because I spotted a photo that triggered … wait for it … good thoughts and positive feelings.

This photo was taken around this time 10 years ago. It, of course, showed up in a Facebook memory and the room suddenly got a little dusty. I felt nostalgic and happy and proud. That collision of emotions doesn’t happen too often so I’ll go ahead and roll around in them for a bit.

The little boy in the picture? He’s 11 now. The woman? She’s 43. And we’re both figuring things out — together and individually. I may not like a lot of things about being a parent in the very loud world of 2019, but I do like this new sense of honesty.

Somewhere along the line, shit got real. We (praise hands emoji) started seeing imperfect bodies, parenting fails and even messy houses.

Of course, you can put a filter on almost anything, but — thankfully — in 2019, we’re starting to see the struggle. And it feels better. It feels like we’re less alone.


Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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