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Perception Versus Reality: Lifestyle Blogging

As a Southern woman, wife to a man raised on catfish and soybean farms, and a mother of two kids, soon-to-be-three in November, living in the heart of the Deep South in a place commonly referred to as Mississippi (and once referred to as “the landmass between New Orleans and Mobile” when The Weather Channel was reporting on a horrific storm—We rarely catch a break!), I juggle quite the constant stream of demands and expectations.

Not only do I have the opportunity to serve as a wife to a very hard-working husband and as mother to two platinum-headed toddlers, one boy and one girl, each of whom miraculously get along well despite their vastly different personalities, I also work part time as the social media manager for an interior design firm and furniture boutique. And part time as a lifestyle blogger. And part time as a freelance graphic designer, writer, and social media manager for various businesses. And I also try to stay active in our church and at my kids’ school and still have somewhat of a social life on the side.

I also try to get a decent amount of sleep every night and keep my family’s laundry and dishes clean. This is all normal, right? And completely manageable? Oops, I meant to end that last sentence with a period. Or did I? It is manageable, isn’t it? I think my own lines between perception and reality have become blurred in my mind.

The effort it takes to create a working rhythm, which creates a life that stays afloat even when the waters get a little bit rough, is more challenging than it may look. Notice I didn’t use the word “balance.” I personally think work/life balance is unattainable, so I choose to stick with the ebb and flow of a rhythm.

So what is perceived about girls like me, and how does the true story compare? Well, let me start with something “simple” that most people probably don’t even consider: personal presentation.

We Southern women are expected to be “put together.” With hair fixed, makeup on, in a presentable outfit, and with perfectly coordinated jewelry and accessories. We are talking about a region of the United States where it’s normal to wear your Sunday best to scorching hot football games. It’s just expected! And as a blogger, this is even more important to my “kind” because how we look is how we do a lot of our business. So my day begins with a challenge that, because of those blurred lines between perception and reality, I’ve almost forgotten is part of my daily routine. One hundred degree summers and 100% humidity are not our friends, yet we have to manage them somehow.

Styling products, a daily inspiration Instagram story check in with your favorite salon owner, who has hair similar to yours, plenty of dry shampoo, and at least a dozen bobby pins later, and we have our “I woke up like this” hair ready to go. Keeping this Southern mane under control may seem easy to the outside world, but great balls of fire, y’all, it is not!

Along that same line, we also have the “is she sweating, or is that just her natural glisteny glow?” issue to deal with. There is a fine line between a dewy glow and a full on sweat. These lines become increasingly blurrier in July in the hottest state in the United States and my poor brain has become overheated. Again, as a blogger, when you scoot away from the “day job” for thirty minutes on your lunch break to shoot a look with another blogger friend in a beautiful, yet hot-as-a-mother park that stinks due to spilled beverages from a concert the night before that have spoiled in the midday heat, you’re hoping to be able to blot and fan and reapply just a teensy bit of powder and get at least seven or eight suitable-for-the-blog photos taken of you before begin sweating again. Once I get my photos, and I’m able to snap some of my equally-as-sweaty friend who is playing the same game against time and sweat, we each rush to our cars and turn on the air full blast, thankful that there is a wonderful program called Photoshop that can erase the appearance of any sweat droplets that worked their way into the photos. And also thankful that cameras cannot capture smells.

Once the blog post about the aforementioned look is live on the blog, we then choose our favorite photos to display on our carefully curated social media feeds, completely breezing over the facts about sweat and smells and simply choosing to focus on the clothes and the hair product that gets all the credit that day. Blog readers seem to only be interested in the glam, not the not-so-glam aspects of this unique and interesting field of work. We’ve got to keep a little mystery going on, right?! On the occasions that I do throw in a, “y’all have no idea what it took to get this photo” with a few details about the smells and the heat, I get this calming sense of relief for being “real” with my followers. But am I really all that real? I do try, but how much of the Southern perception am I willing to let go in order to achieve ultimate realness? Again, this Mississippi southern heat has it to where I can’t think straight. “Pregnancy brain” also contributes to the blurred lines. This ailment, which I’m sure some believe to just be an excuse for pregnant women to selectively pay attention, is a real thing. I swear it!

Behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot

Not only is a simple photo shoot usually infused with a certain amount of chaos, but so is the real life juggle of everything I mentioned earlier. I’m certain moms all across the country can relate. Speaking of pregnancy brain, which again I swear combines everything in my brain into a homogeneous mixture, coupled not only with southern heat but also with “mom brain,” life really can just seem too crazy to be real. When my three year old asks deep theological questions daily, ones I feel completely unequipped to answer because all the things I learned before I had kids just don’t all seem to be there anymore, and my two year old asks why all day (I finally had to limit her to 10 sequential whys at a time just for my own sanity), I find myself just doing the best I can with each day I have. Because, even though I do try hard to be “real” with everyone around me and on Instagram as far as what’s actually going on in my life, it’s impossible to accurately portray reality in three by three squares. Or in normal social conversations. And, truth be told, I want most of my squares and my conversations to be pretty and light so my followers and I can breathe easy when we are reflecting on them as a quick escape from the not-always-so-pretty day-to-day life. Having hard conversations and posting about hard things is something I need to get better at doing.

This is something I have to remind myself about others as well: Perception and reality are two very different things, and others struggle in the same way I do. Others struggle in very different ways as well. Ways that just aren’t shared in a conversation at the grocery store or under a pretty photo.

This is normally when I turn to my group text of mama friends who are realer than real and keep me in check. And I get to help keep them in check. No fake perceptions there, praise the Lord. So thankful for them!

I always have something to do, and I genuinely do like it that way.

Most days are good because I have good people around me: A great family under my roof, an incredible work family and community of support, and a solid faith. I’m able to ask God for guidance, patience, and skills of prioritization for each day gifted to me. He gives me what I need today, then we start over again tomorrow. Truth be told, some days I forget to talk to Him before things get going in the morning. Other days, He just has things He wants to teach me, and sometimes I am a hard-headed pupil who has to learn things in difficult ways. So not all days are “good,” but you know what? That’s a reality I have embraced and am able to set above the other things that have become mush in my feeble head: Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Everything isn’t perfect. And everything happens for a reason, so I’m willing to take a step back and learn from it, the same way I take a step back from those lunchtime photos taken on a 100 degree Tuesday in July and forget to notice the sweat. All I see is a glisteny glow, a girl I’m proud to be despite my flaws and insecurities, and a real work in progress.

That is the reality.