"I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother."
October 12, 2012 11:16 AM   Subscribe

The Mom Stays in the Picture - When Allison Tate wrote about how "Too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen... I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them", it resonated with many other women. "To read through the notes that came with the thousand-plus photos (and yes, we have read every single one) was to read the minds of today's mothers. Over and over you told us that you don't look the way you want to look, don't look the way you once did. Even when joining a movement created around the motto 'I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother,' you felt the need to apologize." (via middleclasstool's other half)
posted by flex (50 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I need to get back in the picture and be ok with it. I want my son to see how happy he makes me and how much I love him.
posted by stormpooper at 11:22 AM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think much of the time, Moms are the ones taking the pictures, as well. Point those cameras at yourselves and your kids, Moms! It won't ever be nearly as embarrassing as those Facebook photos of kids in frat houses with red cups giving everyone the finger are!!
posted by xingcat at 11:25 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


What an upper-middle class issue to worry about! If you're really worried about this, I'm glad you don't have any real problems in life.

Not helpful. Even poor kids wish they had more pictures with their moms.

99% of the pictures we have of my mom and grandma are ok-and-now-one-with-mom in front of the christmas tree. The others are damnit-not-now-I'm-not-even-wearing-any-makeup ones that were snuck when my brother and I stole the camera.

I have a shitton of realass fucking stressors in my life, and it would still be nice to have some casual family photos that showed everyone in the family equally.
posted by phunniemee at 11:36 AM on October 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


God, what I wouldn't give to be able to just worry about "real" problems. Good on people for finding a solution to an issue in their lives. That always makes me happy.
posted by cheap paper at 11:37 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen... I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them"

May I take this moment to say: Put your damn selves in the Christmas picture you send out!

Yes your kids are adorable, but I haven't been friends with them for 20 years. And by mid-year I'm not even going to remember which kids belong to who anyway.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:39 AM on October 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh, this made me cry a little bit. Lovely.

/Nursing my almost-1 son in the car before Gymboree.
posted by purpleclover at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2012


Almost none of the pictures of my wife, my kids, or my wife and kids has me in the picture because I was the one taking the picture.
posted by jfuller at 11:45 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this, it was a sweet.
posted by medusa at 11:48 AM on October 12, 2012


I think there are perhaps more meaningful ways to contribute to your child's future than making sure you are in photographs. Being "in the picture" is way more important than being in pictures.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:53 AM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have just one picture of my mother and myself. It's one I took possession of from my father after he died.

I'm 10 or 11. My family is standing outside our house. Dad looks like his thoughts are elsewhere. My older sister is standing as far away from my mother as she can get. My mother is standing behind me with one arm clutched possessively across my chest.

I don't look at family pictures often.
posted by Egg Shen at 11:53 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Count me as another now-grown kid who wishes she had more pictures of her mom. I grew up in a single-parent family and we didn't have much money; I hope that makes it okay for me to wish this.
posted by rtha at 12:15 PM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think there are perhaps more meaningful ways to contribute to your child's future than making sure you are in photographs. Being "in the picture" is way more important than being in pictures.

I don't know your family situation, but you might not be so dismissive of pictures if you've lost one or both parents. Including yourself in pictures is a way to remain "in the picture" after you have gone.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yes, yes, a thousand times.

This lack of the mother in the picture seems to tie in somewhat with one of my social media pet peeves: Moms setting their profile photo to be a solo shot of their child.
posted by whittaker at 12:28 PM on October 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Were there a bunch of comments removed? I'm a little lost in this thread.
posted by sweetkid at 12:44 PM on October 12, 2012


Moms setting their profile photo to be a solo shot of their child.

I feel like I shouldn't be bothered by this, but I am. I mean, it's their profile. But it's weird to be talking to a friend online and my pic is me and theirs is a bald chubby grinning baby.
posted by sweetkid at 12:46 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know your family situation, but you might not be so dismissive of pictures if you've lost one or both parents. Including yourself in pictures is a way to remain "in the picture" after you have gone.

