As a mom, we work hard to capture our kids’ childhood in photos. But when they look back at all the images of their childhood, will they see their mothers? Or will our presence simply be represented by the fact that someone must have taken the photos? Should’t we be capturing our motherhood alongside our children’s childhood?
I loved the recent article that has been passed around all over the internet, The Mom Stays in the Picture. It really got me thinking. And this except from a post on my sister Saydi’s blog (she’s a great photographer) took some of the ideas in that article a bit further. Saydi writes:
I’ve tried to get over how lame I feel when I hand someone else the camera and ask them to take some pictures of me with my kids. I want my kids to see me with them, see me laughing and smiling, sitting in the sun. I want my motherhood captured. I want to stop looking at my flaws in the pictures and start looking at the love and happiness that’s the subtext, the background for these photos. When my kids are grown and I’m old and they are doing what I’m doing now I want them to see me doing it. Being there, in the moment. But I also want to take pictures with my children because it gives me a vision of the life I’m trying to lead, the mom I’m trying to be. It helps me to see the big picture of what I’m trying to accomplish.
As a photographer I always insist on taking pictures of moms with their children. The moms are always the ones behind the camera. Sometimes the moms protest, but I push it. As I edit the photos I’m overcome by the love that spills out of the images. I find them stunning and am always surprised when I view them with a client and they cringe. We moms have such a hard time looking past what we don’t like about ourselves in pictures. Why do we do that to ourselves? I love what she says in that article, our kids don’t see our love handles or the double chins or the big noses. They just see the love. How silly it is to shy away from capturing our motherhood because we aren’t presented perfect in the pictures. When we look beyond that we see so much beauty and it helps us reframe our lives.
All this spurred me to dig up some old photos of me with my mom (my parents recently had all their old slides made into digital photos).
I’m so grateful that my dad was sort of into photography and that he thought to capture my mom in moments of everyday mothering as well as capturing quite a few somewhat posed shots of mom with us kids.
But my husband has never been into photography nor is he particularly aware of mothering moments that ought to be captured on film.
So if I want my kids to remember that I WAS in the picture, I’ve realized that I have to instigate photos with me in them – and that I’m going to have to stop caring about whether I’m having a good hair day or whether my tummy’s flabbier than I’d like.
I’m so glad I somehow thought to capture this photo of me with my family soon after our twins were born. Situations weren’t idea. The kids were’t cooperating. I didn’t feel pretty. But this is the one photo I have of our whole family during that crazy first few months of regular life with five preschoolers. Sometimes forced photos become the most precious.
I’ve made a point for many years now to ask my husband to take photos of me with the kids every Mother’s Day and I’m so grateful for these photos. Plus I have a shot or two of me reading to my kids and bike riding and hiking with my kids (something we’ve always done a lot of). I wish I’d thought to figure out how to get more candid shots of me with my kids doing everyday things. But I can’t go back – only forward. And moving forward, I can figure out how to be in the picture a lot more.
This past weekend, spurred by a Learning Circle assignment to plan something special and fun with our kids, I took my kids to a museum I’d been meaning to take them to forever. And spurred by my musings on the importance of me being in the picture, I made the effort to document the great time we had learning and building and exploring all day together.
After the museum, we explored some beautiful gardens nearby. Again, I made the effort to get a photo of me with the kids so we can remember the beautiful fall colored grasses we saw, the sunset we watched, the brilliant leaves that surrounded us, the half-dead flower Eliza had me tuck behind my ear and the way Silas always wants to hold my hand. One photo can spur so many great memories.
I’m so glad I bothered to cajole the kids into some photos (not their favorite thing) and ask random people to take photos of us. It’s really not so hard.
Now I’ve got to figure out how to capture more candid moments (I guess I do have some older kids I could hand a camera to – and I could probably figure out the auto timer on my camera . . .). One way or another, from here on out, I’m going to get in the picture a lot more!
The outfits don’t have to be cute. Everyone doesn’t have to be looking at the camera and smiling. Dirty faces and messy hair are OK. What matters is that we’re capturing our motherhood – not just our children’s childhood.
I want us all to remember what we did and how we felt and how we looked when we were together – bad hair, flabby tummy and all. That’s life. That’s memories. That’s me. That’s us.
QUESTION: Do you make efforts to be in photos with your kids or capture everyday moments with them on film?
CHALLENGE: Use that phone or simple point-and-shoot and start taking photos! In fact, we’re challenging all moms to share candid photos of themselves with their kids. Click HERE to learn about our “Get in the Picture” challenge and the prizes all participants will receive.
Amy chandler says
This is so important! I make a family yearbook every year with our family photos through Heritage Makers. The first few years I didn’t have many photos with me in the picture. My husband took notice and now he insists on snapping some with mom. It makes a difference and I am so glad we do the family yearbook. My kids remember what we did, they know we cared about them enough to do things with them. They will cherish them for years to come I’m pretty sure!
susan m. says
Beautiful article! I am SO guilty of not being in the picture–and am convicted after reading this.
Anna Jenkins says
I know what you mean! I took so many pictures of my girls when they were little and so many of them with their Dad because he would say “Go get the camera. Take a picture of this (insert cute moment). Yeah, well no one did that for me (and why didn’t I insist on it?) and now I have hardly any with my kids. I need to do better with my grandkids. That’s one thing about being a grandma now. I can try to do things better, think smarter. Be more DELIBERATE!!
Thank you so much for this reminder! I’m so excited to start including myself in more pictures with my kids! I also love the idea of an annual mother’s day photo with my kids – a family tradition I’d love to start!