This is my favorite picture of me and J. I mostly love it because he looks so happy, just thrilled to be alive. I couldn’t have hoped for a better facial expression than the one he’s giving his Daddy, who’s standing behind the camera. But I also love it because he is strategically placed to hide my tummy. I won’t lie, that’s not an accident.
In October, 2012, Allison Tate wrote an article for the Huffington Post when she realized that, of all the photos starring her four children, she was in very few. Why? Clearly she’s a big part of their lives; she’s their mother, after all. It’s likely that she was with them during many of those milestones, family events, play dates, and holidays. If the point of photos is to document, why wasn’t she documenting the full story?
This article, The Mom Stays in the Picture, seemed to strike a familiar cord with a lot of moms–it had over 6 million views. I know it was familiar to me.
I avoid photographic evidence of my existence these days. To be honest, I avoid even mirrors. When I see myself in pictures, it makes me wince. I know I am far from alone; I know that many of my friends also avoid the camera. It seems logical. We’re sporting mama bodies and we’re not as young as we used to be. We don’t always have time to blow dry our hair, apply make-up, perhaps even bathe…The kids are so much cuter than we are; better to just take their pictures, we think. – See more here.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eyed my tummy scornfully; how many times I’ve wished that I had worn my retainer more often so that my teeth were straighter; how many times I’ve worn long sleeves in the summer time because I couldn’t stand to look at my arms that particular day, or long pants in the stifling heat of July because I hate how big my calves are and would prefer that nobody saw my scarred knees from childhood; or how many times I’ve made my husband retake the same picture over and over until I found an angle that made my face look a little less round.
But I don’t want my son to see that. I don’t want him to notice that mommy tries to hide her round face–after all, isn’t his face, the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen, shaped like my own? And if I ever have a daughter who inherits all those body parts that I try to hide, how will I ever convince her that she’s beautiful if I can’t find it in myself?
Someday, I want them to see me, documented, sitting right there beside them: me, the woman who gave birth to them, whom they can thank for their ample thighs and their pretty hair; me, the woman who nursed them all for the first years of their lives, enduring porn star-sized boobs and leaking through her shirts for months on end…me, who cried when I dropped them off at preschool, breathed in the smell of their post-bath hair when I read them bedtime stories…I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother. I want to be in the picture…I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are. See more here.
Through loving my son, I find more love for myself. I look at him sometimes and think, I made that. And if I can grow such a miracle in this imperfect body of mine, how bad can it really be? The arms I try to hide are the same ones that hug him when he cries and toss him in the air to make him laugh hysterically. Those legs that always seemed so awful are strong and enable me to play chase with him, take him for long walks, and provide a lap for him to sit on while I read to him. When my son looks at me, he doesn’t see that I didn’t apply makeup that day or that I threw my hair in a ponytail for the 4th day in a row. He just sees his mama, the woman who loves him, comforts him, rocks him, feeds him.
And when I plant kisses all over his delightful little face that looks so much like my own, and he giggles and puts his hands on my cheeks to pull my face toward his to do it all over again, he’s not looking at the nose I think is too big. He’s looking at my eyes–and he thinks I’m beautiful.
Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves — women, mamas, people living lives. – See more here.
So get in the picture. Let your children see how much you love them, and in turn, how much you love yourself. Don’t worry that you may not look your best. You look like their mom, and that is, and always will be, good enough.
If you have a favorite picture of you and your child(ren), I’d love to see it!