I don't know, perhaps I'm just unsentamental about things and images. I don't really take or view pictures much. I'd much rather have had more time spent with departed loved-ones in the past than a photo of them now.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:51 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to have both. I have lots of memories of being with my mom. I don't have a lot of pictures. I don't need to pore over the pictures all the time, but I'd like to be able to decide when to look at them, or display them, but I can't because they mostly don't exist.
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Moms setting their profile photo to be a solo shot of their child.

Man, I did this for a very short while. It what happens when you are still depressed of pictures of you, you don't want to put up something really old (man, that was her when she wore a '4'), and everyone goes ga-ga over new baby pictures.

Then, you remember old, annoyed you at this and actually make sure to post something about yourself and set an arbitrary rule (2 or 3 posts for every baby post).

And yes, I love seeing pictures of my mom when she was young, especially with me as a baby both in the same photo. I'm actually not as interested in the ones where it was just me as a baby. There aren't as many as I'd like, especially since I was the third kid. But it's terribly hard to remember that as a mom in post baby haze. Hence this article.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]



I think there are perhaps more meaningful ways to contribute to your child's future than making sure you are in photographs. Being "in the picture" is way more important than being in pictures.



Why would this be an either/or situation?
posted by sweetkid at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why would this be an either/or situation?

For some people I don't suppose it doesn't, but I tend to find cameras to be stifling and annoying, especially when you have to stop some spontaneous activity in order to pose. For me, and I'm not everybody clearly, I'd just rather have the memories of being with my dad or riding in the car with grandpa or rocking on grandma's lap than a picture taken in those moments. If someone had stopped us to take a picture of those moments I think it would have distracted from the moment (especially the driving!).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, but this isn't really about taking a picture or not taking a picture. It's about having pics of kids only or having Mom IN the pics with the kids. The pictures are happening, this is just about having the Mother in there as part of the family, for people for whom taking the picture is part of the memory.
posted by sweetkid at 1:17 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thought I'd mention that, from my perspective, this isn't purely a mom thing.
(At home) dad here, and I'm always the one taking the pictures. I aggressively avoid being in them.
When she manages to sneak a rare picture of me, my wife gets annoyed if I comment on how pudgy or bald I look. So I guess I should work on that.
posted by chococat at 1:20 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: To be honest, I've always thought candid, non-posed family photos far outstripped the posed ones. Ones where everybody stops what they're doing and smiles at the camera just scream HEY PAY ATTENTION TO ME.
posted by whittaker at 1:21 PM on October 12, 2012


I have two photos of me holding my oldest (1yr old) son, taken within minutes of each other by their grandmother because I was lamenting that I had no photos of us together. My second son was born two weeks ago - I took a MySpace shot with him minutes after birth because I so regret how few pictures I have of me with his brother.

I am trying to figure out how to get in the picture more often. I want my boys to see on my face how happy they've made me.
posted by annathea at 1:49 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This piece finally got me past the "we really should have some family pictures taken" stage - we got a photographer friend to meet us at the park last weekend. I cannot wait to see the photos, and I swear I will not bad-mouth myself in any way when they arrive.

I'd been putting it off for stupid reasons. I take upwards of 100 photos of my kids, and even my husband, every month. And I hide from every camera I see. That has to stop. Reading this reminded me that the photos aren't about me - they aren't even for me - but for the kids and their kids, for far-away family, and I matter enough to be in them.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 1:50 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


My family isn't the kind to have portraits up, we have pictures but they are in photobooks and only come out occasionally. They are great but maybe not as important as they are to others. I personally don't care if I have pictures of myself and my parents as much as I care about seeing what my parents looked like before me, before I knew them.

