This week we took the boys down to our local farm for overpriced pumpkins and instagram-worthy pictures. It was a lovely afternoon but after looking through our pictures and then loads from everyone else across Facebook and Instagram, it got me thinking about why pumpkin patch pictures seem to be so obligatory. And that behind every perfect photo is another story; of parents snapping at each other, grumpy kids, fights over who gets to hold the wheelbarrow, and endless requests for snacks.
At one point in the pumpkin field Bill decided to bolt for the carpark, and upon seeing me chasing him and calling his name he just laughed and ran faster. I managed to stop him before he reached the steady stream of cars milling around but I was scared, cross, and extremely sweaty by the time I got to him. I told him off and he said he hated me. Shockingly, that little interaction wasn’t featured in my Instagram post later that evening. Later a family member took a lovely photo of the four of us, although Bill refused to look at the camera, but what isn’t decipherable from that snapshot is the argument my husband and I had before we got in the car and trundled over to farm (nothing too serious but enough for me to pout the entire thirty minute drive). The danger with the superficial, image-based side of social media is that often it doesn’t portray an accurate representation of someone’s life, or in this case – their day out.
When it comes to children and parenting we seem reluctant to share anything problematic about our offspring. Every picture of them will be an idyllic version of the truth; everyone is smiling, siblings hugging, clean faces, and rosy cheeks. People who see these pictures may think that these kids are always in excellent moods and behaving perfectly, which is almost always untrue. The life we paint on social media is often very different from the reality, and the reasons why we do this are unclear. On some level maybe we portray the life we want to have. Or perhaps we fear that honesty could result in people thinking less of us, or judging us or our children. I know that if I complain about the more difficult parts of motherhood, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love them fiercely and unconditionally. But I do worry that if I put anything negative on those social media platforms it will seem as though I don’t appreciate how lucky I am.
When William was a baby he got up in the night a lot and I was exhausted and grumpy during those months. When I look back on pictures and posts from the time though, all I have are endless snaps of his perfect little face, and all I can think about is how little he was, and remember those lovely newborn cuddles. We often look back fondly on the good parts and let our memory drift over the horrors of multiple night time feeds and 3am despair. I wish I’d taken a few photos of the dark circles under my eyes, or taken a late night breastfeeding selfie. Bill is only three and already I am glossing over how hard that time was.
I love taking photos of my boys and sharing them; but I’m also very aware that social media can make me feel guilty or inadequate when I see other parents posting things I haven’t done with them. If I spot a kid Frank’s age reading books he can’t yet, or see someone Bill’s age seemingly behaving impeccably in the pub, I start to worry. This is when I remind myself that firstly – every child is different and developing at their own pace, and secondly – pictures are deceiving and don’t tell the whole story. If scrolling through a steady stream of perfect Instagram kids is making you feel a like a bad parent, tuck your phone away for a while and make yourself a cuppa (or pour yourself a large wine!). The perfect family doesn’t exist in the real world, I promise.