I felt the knot in my throat grow as I choked it down and held back tears, tears of exhaustion, of long sleepless nights, of tantrums, of self-doubt. Below me I watched my one-year-old daughter play with a book, studying each page, muttering sounds as if reading. Books are her favorite. This afternoon though, I felt so distant from her, my mind continually dancing back to pre-baby days, pre-marriage days even – Saturday afternoons meant naps, books, sunshine, tea, quiet, peace, rest . . . soulful rest. My daughter’s mutterings brought me back. I got out my phone and snapped a picture, her big brown eyes gazing back at me.
Right as I was about to post the picture on social media, I stopped. Instead, I closed Facebook, returned to my camera app, and, through my phone’s screen, continued watching my daughter play with her books. After a few moments, I flipped the camera’s focus to myself. I studied myself in the lens. Studied my tired eyes. My tear-tracked cheeks. My oily skin. The empty expression. Then, I took a picture. That day, instead of posting one picture, I posted two.
You see, sometimes we forget about the other side of the camera.
Sometimes we forget when scrolling through activity streams full of gleeful babies, park adventures, and clean living rooms, that it’s only one side of the lens. We begin to feel isolated, wondering if we are the only ones in this moment struggling to enjoy motherhood, doubting ourselves, wondering when we will sleep, wondering if the next day will bring more smiles or tears, wondering if we can handle one more night. In these moments, we forget about the mama on the other side of the camera.
Sometimes the face behind the camera is exhausted. Sometimes she’s worn thin. Sometimes she’s struggling just to smile. Perhaps she just had a fight with her spouse, miscarried her second child, or simply washed poop out of outfits one too many times that day. Her side of the story is lost in visual baby bliss, captured in the picture but unseen, unspoken, untold.
Even with our own pictures and media pages, we forget the untold story with time, contributing to that rosy retrospect of toothless baby grins, first steps, happy birthdays, and eternal “I love yous.” In scrolling through memories, we forget to give ourselves grace, that every new year brings both new blessings and challenges.
Don’t misunderstand me though. This single-sided story is beautiful in its own light. Doesn’t this embody who we are as moms? In becoming a parent, we take pause in our own journey, our own story, to rewrite it with theirs, intertwined. Even in these moments of extreme sleep-deprivation and spent-emotion, we take a moment to admire the beauty of childhood. We take pause in our own journey to showcase theirs. We post these moments because these moments are our fuel, our inspiration, our muse to keep going.
Mama, you’re not alone. You’re not alone behind the camera. You’re not alone in the trenches. And, when you scroll through social media, remember the untold story each image holds, and its beauty. As we gaze upon each other’s lives, we align ourselves with the mama looking through the lens at the kiddo she’s so proud of. Together, in separate spaces, we stand side-by-side looking at this picture of motherhood and say “Yeah. That. That’s what makes it worth it.”