My second son is in the early stages of infancy, a uniquely absorbing and time-consuming stretch. Hours are spent immobile with a sleeping baby on my chest, or up at 3am when no one else is awake. In these moments when there’s nothing else possible, I spend a good bit of time scrolling through Instagram photos and flipping through magazines.
Many photos shared by my friends all seem to paint such a serene picture of motherhood. A gleaming tranquility. Cuddles in spotless homes. These same images and scenes of family life are repeated on Pinterest, and often on blogs. Parenting is all magic and joy.
Other blogs, magazines and advertisements show a different version of motherhood. A steady stream of annoyance and chore, clamoring and yelling. Mothers are in a constant state of bumbling, harried chaos. Parenting is all impatience and stress.
I find that I don’t relate to either of these depictions of motherhood. My own experience has fallen somewhere in the middle. There are happy spots of peace and warmth, but they’re usually happening in a cluttered house, not fit for Instagram. There are brief periods of chaos, but they’re typically accompanied by sticky kisses and cheerful songs.
In those quiet moments in the wee hours, as I flip and scroll, it’s easy to feel that my experience is less than those idyllic, sepia-tinted instagrams. Or, I can feel insulted by the depictions of a parent overstressed by the minutiae of daily life. But, I imagine it’s difficult to show a clear picture of the motherhood that I’m experiencing, because it’s complex and a little muddled. It’s hard and wonderful; it’s messy and beautiful. The hardest parts are tough to articulate, and the best pieces aren’t easy to capture in a photo.
Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.