Like most moms, I have a million photos of my children. I’ve gratefully assumed the role of family photographer. I take that role so seriously that the camera specs on a phone are more important to me than any other feature.
I use my phone camera for everything. It’s a godsend for catching quick shots of the kids getting into mischief. It’s been there for me to document the last stages of pregnancy on into the first days postpartum for two pregnancies considering that my family is 800+ miles away. And it’s done wonders when my husband has gone on extended work trips.
But a while back, I was scrolling through my thousands of pictures of my children and I noticed something heartbreaking. Despite having nearly a thousand images of the children and their father, and even the dog, I have very few pictures that include me.
The more I talk to other moms, the clearer it has become that there is a crisis in the family photo department. Mothers are taking millions of photos and doing an awesome job making sure that our family can look back on their various life stages. But no one is returning the favor to make sure we are included in the memories.
So today, I would like to put out an all-person’s bulletin informing loved ones that we want to be in those memories too.
I noticed the image inequity a few years back. I was an excited first-time mother snapping all the photos of my son and husband. I just assumed we’d share the photo responsibilities — except we didn’t.
I don’t think my partner maliciously set out to cut me out of family memories. But I do feel like it’s a symptom of the lack of consideration that women experience in all areas of life.
Day after day, mothers strategize and make intentional decisions to promote family morale. We suggest family dinners when no one seems interested. We insist on professional family photos to put on the wall despite moaning and groaning. And we tirelessly consider the physical and emotional state of every family member.
We’re so efficient at being the family secretary, no one thinks about our wants and needs. We work ridiculously hard behind the scenes but rarely have the opportunity to be the focus.
Unfortunately, I had to accept the fact that my husband was not going to go out of his way to think to take pictures of me with the kids. So instead of waiting for him to have a light bulb moment, I spoke up and handed him the phone.
At first, asking my husband to take pictures of me with the kids felt weird. It was a lot more forward than I was used to being. Plus, it took some of the candidness out of the family photos.
But now that I have an increasing number of images with me and the children, it all seems worth it.
Seeing myself in family photos reminds me that my wants and needs are just as important as everyone else’s. It’s also taught me that as a mother, there’s nothing wrong with actively telling your loved ones what you need from them. In contrast, not speaking up should be considered a disservice. We moms are too important to walk around feeling neglected.
Another reason it’s important for me to be included in photos is, God forbid something happens to me, I want my family, my kids especially, to have access to my memories.
Likewise, I have very few pictures of my mother — and almost none when she was my age or younger — and I hate it. Having a timeline of images is a great way to see moms as human. We haven’t always been mothers! We’re multi-dimensional individuals who have lives outside of our family. When I’ve gone, I want my family to see the diversity of my life experiences — I’m much more than “mom.”
Now I have memories to look back on that show the changes I have made as a mother over the last four years. And once those memories have passed, having documented them with virtual images is often the only remaining proof that the experience ever occurred.
I’m currently in the market for a new cell phone. I am choosing between the two top competitors and, again, I am interested in whichever one has the most high-quality camera. But this time my camera will not only document my beautiful children and my husband; it will be the first phone that includes images of me from start to finish because I’m gonna demand pictures be taken of me too.
And I don’t have a single ounce of shame in that.
I know there are millions of mothers who can identify with the “absent from photo heartbreak” that leaves me frustrated. But I’m here to tell you it’s possible that your family will never get the message. Sadly, mothers are often overlooked. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can speak up and demand that we are included. Speaking up to make sure we are in the picture can benefit so many areas of our lives. And we deserve it.
I’ve learned that if I don’t consider my needs and wants, no one else well. Who knew I could learn so much in pursuit of getting a good family picture?