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by Ashleigh Wood

The Perfect Photo May Exist But The Perfect Mother Doesn't

With the internet now a normal part of day to day life for us all, meeting other mothers who are going through the same as you are, receiving and sharing advice and posting all of your adorable baby photos is now easier than ever and it really is great.

I’ve found a support system, made friends and took up something I’m passionate about because of the convenience of online platforms and I would have struggled massively had I not had such luxury. But while it’s an absolute blessing, it can also be our own worst enemy as I have discovered for myself first-hand.

It’s commonly known that when we log on to social media we can become anyone we want to be- not had time to wash your hair or do your make-up, struggling with a break-out, can’t find anything that fits quite right? No problem! There are so many photo editing apps and filters that can sort that out in an instance and make you look completely flawless. Bedroom a mess, stuff everywhere, not had time to clean the house? That’s okay! With a crafty angle you can cover that all up and even edit it out if you’re tech-savvy enough. Hey, why not add a ‘woke up like this’ caption to top it all off? Even if you’ve been up trying to get ready for hours, who’s to know any different than what you put out there?

It isn’t fresh news that intertwined in the billions of profiles online weaves a web of lies, regardless how small or innocent they are and I’m sure we’re all more than a little guilty of telling a few ourselves. Of course we know not to believe everything we see online, especially now we have shows like Catfish to open our eyes to just how bad it can get out there, yet we’re still a little naive about the whole thing.

But pulling the wool over people’s eyes doesn’t only occur when it comes to how people look, who they are, what job they have or how clean their house is. What I’ve noticed since having a baby is that there is so much of this happening when it comes to how ‘perfect’ someone parents, how well-behaved their baby or child is and how good they and their house look while doing so and I’m not trying to insult those who do this because the funny thing is I do too, although recently I’ve been wondering why. It just seems like a lot of unnecessary time and effort to put into to something that doesn’t matter when we barely find time for the things that do. Of course it’s nice to post beautiful photos with the perfect lighting, immaculately portraying you and baby’s smiling faces through your favourite filter but what I’ve been learning over particularly the past month or so is that I get more satisfaction from posting entirely the opposite.

I remember the day I started to realise that the more imperfections a photo holds, the more beautiful it is as it portrays truth and often a lot of character. It started with a sleepless night, to which I am now more than accustomed with, and an incredibly stressful morning; myself and Carl both exhausted and not bickering as such but definitely not our normal lovey-dovey selves. I couldn’t see from the headache I had been trying to fight off for the two days leading up to this morning, we had no food in the cupboards and neither of us had the time or energy to go shopping plus, to top it all off, Carl was about to leave me with a fussy, teething and screaming baby to go and do a long ten hour shift, not to return until after twelve that night. I had no idea how I would cope without him for an hour let alone get through the whole day but I knew I had no choice and I also knew that Kaiber wouldn’t nap so it would be full on until six PM whereby he would be hysterical due to over-tiredness but eventually go down to sleep (for how long, I never know).

I grabbed the world’s quickest shower before Carl left and brushed out another few handfuls of hair that I was losing more of each day before finally getting a second to look at the stranger staring back at me in the mirror- I looked as horrendous as I felt. This was enough to lower my mood for the rest of the morning but of course I had to grin and bear it, singing and smiling my way through the first hour once he’d gone. After that it was tears and fussiness galore and I literally wanted to hide away in a corner and cry my eyes out.

In the end, I decided to put Kaiber in the bath as that is usually his favourite time of day and he was like a completely different baby. I let him stay in for a whole forty minutes because it was so refreshing to see him smile and I couldn’t bare any more crying which is exactly what I was in for the second I had to take him out. To make things worse, the past week had been so awful that I hadn’t been able to capture any decent photos and had been uploading older ones to my Instagram without letting on but I realised I had no more to post. There’s no way I can take one today, like this I thought, milk patches on my t-shirt with one boob hanging out as I walked up and down the stairs gently rocking Kaiber. Writing this puts into perspective for me how stupid it is that it should have even crossed my mind never mind bothered me!

