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An Open Letter To The Mom Who Hates Having Her Picture Taken
I'm like you. Between my fancy-schmancy blogging camera, my phone and my tablet, there's always a camera within reach and I literally take hundreds of pictures each month of my children. But when it comes to taking pictures of myself, there aren't nearly as many. Scrolling through the camera you'll find lots of pictures of the children and of food I've made or other things I want to post on the blog, but you won't find a single selfie on my phone and there are very few photographs of me on the camera.
I know I'm not alone in this. We Mamas tend to be the one behind the camera taking pictures. We rarely hand the camera over to someone else and jump into the shot. We are with our children day in and day out living life alongside them, yet there is very little photographic evidence of our daily presence in their lives.
Mama Doesn't Feel Cute Today
There are so many reasons I don't jump into the shot. Most of the time it's simple vanity. I don't look as good as I used to. I still have baby fat and my hair is going grey. Most of the time I'm sporting a mighty fancy Mama Ponytail and at any given time there could be peanut butter on my shirt from where a tired child rubbed her face.
It's hard to feel cute when you're wearing a nursing bra and somebody else's lunch. For that matter, it's hard to feel cute when your nursing bra is full of somebody else's lunch. The children are so much cuter than I am and its easy to convince myself that the picture will look better if I'm not in it. So I just snap shots of those sweet, adorable faces and I stay behind the camera.
Take The Photo, Anyway
Life is always changing and this moment will never happen again. Tomorrow the children will be just a little bit bigger and my hair will be just a little bit more grey. The time to capture those pictures is right now! Here is the most recent picture taken of Sweet Pea and I:
When I look at this picture, I see badly brushed hair with a lot of grey in it, poor posture and more weight than I care to think about. But look closely at Sweet Pea's face. She's not thinking, “I sure wish this lady would lose 40 lbs.” She's thinking, “MMM! I just LOVE my Mama and my Mama loves ME!”
By the time she is old enough to remember her childhood I will have more grey hair than I do now. One day she will look back at this picture and where I see my physical faults, she will be amazed and how young and beautiful I was. Our children (and husbands) see something different when they look at us than what the critical voices in our head tell us to see.Our children see something different when they look at us than what the critical voices in our head tell us to… Click To Tweet
You May Not Always Have This Opportunity
Today is truly a gift and tomorrow is not promised to any of us. We just don't know if there will be another opportunity to take that snapshot. Divorce wreaks havoc in families making family photos a near-impossibility. Parents die. Children Die. We always hope it won't happen to us, but it happens to somebody and usually it happens without notice. I hope to live long enough to see my great-great-grandchildren, but someday I won't be here. I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now, but it is the normal order of things for children to outlive their parents by 20 or 30 years. When that time comes, I want my family to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, to see how much I loved them and how absolutely delighted I was by them.
I want them to see how much fun we had together.
(Worst family-selfie ever! But we're having fun at the 3-D show at the nature museum!)
The Pictures Don't Have To Be Perfect
Snapping pictures is about documenting life. Life isn't perfect and the pictures don't need to be perfect either. I'm simply creating a record of the way things are so that later my children can look back and see how our family was when they were too young to take notice.
Sometimes I wonder what my children will be like as parents. When they go through the normal-overwhelm that is part of starting a family they won't remember how overwhelmed I was in that stage. They'll remember the Mama of older children who had their help and they might be tempted to compare the experienced version of me to the brand new parent they will be one day. Pictures that document how things really were will prove to them that I didn't always have my act together and I didn't always look perfectly put-together.
Here's a snapshot Papa the Farmer took (for I-don't-know-what-reason.) It was Vacation Bible School Week. My days consisted of wake up early, work on blog, drive to VBS, let the children eat breakfast in the car, help out at VBS, drive home, take a long nap… Not exactly stellar parenting on my part, but it was a good week. One day we'll look back at this picture and laugh about how exhausted we all were (especially Mama).
Pictures Are A Gift To the Family and Also a Gift to Myself
As gut-wrenching as it is to think about, children don't always outlive their parents. Accidents happen. Disease attacks. Sometimes children die and when it happens it often happens without notice. If I were to find myself without one of my precious little ones, I would treasure the photographs I have of them… and I would want to see myself in the photos with them as tangible proof that we were here, living life together day in and day out.
Come to think of it, one way or another, it is guaranteed that I won't always have these precious little faces around me. One day sooner than I want, these little faces will be replaced by the faces of mature, grown men and women. Look at this picture. I found it on my camera and I know it happened just a few months ago, but I already don't remember that day. There was no special occasion. This wasn't a Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed and it wasn't my birthday. It was just a “We Love Mama” Special Breakfast Delivery! Look closely at that breakfast. Why, yes, that IS salad and vegetables! They could have poured me a bowl of cereal but my children know that my favorite way to start the day is with a hearty vegetable meal and with the help of their father, they made one for me! If that's not love, I don't know what is. And now I have that memory documented. I'm so glad I didn't say “No, you can't take a picture! I haven't brushed my hair yet!”
So, dear Mama… I want to encourage you to throw your self-consciousness aside. Get photos of you living life with your family! Years from now your children won't care what your hair looked like or if you had makeup on or even if you'd taken a shower and brushed your teeth that day. You won't be so critical on yourself either. Your family will just want to see that you were there.
Ask somebody else to take the picture once in a while.