I also think this is completely a generational thing and in ten years this article will be an artifact of historical note. My nieces and nephews have been in hundreds if not thousands of pictures. Yes their parents are only in a few of them and they are awkward posed pictures when they are but imagine what these kids who grow up with camera phones are going to be like as parents. Taking pictures for today's kids doesn't turn into "hey, everyone say cheese" it just happens, all the time, constantly. Click click click. Hell, I've been caught candid in the background of other people's pictures more times that I have actually posed lately.
posted by M Edward at 1:56 PM on October 12, 2012


Moms setting their profile photo to be a solo shot of their child

If I could grow a baby in my belly, I'd totally show the kid off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:14 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's an echo of the "If I don't post it on Facebook, it never happened" mentality.
posted by surplus at 2:20 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: Oh showing off is fine, putting photos on facebook is fine. I just find it really disconcerting when people specifically set their Profile photo to being a photo of their kid because it often comes across as the following:

a) My child is now my avatar. Whenever I post about getting hammered at a club you will be forced to mentally reconcile it in a toddler babyspeak

b) My child's identity is mine to assume.

c) Choosing a solo shot of my child as the visual representation of of my identity means that I consider myself fully subsumed by my child rather than a fully formed, complex person who has a relationship to you that does not directly involve them.

I realize this is not the conscious intent of most of the people who do this, but that's how it comes across all the same.
posted by whittaker at 2:34 PM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you're interested in seeing what kind of painfully honest introspection can be produced by contemplating old family photos, read Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, "Are You My Mother?" The art and writing surrounding her photographs is amazing, and would not have happened if her mom and dad hadn't managed to snap those few precious shots.

Too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen. And so is difficult for her children to imagine or retain in memory. But Kilroy was here, changing diapers and making Halloween costumes after the kids were asleep, and writing holiday cards and mending favorite stuffies. That's a piece of family memory too, as much as vacation snapshots or birthday parties. Why shouldn't that invisible life be documented too?
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:39 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd much rather have had more time spent with departed loved-ones in the past than a photo of them now.

I have a great mom, she was always "in the picture" in my life, and still is, yet there are NO pictures of her pregnant or holding me as a baby and I would really love to have a picture of that. Also for some reason as a baby, no pregnant-mom pics always made me suspect I was adopted. (Middle child complexthingsomethingorother I guess)
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:35 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm certainly guilty of being the one behind the camera most of the time, but even at their young ages I can tell they love to see photos of us together. Good reminder to hand the camera to someone else more frequently.
posted by ambrosia at 3:45 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


My comment was removed, because I think this is an issue for people who the time and the luxury to go around documenting every moment of their kids' lives (ie, upper middle class mommy bloggers) but didn't take photos of themselves with their kids. I'm not at all sentimental about photos because I prefer my memories of actually participating in the moment, rather than trying to take a photo. I don't care two hoots about looking at old photos (which is odd, because I do it for a living) and my adult children seem pretty content with my company, rather than photo albums. Mommy bloggers and HuffPo commenters seem to find validation in this stuff. I don't.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:08 PM on October 12, 2012


I love my baby pictures with my parents. Awesome memories aside, it's great seeing my parents in early 90s grad student splendor.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:13 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Mommy bloggers and HuffPo commenters seem to find validation in this stuff. I don't.

Well, okay then!
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:14 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's one way of looking at it, but not everyone is a mommy blogger with time and luxury to go around documenting every waking moment. I know too many people who lost a parent at a young age, and I know too well how quickly things can change. If you aren't sentimental about photos, that's great for you, but labeling it the domain of "mommy bloggers" seems needlessly dismissive. People have kids, and people take photos, and many of us wish we had more pictures of our mother or with our mothers from the era when we were little. How is that an upper middle class problem?
posted by ambrosia at 4:17 PM on October 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think this is an issue for people who the time and the luxury to go around documenting every moment of their kids' lives (ie, upper middle class mommy bloggers)

You think this despite the actual people in this thread who, as adults, say they wish they had more pictures of themselves as children with their mothers?
posted by purpleclover at 4:18 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


My child is now my avatar. Whenever I post about getting hammered at a club you will be forced to mentally reconcile it in a toddler babyspeak

