I have this photo of me, my sister and my mom at Disney World. We are somewhere along Main Street sitting in front of some flowers with the biggest, happiest smiles our faces. It is one of my favorite pictures with my mom. I imagine we just got to the park and saw this spot on our way to the rides & decided to stop for a photo. I say I imagine because the truth is, I don’t remember this day. Being from Florida we went to Disney dozens of times but honestly, I don’t concretely remember anything from those trips we took.
But I have this photo and I feel that it was an AMAZING trip and we had an incredible time together. My mom’s smile tells me that. We all know that Disney can be a mixed bag of fun and horror. For all I know, there was also screaming, vomiting and pouting. But I don’t remember those things…I just know that when I look at this picture, we had an amazing time together. I can imagine us bounding from ride to ride & eating my treasured Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. I see her smiling face and that's the mother I remember. When I look at this picture of my own mother, I don't look at her waistline or see her frizzy hair (and there was a perm involved). I see a treasured memory of my family on vacation.
Like I said, I don’t really remember this day. How many of us really have vivid memories from when we are six or seven? If we are lucky, we have lots of photos from our youth to capture these moments in time. And if we are very lucky, our moms got in the photo too. Moms are often the family historian and unfortunately that usually means they neglect themselves and are not in many photos with their children. Why does this happen so often? We were there too.
Fellow Moms, we are too hard on ourselves! As a photographer, one of the hardest parts of this job, hands down, is when a mom says to me “I don’t like the way I look…can you shave some pounds off in photoshop…make me look good, younger, etc.” Statements like these make my heart sink. Of course, I do shoot in a way that presents the subject in an appealing manner. But in my mind, my job as your photographer is not to make you and your families look magazine perfect. It is to capture your family looking perfectly happy, giving each other hugs, running, laughing…happy to be together in this precious moment that will have passed in the blink of an eye. In this Instagram-Worthy world, people (and moms especially) are way too hard on themselves. Those instafeeds and magazines are curated to be perfect BUT life isn’t perfect…it is beautifully flawed & messy.
Moms, I am talking to you. YOU are everything in their young lives, don’t let them grow up with very few pictures of you together. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. Give them those visual memories of you. Let them to see how much you were there, how your body looks when you hug them and how truly loved they are. When all is said and done, I want my kids to remember me and the fun we had together. Memories fade but photos don’t. Photos help us remember what our youth FELT like.
Do the photos have to be perfectly styled & shot by a professional? Nope. I make money doing this so of course I think everyone should get professional photos with their family at some point. Photographers create art and understand light. A session with one will tell the story of your family in a specific & creative way. It’s a chance to have someone else boss your crew around. If all goes well it will also allow you to let go and really connect with your kids.
It is equally important to capture memories of your real lives. At the pool and your kids ask you to jump off a diving board with them? (Yup, I did that.) Don’t be afraid to bust out your phone and hand it over and get a picture or video of that moment in time. Will your kids care that your hair is messy and you were in a total mom tankini. Nope. My kids thought I was awesome!
I guarantee that your children will never look back on a picture of you playing tag and say, “Gosh, mom should have cleaned up before taking these photos.” Instead, they will see the joy and beauty that was created that day and remember how it felt to be loved by their mother. Will you be happy to have captured the moment? YES. Forty years from now, when you are looking over old photos with your kids and their loved ones, you won't remember that you were in desperate need of a shower. You'll remember the laughter, the fun, the genuine joy you felt in that moment with your kids. Promise.
Someday we’ll no longer be here and that someday could be tomorrow or fifty years from now. Give them the gift of pictures with you. Help them remember how warm they felt when they snuggled on the couch with you or how encouraged they felt when you taught them to bake a cake. You don’t like to have your photo taken? Let’s get over our vanity. Help them remember the way you looked at them & how it felt to be loved by you… because you were there too.
“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
— photographer Aaron Siskind