Do you let other people’s “reality” trick you into thinking that your life isn’t good enough or that you aren’t a great parent? I use the term “reality” in quotation marks because in social media terms, I feel as if we view family photos as reality. That we completely buy into the fact that the photos posted of a picture perfect family must be absolutely perfect, and that the family we are seeing must look like this 100% of the time. I try my hardest not to buy into this, mostly because I know better. Sometimes I know the real stories behind the photos my “friends” post, and while I’m happy that they’ve captured such a beautiful life moment, I also know what could really be going on behind closed doors. Which, of course, aren’t being posted about.
A sweet friend of mine left Facebook months ago, saying her postpartum depression was made worse from Facebook. She would see everyone’s posts and wonder why life with her children wasn’t as easy as everyone else was making it seem. You know, the friend who posted the picture of the perfectly smiling baby at bath time, or the family garden photo before church where all children were perfectly staring at the camera, or the shopping cart picture where the child was seated quietly, and the oh-so-famous family vacation photo, where the family is gone all week away on vacation and every moment is blissfully exciting! She said it was too much, and she felt like the guilty mom because her kids didn’t act that way at those times.
Yesterday as I was out shopping with Blake on my own, and cursing everything because nothing was going right, I had one of those “parenthood is the single most difficult thing in the world” moments. I was cursing the difficulty of it all in my head (of which I won’t repeat). My lack of Go-Go-Gadget arms made it frustrating. Blake didn’t want to sit in the cart. He wanted a snack, but nothing that I had packed for him. He asked to “walk” but when I set him down he ran straight for the glass jars of spaghetti sauce and picked two up, one in each hand. (Thankfully I got to him before one of them dropped). I let the annoyance get the best of me and I yelled “No! You cannot do that!”, to which he thought it would be funny to repeat “NO!” at mommy, and added a nice slap to my face with it. Twice. So, I put him in Time Out right in the middle of the aisle. He screamed for those 2 minutes. Everyone stared at me. Then, seriously, two boys, around age 8 and 12 who were obviously brothers, started arguing and the 12 year old hit the 8 year old across the face and yelled “I HATE YOU!” and then the 8 year old hit the 12 year old brother and screamed “WHY?” The father, looking defeated, said “Come here. Do not talk to your brother that way.” And the 12 year old replied “He’s not the boss of me. I hate him. Why did you have him? I’m going to KILL HIM one day!” And the dad sighed, rolled his eyes and said “Just stay with me”. I looked back at the 8 year old and he had his head resting on the bars of the shopping cart, and began to sob. He strode along to the next aisle all by himself while his dad stayed with the older brother, trying to talk him down. I can’t imagine what their life was like on a daily basis. I became instantly grateful that my kid was staying in his designated Time Out spot. Albeit, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Blake got up from time out, said he was sorry, and we kissed and made up. He was fairly good the rest of the trip. Outside, I had him in the cart, unloading my groceries into the back of the van, when there was a sudden gust of wind, and my grocery cart, along with my son in it, skated down the pavement and across the parking lot in seconds. Me, with a handful of bags in each hand, threw them into the van and chased after Blake who was laughing and giggling at the ride. My grocery bag throw resulted in cans flying under seats, which was super fun to retrieve later! (Enter where I find a carton of yogurt 4 weeks later after I detect a funky smell. Again. Yes, this has happened before.) I “rescued” him, and then had to fight him to get into the carseat, because he wanted “more, more” of the fun windy ride he’d just been on. He screamed, he hit me, so we played the Time Out game again in the middle of the not-very-clean pavement outside the van. As he was sitting for his 2 minutes, I took a breather (and I might’ve, maybe, just maybe, promised myself no more kids.) You know how that can go. (Right? I can’t be the only one who does this at moments. Right?)
We hugged and kissed it out after Time Out, and he went into his carseat. We made it home. I needed a nap.
On the way home is where I began to contemplate this blog post. Those two brothers in the store, I thought about what their parent’s Facebook page must look like. A family of 4 seated nicely on a bench on a clear, sunny day, smiling, and possibly even tickling one another, for the sake of the camera. That 12 year old clearly resented his brother and had a lot of anger built up inside of him. Dad clearly had no idea how to deal with him. That scene that I saw in Target is reality. What you see on Facebook is not reality.
