None of these women are me and none of these children are mine. I’m tucked away safely behind the lens but I know their moment.
If I’m not taking the picture I’m ducking out of the frame when I suspect the lens might be trained on me. I know I’m not the only one. I relate fervently to Allison Tate’s article The Mom Stays in the Picture when she says,
“We’re sporting mama bodies and we’re not as young as we used to be… The kids are so much cuter than we are; better to just take their pictures, we think….But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. 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. Avoiding the camera because we don’t like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?”
Tate is also right when she says that too much of a momma’s life goes undocumented and unseen. She is right when she says the camera won’t be on you as you pack lunches, shuttle children to swim practice or volunteer for a school function. Nor will it come in for a close up during the middle of the night as you rock a troubled child back to sleep, speed a sick baby to the ER or lie awake with worry for every reason or no reason at all.
You hire me to take photos of your children for you. Please let me take pictures of you for them. Often I must beg you to get in the picture too.
Why do we think we aren’t worthy?
Chances are we aren’t 20 anymore. And honestly, thank goodness for that. I don’t want to be the woman I was at 20 so why do I hold every contemporary photo taken of myself up to her?
Can we try, together you and I, this Mother’s Day and going forward, to open ourselves up to a more holistic and spiritual definition of beauty? Can we ask our partners and family to pick up the camera and document us mothering more?
Maybe the common definition of beauty is perfectly fine as it exists. Because assuming you don’t know a single momma here, I wonder if you could imagine a day before or after when the woman in the photo looks more beautiful than she does in this moment of mothering. These women radiate as they mother. And so do you and so do I. We need to see more of it.
So here’s to you: to she who is or was everything to someone small right now or once upon a time. To she who is comfort, to she whom we seek out for advice, to she who is missed deeply when she is gone and often overlooked when standing right here in front of us, mothering.
Happy Mother’s Day.
(OK, fair is fair: here’s me on Mother’s Day a few short years ago. And my own amazing, rock-star radiant mother.)