Currently undergoing many interviews with experts in public health and psychology in the area of parenting, stress and support, todays interview unveiled yet another validating opinion of the frustration and pressure women feel to achieve, compare and compete. Social media came up briefly as the most obvious gateway for this kind of exchange. I don’t need to go into the hows and whys of peoples posts and the obvious damage that can be done by making an assumption of someone’s life as compared with your own from one or even a collection of carefully selected and filtered pictures. But it made me think…I recently posted a picture of Faith and I against a beautiful autumn background, both of us laughing and looking at each other in a moment of seemingly candid splendour. How accurate was its representation of what was actually happening that day? So in my aim to shape and expose the truths to parenting struggles and the reality most of us experience yet rarely feel connected by, let me share with you the story behind that perfect picture.
The day began with a headache…mine. I hadn’t slept well in days and on this night Faith had crawled into the single bed I had been allocated in our visiting researchers accommodation and taken over. Kicking me all night seemed to be her aim and by god did she succeed. I woke …or at least gave up trying to sleep and jumped out of bed at 6am, tired, foggy and irritable as hell. Faith of course woke full of energy and the same zest for life most 6 year olds exhibit at dawn. Jesus I thought…how am I going to handle this day? We had a dear new friend coming over for brunch, or Fika as they say in Sweden and so I made scones. In my mind I pictured Faith and I doing it together and laughing like a white wings advertisement. Instead I tried my best to ignore her and made them quickly hoping she wouldn’t notice. The guilt began to rise. Occasionally I would snap at her to keep it down – all her laughter and happiness was annoying the hell out of me and I could’ve screamed and probably did raise my voice more than once. At her joy and laughter. The guilt grew.
The day passed and I found myself weary and so grumpy and tired that I was talking to Faith as though she were a sibling that was out to enrage me deliberately. She needed the toilet at one point when we were at the park. I reacted like she had planned an assault on me. She asked me to play hide and seek I scoured and said no, making futile attempts at seeking her out. A barrel of fun. The guilt had now taken up a seat front and centre right alongside grumpy, selfish and childish. I had managed to quash sarcasm after hearing myself and filling with self loathing and yet still, there was hardly room for Faith and Im sure that’s how she felt.
As we walked the street to find a café I was quiet and tired and although my regular self was firmly in the backseat I was still trying really hard to take some direction. We wanted to take some photos in the Autumn leaves. Ok I thought. We can do this. Although we deleted at least twenty because I couldn’t conjure a smile that didn’t scream of insincerity, eventually we had to laugh. We laughed at the difficulty of taking selfies in portrait mode, we laughed at how stupid we looked on the ground in the middle of a parking lot, we laughed at how bad I looked…both of us laughed at that…which made me laugh more. We laughed at how many times the camera had snapped the tress behind us and missed us completely, how many times the phone fell, slipped and captured the concrete. All this laughter occurred within about 5 minutes and countless attempts at a picture. We managed one, and while the laughter was genuine, it was but one small moment amongst a day of bitter, tired, raw emotion, guilt, anger and frustration. It was one of the hardest days Ive had here…and yet there it was, a picture which told a whole other story to many who liked, loved and commented on it. I look at the picture and see an attempt to salvage something from a day I struggled through. I posted it, without comment or explanation, knowing how it appeared and what it represented. Not to be fake or misleading, but because I liked the picture and to me it captured a moment in the day where despite the lows and sombreness we (or rather, I) found one moment to connect and laugh which meant the world to me and no doubt to Faith.
We walked home and I apologised for being so tired and snappy (whilst still being tired and snappy). She said she forgave me. We held hands and quietly walked home together and I almost cried when a friend offered to have Faith for a few hours so I could get some rest; a horrible feeling but nevertheless, a reality.
Obviously there is risk in sharing what goes on behind the perfect picture; my ego screams at me to delete each word as its written. The thing is I know Im not alone…in any of this! Im not alone in posting pictures which showcase an amazing life, nor in making judgements or feeling less than adequate when looking at other peoples. I know Im not alone in feeling all these things and being saved by ‘moments’ which make it all worthwhile.
I do however, share my struggles in the aim of allowing others to feel safe to share and connect through them also. Suffice to say, there wont be an accompanying essay with each picture I share; but I remain committed to easing the burden of women who feel the pressure to do, have and be it all, one small step at a time.
While there are many beautiful candid moments caught on camera which accurately reflect the feelings shown, its so important to remember that when we see the perfect picture and assume a perfect life, often not only has it been cropped to fit, but so too has the messy, complicated, story that exists in all the thousands of minutes and hours either side of that ‘perfect’ split second.