Look, I love all of the stunning photos that my friends place on Facebook with their newborn babies. But I also know, though they are not saying it, that the mommies behind those pictures, or behind those baby-selfies, are exhausted beyond belief. I know that when they are saying that their life is perfect with their new addition, that they are most likely saying it with a cup of coffee in their hand. Or, maybe, they are saying it because they want people to believe it’s all perfect, because THEY feel like THEY have to keep up with THEIR friend who just had a baby…who is posting perfect pictures of their baby, who is also holding a cup of coffee in their hand (hidden from camera view). We don’t see the screaming baby photo, only the peaceful sleeping one. May be you think that nobody cares to see the screaming baby photo. That certainly isn’t beautiful? But would you do it if you knew it would help a friend who was hiding behind depression? Who was looking at your beautiful photo, crying, wondering why her life didn’t look like yours?
Even the family selfie where everything and everyone looks like a realistic painting and everyone is all smiles and lovey, but behind that photo is a husband and wife who may not be speaking, but paused to smile for a photo op. It happens. I know it does, my friends!
I can especially sympathize with the mom who is dealing with a colic baby (like we did), and she is angry, frustrated, and tired beyond belief, but she’s putting on a happy face. I know this because I know moms who have had other babies with colic, or babies with issues, and they have been hush on social media because they don’t want to look like a bad-mom who is frustrated, because their friends are not. What a cycle! Then, there’s the mom with the difficult toddler, or teenager. I haven’t reached all those moments yet, but I know it’s coming.
I’m not saying you need to post about your marital problems, your arguments, your teenager storming out of the house, or your kid have a mental breakdown after hours of homework. I’m just imploring you to be realistic and not hide behind the facade of social media entrapment because you feel like you have to keep up with the what’s perceived. Your life is just as beautiful. Craziness and all.
Blake is now two years old and he’s such a picky eater. I have to look past all of the Facebook posts where my friends are posting pictures of their kid eating a healthy balanced meal. I have to look past it because I could make myself feel mommy-guilt, for “raising” a kid who doesn’t eat a healthy balanced diet, despite trying and trying. But the truth is, by the end of the day I am completely too exhausted to deal with the tantrum of my kid not wanting to eat his veggies. It is what it is. I’m happy for you and your kid with their organic kale, non-fat shakes. It’s not realistic for mine, apparently. Except maybe on weekends when I have 45 minutes to spare at every mealtime, as I watch him have a meltdown trying to eat anything green or orange, which usually ends up thrown on the floor. I choose my battles. Go Mac and Cheese and hot dogs! Sometimes if he’s still hungry we may throw in some fruit snacks if we are out of real fruit. (Same thing, right?) Whatever. That’s my reality.
Have you seen the viral video that went around with the two opposing mommy groups who are initially at odds, but in the end they come together and embraced differences because one baby stroller gets loose and is flying down the street, so both groups race to save the stroller? We should also be in a race to lift one another up! To share our hard times and encourage one another! Not to THINK that we are being judged because someone else just posted a happy family photo, which we’ve been trying to capture for the past few weeks now. Photos are a blip in time. That’s it.
People don’t post the real stuff. Because the real stuff makes us seem less like we have it all together? And I ask you friends, who the hell has it all together?
I have a 2 year old and still feel like it’s a day by day crisis. Honestly, he’s an easy kid for the most part, but it’s freakin’ hard to work, be a mom, be a wife, be active in church, have businesses on the side, try to stay healthy + (insert life here). And all of you people who have multiple children, or/and who are stay at home moms, woah, YOU ARE ANGELS TO ME!
For some, postpartum depression is real. 20% of women suffer from this. And 100% of moms suffer from Having a Bad Day Depression (at least once in a while). And for someone who is staying up all night with a screaming kid, then Facebook is an easy way to kill time. I know many friends who have suffered PPD, or, friends who feel so inadequate and feel this great need to compare themselves to (im)perfect photos plastered on their walls.
It breaks my heart to know that good friends of mine are feeling less than worthy because they are using Facebook as a means to measure their life, and their happiness. Remember, a photo is worth a thousand words. Not all of which are good.
You can certainly choose to limit social media, if you are suffering from the “My Life Isn’t As Great As Theirs” syndrome. Or, you can choose to see and know that reality is happening behind that photo. You just aren’t seeing it.
I’m proposing a new movement. It’s the Reality Isn’t Perfect movement!
My challenge to my Facebook Family, and anyone else on Social Media, is to not be afraid to post all of those imperfect moments with your family. Let’s do it to support one another
Show the world. Show your friends. Post your kid in a tantrum. Eating chips for dinner. Watching TV while you have a moment of sanity. Throwing a toy.
Post reality, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking you or your family aren’t good enough. Show all those moms that you are just as normal as they are.
Or, at the very least, don’t be so hard on yourself when perusing Facebook.
Your life is beautiful because it’s YOUR life.