As social media users reflected on their greatest achievements of the 2010s, a professor and working mom from West Virginia got real about the past decade's highs—and lows.

By Maressa Brown
January 03, 2020

Even if you only use social media casually (and let's be real, most of us are addicts), you couldn't help but notice an onslaught of "decade in review" posts go up over the past week or so. It was enough to leave many of us wondering, "Were the 2010s peak years for everyone but me?" But, just like everything else, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posts typically only tell a glossed-over sliver of the story. And Christina Fattore, an associate professor in the political science department at West Virginia University and a mom of two, decided to share a reality check in a tweet that's understandably going viral.

On New Year's Day, Fattore took to Twitter to write her "decade in review," which encompassed various applause-worthy milestones: getting engaged, getting married, having her first child, buying a house, getting tenured, having a second child, and "kicking ass at work."

But then she wrote, "Want to know a secret?" and went on to share unfiltered details that occurred in between all of those successes over the past 10 years, such as dealing with crippling postpartum depression, crying for a whole semester "due to house and tenure sh**," dealing with crippling cramps due to endometriosis, and having a hysterectomy.

Fattore tweeted that she was inspired to share because "you never know what others are going through," and it makes her sad that people compare themselves to others.

Fattore's powerful message obviously resonated with Twitter users, given that her initial tweet racked up over 3.6K likes. People applauded the professor for her candor and ability to bounce back in the face of life's adversities.

Twitter user Lujzacq wrote, "I admire your resiliency and courage. Thank you for posting this." Rebecca Fyffe tweeted, "Thank you for your decision to share so deeply. My journey has been similar; health challenges (cystic endosalpingiosis), career, and motherhood, and I’m inspired by your character and resilience."

Fattore tells she occasionally struggles with comparing herself to others, especially when it comes to professional achievements. "I also get irritated when I hear other academics being snarky towards each other about productivity," she notes. "What do we know about what's going on behind the scenes when it comes to why someone published five articles in a given time period when someone else published 15? As professional women—and especially as working mothers—we're pressured to maintain a facade, either in the office or on social media, that we're successful. Period. The end. However, success doesn't come in a linear fashion. There are ups and downs, there are challenges that we can't control (for instance, my infertility issues and endometriosis), and there are failures among those successes."

Gina Fattore
Credit: Photo courtesy of Gina Fattore

Fattore hopes her honest Twitter thread inspires others to consider what's real and what's not and ease off of that competitive instinct. "There are lots of parents I envy: those parents who seem put together at all times, who work full-time and have successful careers, and yet, seem to have the time to exercise, be room mom, and go on fabulous vacations," she says. "That being said, I only see the tip of the iceberg on social media. I don't know what their day to day life is. If we were more authentic in what we share with others, we could let go of the image of what it is to be the 'perfect' parent and instead focus on what works for us and our families."

No matter your circumstances, we all feel tremendous pressure to not only be "perfect" but to achieve and accomplish specific things by certain points in time. Fattore's message is a welcome reminder that those points are not only arbitrary but that everyone's path is different and riddled with detours, setbacks, and occasional darkness. So, while there's always merit to looking back before we do our best to move forward, it's clearly a practice best done with a hefty dose of self-compassion.