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Our Lives in Pictures and Statuses

If you looked at my son’s life in pictures, it would be safe to assume that I was hardly around him – ever. I’m in maybe 5% of the pictures. Of course, that is because I’m the one behind the camera, but no one really knows that, and in 50 years, no one will know who was holding the camera. And the real story might be totally lost.

We had a photographer come to our house to take Gavin’s newborn pictures. Of course, we took his newborn pictures at 3.5 weeks old because that was when it finally occurred to me that I wanted a professional to take his pictures. I knew the photographer (who is amazing, by the way) from high school, and her family is friends with my family. I was a complete mess on the day she came over to take the pictures. I hadn’t actually cleaned my house since before Gavin was born. Other people had cleaned it, but not me. I had hardly moved from the rocking chair since he was born. This particular morning was the first time I really had to put my mothering skills to work – I had to clean, get myself ready, and take care of a baby! It was a huge undertaking. I had to plan his nap just right and HOPE that he would sleep for the perfect amount of time and breastfeed before the photographer got there (she only promised to be there for a few hours, and Gavin could easily nurse that long). Plus, she would be photographing him in the house, so it needed to look presentable. And I felt gross since having the baby, so I wanted to look and feel okay myself.

Moments before she rang my doorbell (or maybe she knocked because she probably didn’t want to wake the baby), I changed Gavin’s diaper, and he peed during the diaper change. He peed all over himself, me, the carpet, his clothes, and the wall. I had to give him the quickest little bath in history. As I took him out of the sink, I turned and my elbow knocked a glass bowl on to the ground. Glass shattered everywhere. I was frazzled and felt like I had failed my first test of being a real-life mother. I wondered how my own mom had done this with three children and kept her house spotless.

The photography session went relatively well for about 20 minutes until Gavin wanted to nurse, and nurse, and nurse. Every time I tried to unlatch him, he would wake up crying (and my baby never cried!). I had to just keep nursing him and nursing him. I couldn’t believe that we were not only wasting his photo session time, but I felt slightly incompetent that I couldn’t figure out what to do with him aside from nurse him to keep him happy.

Then the photographer said something that completely took me off guard: “You are such a natural.” Then she made some comment about how I made it look easy.

I had to laugh. Me? A natural mother? Those were the last words I thought would ever describe me. This was during a time when I still felt like I was doing everything wrong from co-sleeping, holding my baby all the time, and breastfeeding non-stop.

Then I realized that she didn’t see the chaos that took place 30 seconds before she walked through the door. She didn’t see the pee all over the bedroom wall or the shattered glass on the kitchen floor.

See how happy he was to get his picture taken? For like, 7 seconds, anyways.

She took pictures of my baby while he was happy and edited them so they looked even better. They turned out great. But obviously the photos didn’t show the whole story. They didn’t show the insecure mother or the baby who only cooperated for about 15% of the photo shoot.

A friend recently made a comment to me that Facebook was kind of depressing because she was reading all of her friends’ statuses and they were all doing these amazing things and she felt like she wasn’t really doing much in comparison. Like a photograph, a Facebook status is only a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, into a person’s life (although Twitter is probably a much more accurate, but mundane, glimpse into someone’s life ;)). Most people aren’t posting about the bad things going on in their lives. How often do you see statuses like, “Bought a new outfit today, hoping my husband would notice me. He didn’t.” Or “I just disappointed my boss for the fifth time this week. I’m a failure.” Or “I just yelled at my kid because I was frustrated with myself, but I took it out on him instead.”

Most people post about the happy things going on in their lives. Most people don’t want to broadcast the embarrassing or sad things that are going on in their lives. Although Facebook statuses and photos give us a glimpse into someone’s life, it definitely doesn’t tell the whole story.

A lot of our insecurity comes from how we compare our lives to that of others. Other people’s lives seem easier or better. I often hear mothers comparing themselves to other moms. Maybe because if we want to get one job right – it is being a mom. In reality, though, we probably don’t know the whole story. Most people don’t post their secrets and insecurities as their Facebook status. Most people don’t whip out their camera in the middle of a fight with their spouse or at 3:30 am when their baby is crying and won’t go back to sleep.

Next time you start to feel this way – that you are doing everything wrong or your life is not quite as fabulous as your friends, pull up your Facebook status and write about the best thing that happened to you that day. “I woke up this morning to my son’s sleepy smile.” Or “My husband kissed me this morning and it reminded me of the first day we met” (now THAT one would make all of your friends jealous ;)).

Or look back at your baby’s photographs and remember all of the happy moments. Chances are, you won’t even be able to remember anything negative that happened when you took those pictures. You might not even be in those pictures, but it won’t matter because you’ll remember how great you felt when you took the picture.

One major component of attachment parenting is balance. Unlike other components like co-sleeping or babywearing, balance continues past the baby and toddler stage. If you are finding yourself comparing yourself to other moms and feeling inadequate, now is probably a good time to do something positive for yourself. Reconnect with yourself, and get a new perspective on the great things happening in your life.

Duane Michals said, “Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be.”  Chances are, someone recently looked at a photo of you or read your Facebook status and wished their life was a little bit more like yours.

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Published in Balance Parenting