There were a lot of photographs taken in the days following my children’s birth. Photographs of my babies cradled in loving arms, sleeping peacefully. Photographs of their being passed from one loving family member to the next. More than a reminder of what my children looked like when they were first born, they’re important to me because they capture moments of bliss, of fear, of pride – they illustrate how the love of a child can transform a person. The many little memories captured those days are among my most cherished.
These images have permeated our lives in ways I didn’t initially anticipate. They’re now part of my family’s story. In our living room sits a framed picture of my son, my first born, opening his eyes for one of the first times in his life, looking over the shoulder of a relative to the camera beyond. A photograph of my husband holding our newborn daughter, whilst our son stands on his tip-toes to peer at her, was the image which we used to announce our daughter’s arrival to friends and family on social media. A bulletin board on which I post the most sentimental papers of my life, has one photograph from the hospital stay after my son’s birth – of my childhood friends clustered around him in delight, posing for a selfie with the newest member of our tight-knit group.
I’m just not in any of them.
I can reasonably explain why I’m not in any photographs those hours and days following my children’s births – sleep-deprived, terrified, emotional, bloodied, in desperate need of a shower – I shirked away from any photographic evidence of the most vulnerable times of my life. Years on though, I still don’t feature in family photographs any more than I did during those stays in the hospital. Sometimes I’m the victim of my own vanity, and feel my body shaped by motherhood, would be better not captured; most of the time I’d rather capture moments as I see them, and not risk the camera with another.
I’m not alone, I know. It’s a habit of mothers to look down the window of a camera, rather than be seen through its lens – one which Justine Slapp, co-founder of the popular Hills District Mums Facebook group and mother of two, wants to change. For the second year in a row, Hills District Mums has championed the hashtag ‘#mumsinthepicture’ for Mother’s Day – a campaign that encourages mothers to take a selfie with their children every Mother’s Day. If not for ourselves, then for our children.
"Pictures are a gift to our children. Something they can look back on in years to come. A friend of mine passed away eighteen months ago, leaving behind two young children. As her husband shared photos of her, I picked up how good he was at taking family selfies, and taking photos of her with her kids. This is something that her kids will treasure forever”, she said
“When we asked (our Facebook group) why mums weren't in their family pictures, common replies were, ‘I'm over my ideal weight, I don't have makeup on, I feel frumpy’... It is often the mum capturing the moments. #Mumsinthepicture is easy. It's not about styled shoots and matching outfits, it doesn't rely on someone else to take the photo.”
Watch to learn the times the Mamamia team felt most like terrible mothers. Post continues after video.
“Imagine in twenty years’ time, if you have a photo from every single Mother's Day to look back on. The Mums love it. A lot are too old for the ‘selfie generation’, so felt a little silly at first, but now see real merit in doing it.”
Our family photographs, our memories, are incomplete without us. Our children don’t see our tired eyes, dark circles, and rounded tummies in photographs – they see the mothers that love and raise them. I don't want my children to look back on photographs from the best times of our lives, and to find me nowhere. So if not for me, then for my children, will I commit to standing in front of the camera more often.
Will you take more photographs with your children?