A few years ago a mom emailed me about how she always felt like other moms were doing so much more and doing it better and it made her feel like she wasn't quite good enough at this mom thing. She referred to a photo on my blog that she said made me look like an easy-breezy cover-girl of a mom. There I was in a beautiful custom dress, practically skipping across the lawn like I didn't have a care or a trouble in the world. I laughed when I realized what photo she was referring to, because there was more to that moment than was captured by the camera.
What she couldn't see was that the little thing in my hand that looked like a colorful little scarf or wrap was actually a pair of pee soaked toddler pants that were, at that very minute, dripping urine down my arm. What she couldn't see was that just outside the lens was a screaming toddler, beyond the state of normal fatigue and beyond the time for her nap and way past any form of rational behavior. What wasn't visible to the viewer was, at that very moment, said toddler was having a good old fashioned toddler-style melt down, and was hanging onto the end of my arm and me onto hers, as we struggled our way across the lawn toward the closest bed.
What she didn't know was that my smile was because I was laughing that sort of maniacal laugh that comes in that moment of parenthood when one caves to it all in surrender, and when if you're not laughing, you're crying, and when you realize that there is nothing you can do to calm the beast other than laugh at the absurdity (and get that child to sleep).
I wanted to hug her for her misunderstanding.
How many times had I looked in on someone's life thinking I knew the big picture when, in reality, I was seeing only a fleeting snapshot? How often when we are weak with overwhelm do we assume that everyone else has it all figured out while we flounder in our own personal mess? We look in, but reality is out of focus. So we speculate on their scenario and we compare ourselves and we feel bad because what we're comparing ourselves to is the imagined perfection of everyone else's life.
So we need to be careful when we are looking in from the outside. We need to remember that the big picture is not always visible to the passerby. As parents and as humans, let's not compare ourselves to the images of others. Let's instead just figure out where we are and what we need, and even where we want to be. Let's soften our lens and laugh at the absurdity of it all and let that be picture perfect enough.