“Wow, what a sweet family,” I thought as I looked at Christmas photo after Christmas photo of families wearing coordinating outfits, smiling and looking so in tune with each other. “How do they do it?”
I reflected on our family holiday photos with our infant daughter from last year and how long it took to get a couple of decent shots where we were all smiling. The outcome was adorable, but it was extremely exhausting. You wouldn’t know this when looking at our photo, as we certainly looked “put together,” and it painted the illusion that the whole thing was a breeze.
I was stalling on our family photos this year, thinking of how our (now) family of four, with two babies under two, was going to make things just a tad more difficult. My husband and I decided to forgo the traditional family Christmas photo this year and opted for a simpler solution – snapping some shots of us while already doing some Christmas activities. While I love setting up the cute backgrounds for beautiful family portraits and I love the end result even more, it just simply wasn’t worth the additional stress this year. Maybe it’s not a stressful event for your family and the entire experience is actually really enjoyable for everyone – amazing, keep it up! Maybe we will get there or maybe we won’t. Either way, we’ve decided to stop adding the extra pressure to ourselves when we feel like we can’t – especially around the holidays.
There really are two sides to every photo. There’s the beautiful backgrounds and the cute clothes and the sparkling smiles, and then there’s the reality (for most). I’m picturing earlier today when my daughter and I went to a ladies Christmas event at my church. All in all, we had a nice time together, but it wasn’t without its stress. I chased her up and down the hallways, carried her off the stage multiple times, and didn’t get to sit through one of the activities aimed for the adults because she didn’t have the attention span for it. She screamed at me when I didn’t let her put an entire cookie in her mouth and flopped to the floor when I told her it was time to leave. We enjoyed some conversation with others at the event, decorated cookies, and did a couple of kids crafts in between, s of course it wasn’t all chaos. I’d take a million moments like this with my almost-two-year-old rather than not having any at all, but I’ll admit that sometimes it’s just hard being a parent.
It was when I was about to post a few photos from the event that I stopped and had all of these thoughts that I felt I needed to write down and share. I was typing out a caption for my post (something along the lines of “Had such a great time with my girl today…”) to pair along with my carefully selected photos of her smiling and having a blast. Then I stopped to remember that most of the afternoon, there weren’t smiles and sunshine like the photos portrayed. Of course, I didn’t have any photos of my near toddler almost outrunning me through the building (although that would be a sight). No one would know about the struggles in between the photos. No one would know that a small part of me thought it would have been easier to just stay home in our pajamas. No one would know about some of the very real feelings that moms often feel. No one would see the imperfections of everyday life.
I’ve also been the one who just put my tired, teething, tantrum-throwing baby down for a nap, only to look at all of the “Kodak moment” photos online and wonder what I’m doing wrong. Of course, I didn’t think about all the times that I’ve done it myself and posted photos of sweet moments – the easy moments – and how maybe those photos made it look like we have it all together (we don’t). This has been a topic that we discussed in our mom group – it’s hard when we are constantly comparing our realities with pictures we see online. We just have to try really hard not to be making comparisons — I know, easier said than done.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing sweet memories of your family and life. It’s especially nice for sharing with friends and family who live far away so they can follow you along (that’s how I have had to see some of my closest friends’ families grow over the years and I am glad for it). However, I do think it’s important that we all remember that no matter how picture-perfect a photo is, there is no perfect family. We all have our flaws and our shortcomings. We all have our bad days and have moments where staying home feels easier. There’s going to be tough moments, and it’s part of life, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. You just hug those babies, keep your head up high and pray that God gives you the strength to get through those bumps in the road.
I’ll continue to share my photos of my sweet babies because I am so proud of them. but I hope those who know me will remember that real life is not picture-perfect, and that’s okay. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I say the real life in between those photos are worth a heck of a lot more.