This post previously appeared on Happy by Design.
Side note: I had this idea spinning around my head for a couple weeks and it looks like I’m not the first. See related articles at the bottom of this post.
Let’s get down to business. I want to talk about the ‘mom selfie’ – the photo you sneak with your son or daughter when no one is looking. I think it’s about time we shed some light on this much-needed selfie. If not for you, then for your kids’ sake.
But first, a trip down memory lane
Back in the time of my childhood – the mid 80s to early 90s – I remember my mom being around a lot. Up until I was five, she was a stay-at-home mom. Even when I started Kindergarten, she only worked part-time hours. It wasn’t until I was in middle school when she started to work a full-time job.
I have distinct memories of my mother from that time.
I remember that before I entered school, I was her errand-running buddy. I went to the craft store with her. I went to get groceries with her. When she had lunch dates with her friend, Kathy, I would tag along and wait for my turn to go up to the salad bar at Pizza Hut (And yes, I was the only kid I knew that preferred the salad bar over pizza). Sometimes she would take me to movies. We saw a lot of the Disney classics together, her favorite was Beauty and the Beast.
At home, I recall her sitting on the piano bench, talking to my Aunt Kathy (yes, two Kathys, stay with me now) while she kept an eye on the chocolate-chip cookies baking in the oven. I remember her helping me across the jungle gym in our backyard and pointing out hot air balloons that were passing over our house. I remember the smell of the cinnamon and candy ornaments I helped her make that were baking in the oven to be hung from the Christmas Tree and her singing along with Anne Murray while they went “walking in a winter wonderland” (Oh how I love Christmas!).
The point is, she was just ever-present. And if my memories were all that I ever had of her, I think that would be enough.
Present in memory, absent in photographs
But there are pictures of my childhood. Granted, not as many pictures compared to my siblings (I was the youngest of four), but I had my fair share.
However, when I look back at pictures I don’t see any of the things listed above captured.
My mom didn’t pose with me in front of the ornaments we just made to capture the moment. She didn’t lean over the grocery cart to get a goofy picture of the two of us “gals” just out and about. But to her defense, she didn’t have the luxury.
I can’t picture exactly how big our camera was back then, but it was big. And expensive. And surely not something you took out in public. And definitely not the sort of thing you could just turn around to snap a picture of yourself with.
But also, a lot of my memories of her are distinct times when it was just us, so no one was around to take a picture. Maybe I cling to these memories of her because it’s those moments when I got her undivided attention. In a family of six, getting anyone’s attention for a long period of time was rare, so you cherished those memories.
So now when I see her in a childhood photo – it’s most likely a picture of our whole family, posed in front of our Christmas tree. And the thing is – I don’t think that’s all too uncommon. Which makes me think, if she had the chance, would she have wanted to take a ‘mom selfie’ back then?
Overcoming the ‘absent mom in photos’ syndrome
Excuse #1: I didn’t have a camera readily available.
NOT AN EXCUSE ANYMORE…For the majority of us, we walk around every day with a camera just sitting in the ready position on our phones. And if you still use a camera, it’s either small and easy to bring with you, or you take pictures as a hobby and you have a super sweet camera. And if you literally don’t have a camera on your person, I’m sure one of your friends do. Either way – most of us don’t have the excuse of not having a camera accessible at almost all times.
Excuse #2: Nobody wants to be bothered to take a picture of me and my kid(s).
GET OVER YOUR PRIDE…Okay, so it’s easy to say that and it’s a lot harder to put into practice. I don’t like inconveniencing others, either. This one is tough for me, so maybe the next time you go to a fun event where you know you’ll want to take pics, just come up with a secret pact with a friend, “Hey, you shoot pics of me with my kid, I’ll do the same for you and we’ll swap.” Then at least there are fewer awkward confrontations like this, “Hey, hi there, sorry to interrupt, umm, can you take a quick picture? Thanks, sorry!!” I know how we can be. And if you still have to give the awkward proposition, just remember that this is just as much for your kid as it is for you (they just don’t know it yet).
Excuse #3: I [look awful/feel fat/need makeup/just woke up/am about to smack you with this pillow if you don’t let me sleep past 6am]…I don’t want to take a picture right now. Plus, who wants to see me like this?
LOVE IS BLIND…I know it doesn’t feel like love right now, but when I think back on memories of my mom – I can’t even recall what her insecurities were…because that’s not what I remembered about her. I didn’t remember whether or not she was wearing makeup on any particular day. I just remembered that she was there.
I know this is still a struggle because we all have our own insecurities. To date, selfies seem to be synonymous with “selfish.” But mom selfies? I think those should be synonymous with “selfless” because it means you’re willing to capture the moment even if you weren’t looking your best that day…so that your kid can look back fondly and see that you were there. And being there is a form of love. It means you care enough to show up…to be present.
The point is – don’t take mom selfies for yourself (well, I mean you can, no one is stopping you), take them for your kids. Take them for your kids so that when they look back at pictures of their childhood, they won’t have to solely rely on memories and pictures by the christmas tree.
Let’s start the mom selfie revolution
I’ll do my part to spread the word by sharing some of my favorite and not-so-favorite (i.e. not fit for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) mom selfies here. Are you willing to do the same? It’s easy! Just post a picture of you and your kid(s) for the world to see. If your kid(s) are out of the house, post an older picture. If you don’t have any, find a pic of you with your mom (I’m sure you’ll score extra brownie points for that one). Post it to Facebook. Or post it wherever you’re comfortable. Just get it out there!
And definitely do these three things:
- Take more mom selfies, and post them for the world to see (and if you need to work up the courage, take it anyway and save it in a safe place)
- Encourage your girlfriends to get in the picture with their kid (volunteer to take pictures of them, even!)
- Remember that it’s not about you, it’s about your kids, and they love you no matter what