Moms- Get In the Picture of Your Life



My mom is having a birthday, and seeing how it landed on a Thursday, I figured it would be fitting to go ahead and share a great throwback picture of her on my personal Facebook. A real retro snapshot of how I remember her as a child- circa the 70s. I knew just what picture I would use, as I had seen it what felt like a million times. I have a few of our family’s childhood photo albums under my bed, in all of their dusty avocado green, orange acid tainted glory. The first album I opened, right there on the first page,  I found it. There were several more like it- her lazily enjoying the beach sprawled out on a woven aluminum chair, her lounging on a brown tweed couch in front of a brown wood paneled wall, feet up near the macrame plant holder. Her and my dad in front of his Harley, or at a dinner table, or handing me a can of Schlitz to sneak a sip out of (I was probably three. Hurry and call child protective services ASAP). Suffice it to say there were many photos to choose from. And in every single one she looked beautiful. Relaxed. Un-anxious. Carefree. Where were all us kids? Well if I had to guess, we were playing somewhere down the street unsupervised. Did you hear that? Unsupervised!  I mean really, how dare we? Oh wait a sec- helicopter parenting had yet to reach, or guilt, her generation into structuring every second of her kid’s days. No wonder the unhurried temperament in her expression.

I wondered as I looked again at the picture on the post I shared, as I typed her a “Happy birthday  MOM! I  love you!” and joked at how "smokin' hot" she was, if my sons would be able to find a picture of me like this someday.

I looked over at no less than 12 scrapbooks piled high on a bookshelf in our living room, knowing perfectly well they were brimming with years and years of memories and milestones.  Of first steps, first birthdays, first haircuts, preschool graduations, and t-ball games. Pictures of Christmas mornings and Halloween evenings, of car trips, boat trips, and airplane trips. Page after page of little boys doing boy things, playing with their dad, shoving cupcakes in their mouths, even being stitched up in the ER. And they all had one thing in common- I wasn’t in any of them. I calculated it would take perusing through at least seven albums before coming across a picture of me. And what exactly was that picture me? It was of me in a hospital bed holding a newborn baby. 

What happened to the years following the hospital bed picture? The baby grew-we have hundreds of pieces of evidence of it, but the woman? Did she not evolve as well? What happened to her? 

Motherhood happened, and it happened to her- to ME-  forcing me to forever be standing behind the camera, not in front of it.  As the mom, I suddenly became the family archivist, snapping photographs of our lives here and there, day after day, year after year.  And never for one second did I realize that as I snapped years of my family’s life, I failed to snap any of mine.


Sure, I have taken my share of selfies, but honestly, most of them are of me sweating after a run, in the hopes of inspiring others to get out there and exercise. There are a sprinkling of selfies of me so excited to have taken a shower and washed and dried my hair that I had to actually snap a picture of myself clean.  If you peeked into my Instagram you would see pictures of food, food, and more food (five males to feed here) of all of nature, of big and small  events I know I was at but have no picture of me actually at. There are sunrises and sunsets, storm clouds and wildlife. You would find plenty of goofy pictures of my boys, of them at sporting events and parties, of fathers and sons doing father and son things.  Even photos of strangers doing strange things in public that I felt compelled to document. 

But what you won’t find, or couldn't find in albums, photo boxes, and on all of the memory cards tossed into kitchen junk drawers, are pictures of the woman that is also the mom. 

The last picture of me I could find of myself lying alone in the sun, appearing carefree, with a face not scrunched up and impatiently thinking  “Oh honestly just hurry up and take it!” is a picture of me on a beach on my honeymoon. There was no offspring to capture making cute sandcastles, or running away from crashing waves. There was just the woman before the mom. 

That was almost 18 years ago. 

And that speaks volumes. 

I have spent my boy’s childhood behind the scenes. I have spent it in kitchens and laundry rooms, in bleachers and ballparks, classrooms and carpool lines,  grocery stores and waiting rooms. I have spent it like all moms-parenting, planning, cooking, washing, stressing, driving, organizing, shaping, and attempting to construct a childhood for my kids that is worthy of fabulous pictures of THEM. 

And none of ME. 

