"I Didn't Dress for Photos" - Every Mom Ever
Updated: Aug 29
Let's see if you can relate (and I'm willing to bet tonight's glass of wine that you can). In my desperate attempt to find a hobby that I might actually stick with, I picked up my old camera that has been used solely for photographing corporate events at my work over the last five years. My husband, in a desperate attempt to get me to focus on something OTHER than being "mom turned up to 10" all the time, came up with the idea of decorating our house only with photos I take. We had found out I was pregnant three weeks after we closed on our first home and the decorating took a back seat to the adjustment of becoming new parents. (That and I suck at mimicking picture-perfect pinterest ideas on a Walmart budget.) In any case, here we are two years later and the most we have hung on our walls is a $15 set of asymmetrical frames I bought off amazon to hang above our couch.
It's bad. (If you have interior decorating skills please feel free to send help.)
As I assessed the light blue color of the kitchen walls, I decided that a black and white canvas of my husband and our son walking through the fields at my mother's farm would be a perfect addition to the large space above our kitchen table. So this last weekend I packed up our little family and we went for a drive to my childhood home. This happened to also be the day after my son's first birthday "party" so while my husband was looking spiffy in a tank top and some well-fitted jeans, I still hadn't showered out the leftover icing from my hair. I was wearing capri leggings and a dirty old tank top with one of my husband's old t-shirts over it. Our son loves a good camera, so it didn't take long to snap a photo I felt satisfied with.
But then, my husband did the thing. He reached for my camera and suggested: "Here, let me take a few of the both of you." Let me pause here and assure you, I am always quick to share the "Just take the photo!" stories on Facebook from other moms. You know the one....where moms advocate for family members and friends to be more driven to take spontaneous photos of mothers in their natural habitat with their children. They sound good in theory. Of course I want to feel appreciated and have pictures of myself with my little one as he grows up. The idea of having someone think to snap a photo without having to ask for it is so nice. But in PRACTICE? Well that's a different story. An old t-shirt, capri leggings and no makeup? I mean, give a girl some heads up! So I casually tossed out my ol' faithful response:
"No, thanks. I didn't dress for photos."
My husband, being the sweet, stubborn mule he is, decides to rudely call me out on my hypocrisy before grabbing the camera. I could feel the slight panic in my chest, the lump in my throat and the small beads of sweat that were forming on the back of my neck from the anxiety of having a lens pointed in my direction (or perhaps it was the 90 degree heat.)
But I could always delete the photos later, right? I thought about how much of a conscious effort it would take for me to pretend the camera wasn't there while trying to "look natural" with my son. And for the first minute or so it was definitely awkward for me, but it did not take long for me to relax into just having some fun with our little one. We stayed out for another ten minutes, then retreated back into the AC of our car and headed home.
Later that night while I was reviewing the photos I was considering for our kitchen, I wandered into the dangerous territory of the photos my husband had snapped. What would I find? Bulging arm fat? A mom gut squeezed by the elastic band of my leggings? Dirty hair with chunks of icing? The anticipation of what I might see first was honestly worse than any Halloween horror binge I'd ever been on. Yet what I found was much more intense.
I found a photo of our son crawling into my lap, arms wrapped around my neck for a big hug. He has just recently started walking and he is bursting with pride at every step he takes. The only way he knows how to share this happiness with me is to launch himself into my lap and squeeze. I found a photo of his smile - his whole face lights up with happiness when he giggles and he is always giggling. I found a photo of him looking back as we walked along, checking to make sure that Daddy was right behind us because he firmly believes that everything we do, we do it best together. That's when I realized that these photos weren't for me. In fact, nothing about this is about me. Our little one won't be little for long and these are captured moments of HIS life. It doesn't matter what makeup I am wearing or whose clothes pile I raided that morning because I am not the purpose. While he is too young to make memories, these photos will be his memories for him.
So take the picture. Not because you want to feel seen and appreciated, but because it isn't about you at all. (But if it helps, you should probably know you're beautiful and picture perfect anyways.)