The family environment I was raised in was entirely more concerned with the projection of a happy household rather than actually being happy. We were a fake smile kind of family.
I never understood how it could be more important to project an image rather than to actually live it. I still don’t. That is why I try so hard to call it like it is with my family. It’s the reason why I openly share my just turned three-year-old’s nickname, which happens to be Nick Nolte. It’s been his nickname for more than half of his life. He can be the craziest, most defiant, and most intense little kiddo there is and at no point could I ever love him less. Want to leave him with our babysitter for a week? Yes. Lessen my love? Never.
I think in this Pinterest perfect world, the authenticity of family life is being tucked away, only to be whispered about behind closed doors in the hushed tones we tell our most embarrassing secrets in.
The truth is that kids are rough. Three-kids-while-working-from home-with-no-tribe rough. Life with kids isn’t always peaceful or fun, at least ours isn’t. Kids can be demanding, crazy, reckless little balls of energy. But that could never take an ounce of love away from my overflowing heart when I see our miniature Nick Nolte give our baby the sweetest of the sweet little nose nuzzles. Being honest about the hard moments certainly doesn’t devalue the most beautiful ones.
I know that there are a million and one things that make our little families special and sweet and happy. I see your beautiful faces on Instagram, laughing at the beach, loving life and the perfect moments you have together. Families are amazing and that’s a given. But we need to talk. We need to be real. To be honest. To remove the stigma from admitting how hard parenthood can be. That some days are just downright awful and we are ready to clock out. And that it is ok to feel this way sometimes. That maybe you are reading this and relating on some level. Maybe your kids like to dress themselves too and maybe, just maybe, you and your son also own Christmas sweaters that you both love and wear all year long. Maybe you also aren’t sure when you last wore real pants or put makeup on. Maybe you’re just as tired and stressed and broke. Or maybe you aren’t.
Maybe you can tick off all the boxes and do it easily. And that’s great too.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and show all aspects of family life, not just the great moments. I think what isn’t working, in our little mom/wife/housekeeper sphere, is that we’re all just afraid to admit that sometimes we fail. That we lose our minds. That maybe our kids don’t go to bed at the same time every day. That they’ve had cereal for dinner. That one day it was all too much and you just sobbed yourself to sleep. It’s lonely out here. I get it. We quietly cry to each other about how hard it can be and then cry in relief when others admit it’s just the same at their house.
We’re all human here so why do we only celebrate our successes and hide our failures? It’s the hard moments that makes the easy ones that much more loved, the arguments that make the good times that much sweeter. We need to celebrate the awkward, the messy, the authentic. We need to share the chaos.
Post that cluttered house. Those mismatched outfits. That tangled hair.
Let’s be real. Let’s be honest. Let’s be us.
We can be both messy and happy. Loud and perfect. Dirty and content. We can lose our minds and still love our kids fiercely. We can be simultaneously pushed to the brink and yet crying tears of joy in the same day, sometimes even in the same hour. Because real family life, to me anyway, is anything but pretty and predictable.
With our unbrushed hair and bare feet, my family is not Instagram worthy. We wake each day with our chaotic life and our happy hearts and we try. Some days we fail but all days we try. We exist in a perpetual state of barely managed chaos and that works just fine for us. My little family started to thrive as soon as I let go of those unrealistic goals and embraced the hot mess we truly are.
I guess I’m just finding that love is love, in spite of all our flaws.
I think a lot of us exist here in this imperfect in-between state where our dreams don’t come close to our reality. But because we always see people at their online best, we end up hiding what is real and true. And by hiding what is real and true, we are encouraging others to uphold this elusive ideal.
So please, I hope you remember this the next time your kids are still in their pajamas at dinner and you are feeding them cereal. Please post that photo, too. Be happy knowing that you are not alone.
WORDS BY KELSEY SMITH, SAN DIEGO FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER. PHOTOS AS CREDITED.