Umm, yeh, they do. And for so many of us, even those fully versed in the magic of filters, Photoshop and staging, social media pictures can create pressure and unrealistic expectations.
1. That photo of mom and baby on a pristine white couch (why do they even make white couches), posing next to color-coded books and toys? That might be the only clean square foot in the whole house, which hasn’t actually been cleaned in weeks and now smells like pizza and air freshener (and you can’t really see the 114-load-pile of unfolded laundry shoved to the side of the couch).
2. The picture of a family laughing in a sunny park? It’s precious, but behind the scenes, they might have had a fight that morning or the kid threw up in the bushes.
3. A smiling mom with full makeup and shiny highlights on Instagram? What the soft creamy filter won’t tell you is she may have not slept in a year and could be struggling with infertility or loss or PPD.
4. The ubiquitous pic of a “working mom” in a blazer, clutching her baby like a boss and powering through a memo on her laptop while the kid is hitting all the keys at once? What this pic won’t say is she might have earned $5 dollars for a whole day’s work yesterday, trying to get her business off the ground. Or maybe her company let her go because she wasn’t “committed” enough to work nights and weekends after a 3-hour commute and pump breaks, or because she took too many sick days to care for her little one’s ear infections.
5. That triathlete working out in the park and chugging kale juice isn’t doing this to win a Vegan Poster Mom of the Year award (or if she is, that’s cool). She could be doing this to keep an invisible illness under control or to recuperate from a birth or recovery injury that should have been prevented by our medical system, but wasn’t.
6. And that image of mom besties laughing over lattes while walking with their strollers in effortless unison? Maybe the only things they’ve got in common are their zip code, their babies’ ages, and loneliness. Perhaps they’ve never even met before and are still looking for their mom tribe.
Motherhood is the greatest joy, but photos don’t tell the whole story. They don’t capture all of the merry-go-round’s ups and downs. But we all need to be seen. We should not be afraid to ask for personal, systemic and political support, no matter how invincible we may appear on the outside. I see you, mama, and I hope you see your vulnerable, beautiful, strong self, too.