None of the woman who has dedicated herself to making all of that happen. Not the mom with the swinging ponytail in yoga pants or sweaty running shorts, but the WOMAN that did all of this.

When my sons are grown, and there comes a day where reminiscing about their youth may find them searching for a picture of their mom, of the woman that was their mom, where will they find it?

Today as my own mom, a true baby boomer, celebrates her birthday, and has been mothering me for 42 years, I am amazed at the lessons I can still learn from her. As I scanned that picture of her as a young mom, of her just relaxing in a chair on a spring day,  of her not behind the scenes of my childhood but in front of it, I realize she has left me a precious gift. The gift is not only this amazing picture, it is a lesson in picturing ME in my life. Of making a point to actually picture myself in my life. 

And I will start now.  And you should too. 




I asked my 11 year old son to take a picture of me today.

 “Of just you?” he asked.

“Yes, just me, sitting right here on my little front porch where you will remember  I liked to sit a lot.” I replied.

“Why?” He questioned me again.

“Because in 30 years you are going to be looking for this picture, and  I want you to be able to find it.” I answered. 

Now it’s your turn. Go get in the picture of your life. Front and center. 


#momspictureyourself

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a great message and a great post! Thank you for the lesson. :)

April said...

This post has hit hard for me today. I WILL be in more pictures because I treasure the ones of my Mom throughout the years.

Barb Pond said...

Thank you so much for opening my eyes and making them tear up. I hate having my picture taken and I am always behind the camera. Now I am going to be in front of the camera more. Thank you for making me realize how important it is for my kids.

Anonymous said...

Lovely, but I found this really quite sad and true :( Sam, UK x

Liz said...

A fabulous article, thanks for sharing! I'm now off to share it with my daughter!

Gretchen said...

Loved reading your article. I have started to include photos of me....being me. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article!! Particularly true for moms!!

But also true, in general, for whomever your normal "photographer" is. Sometimes that's Dad, sister, brother, etc. They are often left out of pictures accidentally on an ongoing basis. Very good reminder to pass around the camera! :)

Anonymous said...

I am the mom of four boys too! Always behind the camera as well. Thanks for the reminder!!!

Anonymous said...

I am a mum of 4 boys too, I feel every word you wrote! I intend to take more photos of me from this day on...Thanku!! :)xx

Kay said...

That is SOOO true! When my kids were growing it...and even still now when they're in their early-mid 30's...I always seem to be the one taking the photos. It's only been in the last few years I realized the same thing...there were no photos of ME. In the last year or so I think I've been in more photos than in the last 25 years!!

We, as women/mothers need to be IN FRONT of the lens more...

Anonymous said...

So True! Tnx

I'm mom of two boys and I want them to be able to find my photo ;)

Anonymous said...

This touched parts of my heart I didn't know existed. Thank you.

Sandra said...

Oh thank you for sharing this. My mom passed away when I was 9 years old and I don't have a single picture of just her. Breaks my heart. You'd think I would make more of an effort to have my picture taken, but I don't. Part of me thinks my kids won't really care to have a decent picture. You look beautiful in your picture.

Anonymous said...

Amazing post, thanks for sharing!

MrsHfromHammers said...

Can I just add how important it is to get photos of you together with your children too! I lost my mum at 17 and have very few photos of us together and now my father has end stage cancer and I realised I have hardly any photos of us together either. These are also precious memories your children will treasure as they get older.

Thank you for such a timely reminder - keep snapping those photos!

Anonymous said...

Wow yu really look like your mum.
Great article -and great photos!

so very true. I am so worried about the double chins and extra weight I never want a photo of myself. :(

DM said...

Thanks for sharing!
I feel like you were talking right to me. As I am sitting here I am mentally scanning my pics, trying to find one of myself, doing something that makes just me happy. Like you I have tons of my son's with everyone else, I have captured every possible moment.
I am without a doubt lacking pics of me relaxed and happy. Or me with my boys, carefree and not worrying about waiting until I've lost 5 more pounds to take a picture.
Thanks for inspiring me to take more of me for my son's to look back on and remember their Mommy smiling!

ChangingPerspectacles said...

