Take a good, hard look at this picture. What do you see?
A mom and her perfect son standing outside of a lovely museum? A clean, happy baby? The perfect filter to make our skin glow? A smile that shows no trace of exhaustion?
Great! That’s exactly what I wanted you to see. My life is so perfect, isn’t it? Almost six months into this thing and I’ve got this mommy business down pat…
Or do I?
What you won’t see in this photo is that en route to The High Museum of Art, my son was wailing in his carseat as if someone had his abdomen in a vice. I could see huge baby tears flowing from the corners of his baby blues and causing my heart rate to increase from anxiety and simultaneously break as we drove toward our destination. We were in the car during what should’ve been his afternoon nap and I thought he may sleep on our way, but that certainly didn’t happen. As I searched desperately and frantically for a parking spot so that I could console my little one, I felt, yet another wave of guilt when I realized I would have to turn off the car and step out of it to walk to the backseat. It only takes about fifteen seconds, but it was a hot day; assuredly much hotter without the cool air conditioning. When I got him out of his carseat, he stopped crying.
‘Phew,’ I thought. ‘He just wanted to be held.’ I took a deep sigh of relief having survived another difficult car ride.
I had my card ready to pay the meter, and yet, right before I swiped the magnetic strip, I realized that I was holding a baby who had pooped everywhere: I’m talking, up his back, down his legs, all over his carseat…I was surprised it wasn’t all over the ceiling of my SUV. My poor little guy was crying because he’d probably just released a day’s worth of food all over himself.
I spent the next ten minutes attempting to clean him; I used all the baby wipes I had trying to make sure he was not sitting in his filth. There was a security guard giggling across the street watching me try everything to calm my little guy as I hushed, wiped, and changed him. Thankfully, I had some extra clothes for him, and I narrowly escaped any stains on my own outfit. I half-smiled at the guard who gave me a sympathetic wave.
We then had about twenty minutes to browse the special exhibition and take this quick snapshot.
Don’t get me wrong: I am so glad I got a chance to take him to the museum. I love hanging out with my little boy. No matter what happens, is always worth taking him out of the house. But here’s the shocking truth: my life is not perfect.
I know, I know. You’re not supposed to say that in a mommy blog. Mommy bloggers are supposed to come up with life hacks that save you time; Pinterest-worthy mommy crafts; free printables that we just happen to have ready for the masses; Food Network-ready recipes; cleaning schedules that keep you from having to deep clean your house. We have made a business out of making motherhood look easy. Our children have perfectly wiped noses and smiling faces in all of our posts: whether said posts are sponsored or unsponsored.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the only part of motherhood that is ‘easy’ is falling madly and deeply in love with your little ones. Everything else takes an insane amount of planning, preparation, a secret stash of baby wipes, and a change of clothes.
This innate desire to appear ‘perfect’ did not start at motherhood for me, however. It began in this, our current age of over-sharing. Eleven years ago, people only kept in touch with others that were in their current social circles. We made time for your neighbors and close friends. I am on the cusp of attending my ten-year reunion, and I will never get to experience the shock that can only accompany not seeing or hearing from classmates in ten years. I’ve got Facebook to keep me informed, after all.
Social media has a way of baiting us into sharing, and if we’re careful, we can manipulate our lives to appear absolutely perfect. We are often quick to take photos of the perfect bouquet of roses our spouses gave us, and we ignore the fact that our spouse purchased that bouquet to make up from the fight the night before.
Am I suggesting we air our dirty laundry? Absolutely not. I am a huge proponent of protecting relationships. What I am suggesting is that we all concede the point that for every ‘impromptu gift’ that someone posts on Facebook from their significant other, there is likely a struggle that accompanied it. In other words, I’ve heard it said that we shouldn’t attempt to compare our lives to someone else’s highlight reel. I love seeing evidence of happy relationships and blissful marriages; I think there is a part of every single one of us that roots for fulfilling monogamy. But fulfillment doesn’t just present itself in the good times.
The reason I posted the picture above on my personal Facebook page was not just because I like the picture of me and my little guy. I posted it to remember that with every smiling face, with every little hug from my little bear, there was a dirty diaper before it. The most beautiful part about having a family is that deep relationships are made in the messes that no one gets to see. And that, my friends, is where perfection truly lies: in the mire before the picture-perfect moments.