When Tash* came along, I decided to take a one-year sabbatical on top of the four-month maternity leave from work. Within that year, I nearly fell out with the hubby and family, and blamed it on my sweet baby!
In the first couple of months after Tash was born, I spent the whole day taking care of him. Michael*, my hubby, assured me not to worry about the finances, and to just stay home and spend quality time with our “precious one”. I was tired, but happy, to be able to care for my baby 24/7.
Within three months, I became bored. I loved taking care of and playing with my baby, but I yearned to do something else aside from changing diapers… As I had created Instagram and Facebook accounts just for Tash and me, I decided to take up a Photoshop course using a government subsidy for some digital-related skills training, including learning how to make our family photos look better.
It was fun at first – I was executing simple cut-and-paste techniques, trying to doctor and enhance our family photos just for a laugh. Tash seemed to enjoy looking at cartoonish images of us and Michael was glad that I was happily occupied at home.
But I soon became obsessed. I spent hours learning how to soften features to make the post-pregnancy me look even more beautiful, and for Tash to look even cuter than a button on Instagram – all in the bid of getting more likes and comments. Sometimes, I would forget about Tash’s feeding times and delay his bath times, only to be reminded upon hearing his cries.
There were some days when I would even pass him over to my in-laws on the excuse that I was doing some part-time work assignments. But I was actually just concentrating on fixing our family photo flaws!
It soon became worse. I started Photoshopping Tash and me in holiday locales – of us strolling in the Gardens of Versailles, on the shores of Bondi Beach, and against a backdrop of blooming cherry blossom trees in Kyoto – and posting them online.
I got addicted to the number of likes and public compliments, but I never revealed that the photos were fake. Only a few of my closer friends and relatives knew that I was never actually travelling – I was merely powdering down Tash on the kitchen table in our HDB flat.
During Lunar New Year earlier this year, I did something, which, till today, I feel guilty about…
Michael was away to Malaysia on a work trip, and I felt lazy, so I chose not to visit our relatives. I lied that Tash and I were both not feeling well. Instead, during the entire Lunar New Year weekend, I spent time taking photos and uploading pictures of us holidaying in exotic beach resorts.
The truth came back to bite me harshly when Michael suddenly returned one night… he was angry, confused and frustrated, and confronted me about having lied to him about feeling sick, just to avoid going house-visiting. A close cousin had messaged to ask him what I was actually up to, revealing that gossip had gone around the family circle that I was a liar, and that I’d chosen not to house-visit on purpose during the Lunar New Year period, which got his parents upset, and he himself, worried.
Michael knew about my obsession with Photoshopping our pictures; he was ok with it before, but not anymore. He asked me to stop faking photos as it had gotten to a point where he was now being lied to. I argued that I was just doing so to entertain Tash, until Michael shouted: “You are just using Tash!”
At that point, I broke down. Michael realised that he had crossed the line, and sat us down to talk. We came to the conclusion that I was actually feeling down being confined at home, which led to me going to such lengths to pretend that I was leading a fake idealised post-pregnancy life to get attention from strangers. Michael apologised about being so caught up with work, that he hadn’t realised what I was going through, and didn’t shower Tash and me with enough love.
It has been three months since that episode. I have deleted the Instagram and Facebook accounts, but now, I post even more photos of Tash, me and Michael (who took a couple of months unpaid leave to be with us!) on our family accounts in all our real, non-Photoshopped appearances… as just another pair of loving parents with their loveable baby.
*Names changed to protect privacy
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