Later on in the day I ended up running yet another bath and I was so burnt out I decided to get in too. After a few minutes of tranquil peace and smiles, enjoying the importunity to get some rare skin to skin without Kaiber trying to climb me like a tree, I realised that there was one of the most amazing pictures; shower band in my messy, frizzy hair, looking drained but happy and I captured that moment without meticulous planning or trying to get Kaiber to look at the camera.

When he went to bed that evening I had forgotten all about them until Carl got in from work and I gave him the daily run-down of events. I was in two minds about posting them to Instagram but I just figured what was the worst that could happen? So I did just that and to my astonishment they were my most-liked photos and I received an overwhelming response from Mam’s who were dealing with similar issues such as ourselves with their own babies and how much they could relate to my post. It made me realise that I was trying to meet the expectations set by other people on my feed and maybe there were others trying to meet mine when really I wasn’t portraying things as they were.

The bath photos I posted on Instagram that day

From then on I started to view what I saw on Social Media in a completely different way.

I used to feel like a rubbish Mother, Partner and even Woman when I looked through stories filled with happy, clean babies, home-made Sunday roasts and glistening houses. I’d look around at the mess I hadn’t had time to tidy as it taunted me, making me anxious, the full sink of dishes, the dirty hob, the neglected bathroom, my baby lying in just a nappy, the clothes I hadn’t got around to putting away, the kids tea I managed to burn but ate anyway or the bland pasta I threw in a bowl for Carl getting home. Then I’d see how the women behind these photos looked flawless whilst doing all of that and I’d look down at myself and wonder where in the world it all went wrong for me.

The thing is though, the lady behind that gleaming photo of her pristine kitchen?

She probably spent half the day getting it to where it was before taking that picture, entertaining her children in between and cleaning up crumbs and coffee stains all day as she went. The sigh of relief as she looked around at that show-home worthy room most likely turned to a sigh of frustration as it was messed up in a fraction of the time she spend cleaning it.

The tidy sitting room that surrounds the photo of that other Mama and her toddler?

Well, that room probably resembled a war zone moments after clicking the camera button.

The one who posted that delicious looking roast that had you green with envy?

That family dinner probably took the energy out of her that it would to make a banquet worthy of feeding her whole street as she fought off the many little chef’s getting under her feet in the kitchen, making snacks as she goes and probably boiling over more than a few pans or having to start over on those home made puddings because baby had a poop-explosion when they were due to come out of the oven.

That photo of the baby in the most adorable little outfit with not a hair out of place?

Those clothes were probably covered in poop, drool or sick not long after and I can guarantee that very baby was also wearing just a nappy or vest for the remainder of the day.

The woman looking beautiful with a full face of make-up, painted nails and perfectly curled hair?

It probably took her all damn morning to get ready between feeds, cries, nappy changes and everything else and once she took the selfie she most likely thought that getting ready was more effort than it was worth as she finds herself wanting to be back in her pyjamas already.

So why do we post these things instead of the chaos that goes on around the photos?

That part is easy.

As we hit the upload button we seal our accomplishment as we revel in a secret victory, not to gloat or make other Mam’s feel rubbish but to celebrate that one win in a day that has felt like it was fail upon fail. That small triumph at achieving something you haven’t been able to get done in days is monumental when you become a Mother and you better believe we want to shout it from the roof tops!

The act of comparison is one of the many things that threatens to put us down or take our motivation away when, although we all have very different babies and lives, we are all the same when you peel back the layers.

We all have our good days and our bad days and that’s part of the fun!

We should share and encourage both because the loud, crazy, messy moments of Motherhood deserve to be talked about as well, they’re equally as beautiful if not more so than those ideal, picture perfect ones and they’re probably the ones our children will remember the most.

Let’s encourage other Mama’s wins instead of sighing at them and let’s support the times that weren’t so triumphant and encourage them to post that too so that we realise that we’re all in the same shoes even if our sizes are different.

When trying to capture the perfect photo goes horribly wrong!Written by Ashleigh for her blog, The Mammy Diaries.

Follow her on Instagram and Facebook


Ashleigh Wood Image
A First-Hand View of Honest Motherhood through the eyes of a First Time Mammy. Documenting the highs, lows and all the in-between of this journey for anyone who is, has been or is going to be in the same boat and for anyone else who wants to come along.
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