parent opinion

'Most mums only appear in selfies with their kids. Here's what's wrong with that picture.'

Last year I accidentally deleted two years of photos from my computer. Two years, including the year that my first son was born. 

F**k. My entire introduction to motherhood, completely erased. 

A few weeks later, a woman approached me on the beach while I was playing with my two boys.  

She was older, and it was almost as if she knew the devastation I had just experienced.

"Would you like me to take a photo of you with your boys?" she asked. 

"You look like you’re having such a fun time, and I just wish I had more pictures of myself with my kids like that." 

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First of all, what a woman. Let’s do more of this. 

But secondly, I hadn’t showered that morning, I had just come out of two weeks of sedentary hotel quarantine, and after not exercising for, well… years, a photo in my bikini was the last thing that I felt like. 

But I said yes. And I’m so glad I did. The boys looked crazy, and I looked out of control, but we all looked happy. 

Which is us, every day.

And since then, I’ve made sure that I’m in every damn photo.

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I want to remember these crazy times. I want to be able to tell the stories, because God forbid anyone thinks this is a tale of feeling rested, looking polished or smooth sailing. 

What I love about these photos is that despite all the madness, what shines through is that we are happy. Crazy, tired and often still unshowered, but happy. 

After spending years perfecting our pose, our smile, and that skinny arm angle, the best pictures actually have very little to do with how we look. 

Great pictures, the most precious ones, capture how we feel.  

Since becoming a mum, I no longer praise the hot body or judge the bulging bits in photos that I focused on so much before. 

I see the tightness of the hug. The direction of the adoring gaze. The tiny comfort-seeking hand, perched gently upon a thigh.

These pictures that crumble the perfect-looking facade and expose our authentic, vulnerable selves are the ones we’ll look back on and treasure.

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But there’s a problem: actually getting these pictures relies upon us being willing participants.  

Feeling ok with having your photo taken in your trackies, with unwashed hair, untouched skin and baggy eyes... it’s not easy. 

After years of being conditioned towards “picture perfect” representations of ourselves, presenting our flaws to the camera is nothing short of terrifying. 

Every time this fear washes over me, I remind myself: no one has to see this if I don’t want them to. 

Not every photo needs to be posted to Instagram. I can keep these in my reel and not share them with a soul. I can even delete the photo if I want. 

But I don’t. I let them sit there, because time has a funny way of helping you see things for how they truly are, beyond the superficial layers that we’re so used to judging ourselves by.  

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So next time you see a mum sharing a special moment with her kids, be that woman on the beach who took the photo. 

Do it with strangers, and especially do it with your friends. Because I can guarantee the only photos she has of herself with her kids on her camera reel are selfies. With only half a face in the frame or a reflection in a mirror where you can’t see her behind her phone, anyway. 

She deserves so much more than that.  

Capture her candidly. Hugging her kids. Feeding her kids. Chasing her kids. Playing. All the ways in which she loves them that are simply put down to her ‘doing her job’. It’s in those unremarkable moments that mums deserve to be seen the most. 

Take the photos of your friends that you wish you had of yourself. Then send them to her. 

But also, take photos of your wife, your daughter and your own mum. If she’s got kids, big or small, you can bet that she feels like she hasn’t been in enough photos. 

She might shy away, but take them anyway. Sometimes we only realise that when it’s too late. 

Michelle Fry is a writer, media strategist, marketer and mum. She’s been living in the UK for the last five years and is loving being back home in Sydney by the beach. You can follow her on Instagram

Feature Image: Supplied.

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