I recently read a Huffington Post article (which now has more than 3,000 Facebook likes) where the author looks back on a photo of her own mother where there are no kids around and wonders, among other things, if a similar photo of herself even exists among the pile of scrapbooks chronicling the milestones and lives of her children. While no first step, first birthday or t-ball game was missed in photographs of her children, she realized they all had one thing in common. She wasn’t in any of them.
She mentions that the only pictures of her included in the books were of her holding a newborn baby: evidence that she brought a life into the world, but no evidence that she ever had a life of her own. Sure, there are occasional “selfie” photos, she admits. And I don’t know about the author, but most of the ones I’ve posted to Instagram include a child in the foreground.
I felt the author made a compelling point that, once a mother, we spend a lot of time “behind the scenes” in kitchens, laundry rooms, ballparks and waiting rooms. Furthermore, others even start to see us as a mother, in image, and perhaps nothing else. Maybe we even start to see ourselves that way. Not a person with interests and hobbies separate from her children. Not a person who can carry on a conversation that has nothing to do with diapers or teething or sleep deprivation. And not a person with a picture of herself and only herself.
In the course of reading this article, I was already preparing a family photo shoot with an old high-school-friend-turned-amazing-creative, Lindsay, of LuLuEdward Photography. You can read how that turned out here (not all Pinterest cracks it up to be!). In scheduling the session, my initial goals were to chronicle, mostly, my sons’ growth (they were now three years old and six months old; too much time had already gone by without a group shot!). But, as in the case of the Huffington Post article’s author, I had no pictures of myself. Definitely none of me when my mouth wasn’t open, mid-sentence. Definitely none of me that weren’t blurry from chasing down, cradling or running from a small child.
So, I told Lindsay I had to have some pictures of myself. I had to get in the picture of my life. I wanted to make sure if my kids happen to be looking for photos of me 30 years from now, they find one. And with any hope, it might show me, “Beautiful. Relaxed. Un-anxious. Carefree,” as the article’s author sought. And I wanted to make sure there was evidence that I was also a working person, trying to contribute something meaningful and working to make a difference. I wanted to show that I’m not just a mother. I’m a writer, a thinker, a storyteller, a change-maker. I’m a lot of other important things, too.
Lindsay heard my plea loud and clear. And, she got it, too. She’s a mom. And she’s a photographer, which means, like me, she’s rarely seen in front of the camera. So together, we worked toward a goal to put me front and center in the picture of my life. And she nailed it.
Not only did she get some pictures of me in all the glory of my work, after she thought she had gotten some single photos of me as a calm, un-anxious and carefree person, we had fun sneaking in Taylor to show that, truthfully, a lot of times, I’m doing both. I’m being both. I’m a hard-working, thinking, fun-loving person AND I’m a mother. I think that’s true for most mothers and I hope these pictures help my family think of me as a person who is more than just a mom. It definitely made me think that of myself, which perhaps, was the most empowering feeling ever.