This hit me right in the feels. Thanks so much for this post!
I shared it here:
https://www.facebook.com/BeTheChangeSharer

Shauna Hiatt said...

Wow! This hit me like a ton of bricks on so many levels. This is such an important message to Moms everywhere. Thank you!!!

Charlene McCullough said...

I have recently realized this too. One of my boyfriend's brothers put a picture of their Mom on Facebook, everyone commented that there were not many of her up close because she hated having her picture taken. My boyfriend was only 4 when she died. He has little memory of his mother and really no proof of who she was. I cried when I realized that was one more hurt in his life. I have been hiding from anyone taking my picture until I lose weight. Although I still do not feel comfortable with my body I now feel it is something I need to do for my children. If something happened to me now they would have only memories that fade with time.

Donya Scott said...

I needed to read this. I have been so insecure about my weight, that I rarely get in pics with my husband and precious boys. Now I feel so stupid for being that way. My family loves me and will someday want to see pics with me in them. Thanks for this wake up call!

Anonymous said...

I was JUST thinking of all the photos I don't take because i don't look my "best" in any of them despite my very photogenic past. I thought about all the pictures I used to study of MY mom, smiling, seemingly happy,four kids in tow and full of life unaware of whatever lumps and bumps I constantly focus on in my own body. The pregnancy photos I didn't allow to be taken because I'd gained so much weight, that I now dearly wish I had to remind me of the best thing I've ever done in my life. I'm going to start letting my husband keep all (okay, most) of the photos I demanded he previously delete. Thanks for the reminder!

Ekwueme said...

Thank you for this great article, Melissa! I can recognize myself entirely in everything you've described, also in the awakening to the reality of me being always left out of the picture and the necessity of leaving some good snaps of myself for my daughters (only two of them - btw, how is it possible to handle FOUR BOYS???). My solution to the problem I have with photos: I made a small selection of the ones of me I like most across the years, starting from early childhood. I don't look my thinnest in most but I certainly don't hate them and they managed to capture something important about me. Having said this, I still need to try harder to take more photos WITH my children, which is not easy as I am usually alone with them in various places... Big thanks again, and keep writing please.

f it said...

Great article!!!

Becca Daniel said...

This is fantastic! I so related to this.

Wendy said...

Your blog post reminds me of a story my mother told me.

She had a friend who hated having her photo taken, she would try to thwart people any time they attempted to take a photo. Unfortunately, later in life she found out she had terminal cancer. She resisted her husband and children taking photos right up until she was on her deathbed at which point she relented.

Sadly, the only photos her children have of her are photos of her on her wedding day and at the end of a cancer battle. Neither of the women in those photos are the mother they knew and grew up with.

SO - if someone wants to take a photo of me, I let them. Even if I look fat, or goofy, or un-cool - because that is how my friends and family see me, that's how I want them to remember me.

I would suggest giving your camera to your kids more often, let them take the photos. You might be surprised at what they take and what they think is beautiful or memorable!

Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes because like so many others, it's my story as well. I insist "I'm not photogenic" and shy away from being included in pictures. I'm going to work on not being so self critical and just enjoy and be pictured with the four beautiful children that God so lovingly blessed me with. Thanks for the inspiration. X

Karen W. said...

This is a great reminder of what is important in life. I learned this lesson a few years back, when a dear friend of mine was taken from this earth at the too young age of 32. As her husband and children (3 boys and 1girl) searched for pictures to display at her funeral, they found hundreds, only 9 contained her. She was always behind the lens.

I have made a point to always be 'in' the life pics, not just 'at' the events.

Tracy Englund said...

Thanks so much for this article! Forced me to blog on it!
http://thisisyou.net/as-moms-where-are-we-in-the-photographs/

Traci said...

Your childhood sounded just like mine! My Dad would let me steal a sip of his Schlitz too on a hot summer day! Thanks again for reminding me to get in the photos too, I'm so invested in capturing my sons moments that one day looking back I won't find myself in any of the photos!

natasha said...

this is so my life...i am 43 and remember one of the only photos being taken of me,drugged,after my first child's birth... thank you for this wonderful "wake-up-call" reminding me that i am a"person" worthy of a photo too. natasha fouche from south africa.