This is my reality.
These maternity pants, with their elasticited waistband, soft fabric and perfect amount of stretch, which allow me to move freely and uninhibited. When I’m crawling beside my daughter, kneeling and playing cars with my son. Bending, stretching, reaching. Constantly, throughout the day as I tend to the never-ending demands and needs of a toddler and a baby. These pants which are highly unflattering but oh-so convenient, with their softly sagging knees that betray how many times they have been worn. From one too many bends, one too many play sessions.
This is my reality. A super soft Motley Crue tank top that is easy to throw on in the mornings, which I can just slip aside to nurse my daughter. Inevitably milk stained, because I ngve the freedom of not wearing a bra, no matter if my bra size dictates otherwise.
I am an active mother. I’m beside my children, playing in their imaginary worlds; we get messy, we have fun, we paint, we draw. My body is a climbing frame, a race course, a comfort. My hair is pulled, my face is grabbed, my breasts suckled. My body is as much theirs as it is mine. So I want, and need, to be comfortable.
This is my face without makeup. The scattering of summer freckles that are only visible when I am barefaced… and the blackheads, too. The dark circles from 9 months of broken sleep and night time nursing sessions with a baby who has yet to sleep longer than 4 hours at a time. This is my unwashed hair, which I haven’t blow dried or styled since we moved to the USA – 18 months ago. The roots that need bleaching. The hair loss at my temples – the result of three pregnancies, the birth of four children and the death of two, and a whole lot of stress. My unplucked eyebrows, and the scratch on my face caused by an excited baby who hasn’t yet learned how to show affection gently.
My glasses, because my eyesight is terrible and I haven’t yet found time for laser eye surgery. Glasses which are tugged off my face multiple times per day, a source of much fascination to a baby. Glasses which were new and trendy 8 years ago, but are now unfashionable, and I don’t have the time nor inclination to find new ones. Marked with the day-to-day dirtiness of life with two small children.
I remember shortly after Everly was born, I was idly scrolling through Instagram during a late afternoon nursing session and I was devastated to see it filled with other women who had given birth in the same time period as me – posing for fashion posts for their blog, their heels high and their hair perfectly coifed; stylized flatlays and cute pictures of them laughing as they frolicked in the city with their trendy strollers and designer diaper bags.
I hadn’t got dressed that day. My teeth were unbrushed. I hadn’t eaten. I hadn’t done anything besides the all consuming nature of taking care of a toddler and a newborn baby, who nursed every 2 hours and would only sleep in her mama’s arms. The nightdress I was wearing was inside out, buttoned incorrectly, stained with milk and most likely spit up, too. My greasy hair was in a ponytail. I was tear stained. I was milk stained. I was exhausted.
These women looked so perfect, so put together.
“And then there’s me,” I said to my husband. “This is the reality of life with a newborn. I wish someone would show this.”
But I was (and am) guilty of it, too. The images I posted last Christmas with my perfectly drawn red lips and freshly dyed hair would make you think I had it all together. But that was the first day since my daughter had been born that I had worn makeup. A special treat for a special occasion. Everly’s first Christmas. Our first Christmas in the United States. A one off thing.
In the Instagram world, we only ever see the carefully put together ensemble, and not the grubby old t-shirt grabbed from the bottom of the laundry basket. And we often only hear about the proud parenting moments, but not about the yelling matches or the time our toddler reduced us to tears. And sadly, it’s that skewed view we compare ourselves to.
I lose my temper with my children. I eat my toddler’s leftovers for lunch and sneak chocolate cake when he’s having a nap. I mindlessly watch Snapchat instead of practicing mindfulness. I only ever wear makeup on the weekends.
But I don’t post photos of that on social media. That is, until a few comments on my Instagram made me pause for thought – here I was reading;
“You make it look so easy.“
“You look so beautiful.“
“How do you do it?”
And I wanted to laugh, or cry, because the answer is, I don’t. I struggle daily. To look after my children. To look after myself. To have patience. To find time for anything but keeping my children happy. Or at least cared for.
And that was the moment I realised I needed to share more of my reality.
My words are always authentic, and I often share my struggles, both on my blog and as captions alongside my Instagram photos. But I’m now acutely aware that in this fast paced digital world, time is sparse and words are often skipped over, and a picture says a thousand words. Except when it doesn’t. A photo doesn’t tell the story of postpartum depression, or the intense grief over two dead children, or the loneliness after a long day filled with the tantrums of two small children and no adult company.
There is so much more to a person than their Instagram feed. It can be easy to see a pretty picture and make assumptions about a person’s life.
I never want other mamas to look at my photos and feel like they are falling short. Instagram is my highlight reel. The photos on Instagram don’t tell the full story. They don’t even tell half of the story. It is a place where I curate my favourite photos. The ones that are picture perfect; vibrant, light and airy.
These photos are not my reality. They are my creation.
So here it is, my candid reality. In all it’s raw, unedited glory. It feels liberating. And I hope at least one woman out there feels reassured.
So please keep all this in mind when you scroll through your social media, beautiful mamas. I know you know it, but I think we all need reminding from time to time.
Share your true self with the hashtag #mycandidreality and tag a mama friend.