The story behind the smile:

Ava is 3 years old and the apple of my eye and the other day I lifted my phone to take a picture of her because in my opinion she looked adorable.

As I lifted my phone she looked at me and sighed, turned towards the phone and automatically said: “cheese!” This was accompanied by a tired smile but it got me thinking. If I put that photo up on social media people would comment and say she’s cute, she’s gorgeous and the photo would look like a happy child smiling for the camera except I know the story behind the smile.

So though I thought she was adorable at the time and I love her, all she wanted to do was play, not pose for a photo opportunity. I don’t take that many photos of her anymore unless she asks (which she sometimes does) and my desire to put it on social media was for me a way of spreading the joy I felt at that moment.

However, lately I have become concerned about the constant posts of a “picture perfect” family. It’s wonderful when we share our joy with friends and family online but not so wonderful when the line has been crossed and all your family must do is be ready on a daily basis to pose for photographs.

This has gone beyond the sharing of special moments and has now turned into a “look at my perfect family” occasion. It’s as if people are striving to outdo others on the “happiness” scales whilst being desperately unhappy in real life.

The clothing is perfect, the setting is perfect, the family looks perfect and happy but are they? Are they happy or are they portraying happiness to hide their unhappiness? A sort of escapism so they don’t have to deal with the real world and real problems like a moody partner or tired, miserable children, or debts piling up and chores that need to be done?

Hiding behind the false sense of perfection while there are problems may be fine for a time but if you look on Instagram or Facebook, all you see are these almost “unreal super humans” who are desperately trying to hide behind the curtain of what happiness should be like.

We have these glimpses of only one aspect of their lives and unfortunately for others who have the less than perfect life it sets off a reaction of failure. Much like a subconscious goal they set themselves that can never be reached. Should you choose to put up pictures and be proud of your family then do so because you are proud not because you want to compete with that perfect family you see on social media.

I know of too many sad stories behind perfection and it’s so disheartening for someone who started out just being themselves to suddenly strive to be like that perfect family they follow on social media.

Years ago at a party of a family member, her then 4 year old daughter started crying and walked into the party from her bedroom wanting her mom. The moment she came in crying, the adults stopped talking and looked at her and in that moment of silence her mom took her hand, walked down the passage and said: ”There is no time to cry now so go back into the bedroom and put on your party face and come outside and dance, dance, dance and smile!” Not a word of comfort to the child or a warm, reassuring hug or an enquiry as to the reason for the tears. In that moment the mom was concerned more about what people would think if she was found to have an unhappy child so the opportunity to be real and loving was lost because of the mom’s desire to pretend she had a picture perfect family. The children’s entire childhood was about this and this is what’s happening on social media now.

The picture perfect family in my opinion isn’t the real one.

The partner you fought with this morning and know you have to apologize to when you get home, the tired, moody, tantrum throwing child who wants sleep and hugs, the washing piled high because you’re too tired to iron or fold it, the house you haven’t cleaned because you’re just too exhausted and the quickie you had to sneak off to have before the children wake up.

That’s real, that’s life and in its imperfections, it is absolutely perfect!