These Realistic Photos Reinforce The Normality of Parenthood

You know those impossibly perfect photos that constantly pop up on your Facebook and Instagram feeds?

You know what we’re talking about – the ones featuring a pair of impeccably dressed kids, sitting sweetly next to mum (who also happens to be completely stain and stress free) under a fabulous flowering tree and smiling. Oh, the smiling.

Even guinea pigs need a spa day! Photo by @kathsbrightphotos and shared by @_robin_ for #shamoftheperfect

A photo posted by Sham of the Perfect (@shamoftheperfect) on

The post underneath reads something along the lines of, “Just another sunny Saturday afternoon.” And, you’re supposed to believe that this neat and tidy (and of course, smiley) family is the living picture of perfection every day.

Yep, that’s life as a mum. Sitting with your well-behaved toddlers out in nature. No one’s throwing a tantrum. No one’s rolling on the ground, kicking up a storm of dusty dirt. And, no one’s trying to break free from the photo op and climb up the tree while screaming, “No, muuuuuuuummy!”

Oh wait, that’s not how your life really us. Right? A group of mums set out to prove just that. Sham of the Perfect is a collective of international photographers (and parents), who document real life with their kids. On their website they say, “Our intent is to tear down the sham of perfection shown in more idyllic work and present life, parenthood, families, childhood, and home as it actually is; full of flaws and full of beauty simultaneously.”

With contributors from Australia, Canada, the US and the UK, this group of artists truly captures what it is to be a parent.

Co-founder Erika Roa told the Huffington Post,

“Our project is dedicated to documentary family photography and all the messes, tantrums, unadulterated joy, and memorable moments that happen when you aren’t busy trying to make everything look perfect.”

Lacy Monroe, Sham of the Perfect
Image: Lacy Monroe, Sham of the Perfect

The idea was born in 2014, when Roa and her co-founders (Lacey Monroe and Natasha Kelly) all took the same online photography course. After all receiving criticism that their photos weren’t exactly “free from distractions,” the group of mums realized that they had to find their own artistic way of expressing what life was really like for them.

This meant putting aside the idea of creating art (i.e., photography) that was well-manicured, perfectly proportioned and “clean.” Instead the mums decided to document what parenthood looks like for many mums (and dads).

Image: Chrystal Cienfuegos, Shame of the Perfect
Image: Chrystal Cienfuegos, Shame of the Perfect

The result? A growing online gallery of images (the website officially launched in 2015) that features life as it is. Kids bathing in a sea of mud, a pajama-clad preschooler cuddling on a couch (amidst a seemingly never-ending mess of a playroom), a superhero-costume-clad kiddo lounging in the living room, kids feeding the dog (from the table, of course).

But, don’t start thing that the Sham of the Perfect is all about the beauty in the mess – at least not yet. Yes, the photos often capture the more-than-occasional unkempt playroom or the unbrushed head of a child who is still in his pj’s well into the ‘day’. Along with these photos, the contributors also manage to document what everyday life really is for their families. A child traipsing along a rocky beach, a quiet moment spent playing with trucks and planes on the floor or the intent eyes of a little boy as he rolls out his own pizza dough all bring these mum’s lives into our own homes.

Image: Robin Stephenson, Sham of the Perfect
Image: Robin Stephenson, Sham of the Perfect
Image: Gemma Robilard, Sham of the Perfect
Image: Gemma Robilard, Sham of the Perfect

These small, but still magical, moments are precious. Not the staged sort of precious that seem to be plastered all over social media. But, the real precious. The times when we look at our kids, smile and wish that the clock would just stop – if only for a moment. These might not be pictures of perfection, but in their own way these photos are pretty perfect!

Sham of the Perfect shares their contributors photos on their blog, Facebook and Instagram. They also accept submissions from artists who share the same honest style as their contributors.

Avatar of Erica Loop

Erica Loop is a mum, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. Along with writing for websites such as PBS Parents, care.com, Scary Mommy, mom.me, Modern Mom, education.com and others, she also is the creator of a kids' activities and art blog.

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