In the last couple years, I’ve noticed a number of sources urging mothers to be in the pictures they take of their children. They tell them to not just take pictures of their families, but with their families.
Often, we are the ones taking pictures of precious moments and family vacations, and we don’t feature in the photos ourselves. If we do end up in photos, our hair is messy, our makeup undone, our clothes out of fashion or decorated in spit-up, and our bodies are more jiggly and soft than we want them to be. We delete them…quickly.
These voices that encourage mothers to include themselves in photos point out that we want our children to have pictures of us after we are gone. We want them to be able to look back over the moments shared, at our adventures together, and at the way our eyes lit up when we were looking at them.
Stop worrying about how you look, and be in the photos. Your children won’t be concerned with all of that; they’ll just want to remember you. They are going to want to look on their mama’s face when she is old and after she is gone forever.
These articles preach an important truth, but what they miss is that your children are not the only ones who might want those photographs. You are going to want them. You are going to want to be able to look back and remember not only your children when they were tiny bundles of cuteness or wild balls of noise and energy, but yourself with them, enjoying them, loving them. You’re going to want pictures together.
I know, because my own mom has shown me just how true this is.
My younger brother died suddenly two years ago, at 19 years old. Ever since, my mom has been grieving him and also mourning the fact that she has so few photos of the two of them together.
Of course, like many mothers, she missed being in a lot of pictures with us when we were growing up. Partly, she missed being in them because she was on the other side of the camera, documenting us. There were no group selfies then, and my dad didn’t often think to grab the camera for a shot of us kids with our mom.
My mom also actively avoided being in photos because she didn’t like to see her post-baby body, her imaginary double chin, or a bad hair day captured permanently for others to see. She’s like a lot of moms in that way.
Now, she constantly regrets how few photos she is in with my little brother.
Her regret motivates me to always be present in photos with my little ones, regardless of my appearance. I don’t want merely to look back at their precious, perfect faces. I want to see my face, too.
I treasure the photos I already have–taken by other family members or myself–in which my son and I are sticking out our tongues at each other, or my daughter is smiling at me for the first time. Even now, looking at those photos brings me joy as well as perspective.
Sometimes, I look back on past weeks or months with cloud-covered lenses–with regret and discouragement, feeling like I failed as a mom. I get caught in a trap, remembering hours upon hours trying to calm my colicky baby, or the wintry weeks cooped up inside with a cranky toddler battling one virus after another.
When I look back through the camera roll on my phone, though, I see all these moments of fun and joy and delight that happened in the midst of the chaos and tears. I see that I played with them and laughed with them and treasured them. I see myself in those photos and I see how much I have loved them.
I want to remember all the joy we shared together, and I want them to be able to do the same. When they look back at their childhood, and their memories are fuzzy and faded as memories inevitably grow, I want them to see that their mom was present and to see in her eyes that she loved them beyond measure.
Hopefully, none of us will ever know the pain my mother has faced in losing a child, or will experience the regret she feels from staying out of photos. Hopefully, we’ll be poring over boxes and albums of family photos with our grandkids when we’re eighty. Hopefully, when we look back with our families at a lifetime of memories, we’ll be in them together.
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