I had never considered this interpretation and it is awesome.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:31 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, some of us actual people are middle-class, and have children, and are women, and take photographs frequently, and sometimes put those photos on the web. Which I guess makes us "mommy bloggers" and thus our concerns and thoughts are dismissible.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:32 PM on October 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


My mom recently passed away and I will say this is one of my favorite pics of me and her. We didn't always get along as I grew up and she didn't have an easy/happy life (which reflected in our relationship) so I cherish this photo. 1976-1978ish, St. Louis.
posted by stormpooper at 4:50 PM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


My comment was removed, because I think this is an issue for people who the time and the luxury to go around documenting every moment of their kids' lives (ie, upper middle class mommy bloggers) but didn't take photos of themselves with their kids. I'm not at all sentimental about photos because I prefer my memories of actually participating in the moment, rather than trying to take a photo.

This kind of willingness to make assumptions about anyone who maybe does it different from you and judge them for it sickens me. Did you read any of the comments here? Is the desire to have pix of parents and kids together okay if you're poor? Like I said: I have lots of memories of my mom and me doing stuff. I wish I also had more pictures. The two aren't mutually exclusive.
posted by rtha at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mom passed away nearly 30 years ago and despite having a very good visual memory, I can no longer remember what she looks like from direct memory. I remember things we did together, conversations we had and the feeling of her presence but the memories I have of her face are actually memories of her in photographs. The day I realized this was just crushing.

I'm glad to have those photos, to be able to examine them to see details that I missed before because they were invisible until I had gained some related life experience that made them recognizable from the background noise.

So uh, yeah. Get yourself in the photos if you can.
posted by jamaro at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have photos of my mom from when I was her caretaker during the last months of her life. I have two photos of her, my dad, and me when I was in my late teens and early 20s (one testing the timer on a new camera, the other taken at a football game). I have a picture of me with her when I was a toddler, and I have what I call the Grapes of Wrath photo, which is her with her brother and sister during the Great Depression, sitting on the steps of their immigrant parents' farm as toddlers.

Those are the photos I have of my mother. She's been gone 19 years. I don't remember what she looks like any more. Hell yes, I get validation out of those photos. They remind me that I had a mom, and I loved her.
posted by catlet at 5:44 PM on October 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


My family was far from upper-middle-class - neither of my parents graduated from college. I have a terrible memory. Thankfully my dad was an avid photographer. I'm glad my parents documented my childhood and put themselves in the picture.
posted by muddgirl at 7:39 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


My second baby, who is about to turn 5, loves to look at photos of us in the hospital. She points to us and says things like, "Were you glad when I was born? Did you love me from right then? Show me your belly scar!" And I do, and I tell her about waking up in my hospital room and finding her missing, and how I walked down to the nurses' station to find her. And she says, "Mama found her favorite baby!," or something like it, as she builds her narrative, complete with pictures about how our life together started.

I look at those pictures and see myself exhausted and pale, but smiling, and remember how tired and overwhelmed I felt. My daughter looks at them and just sees us. She won't remember, later, asking to see these pictures over and over. For now, for us, they're enough.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:55 PM on October 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Pictures are history.
As kids we sort of complained when my parents took pictures of us. My mom has volumes of photo albums and she loves to remind us how much we hated that they took so many pictures, because since our twenties my brother and sister and I are the ones who pore over those albums. All the time. It sort of reaffirms what happened and checks your memory about stuff you got wrong.

At their place, my parents have a wall of family portraits in a hallway, going back probably 4 generations, and it's the first place everyone goes. It's kind of this visual family tree where you can see exactly where you came from; all the way back to these blurry, short and wrinkly Scottish-looking hillbillies sitting in a field or something.
My sister's daughter is 7, and lately she points to the pictures of my grandmother, (who always had that perfect, grey, set perm-wave type of hair), and says plainly, "that's The Queen."
posted by chococat at 8:28 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd much rather have had more time spent with departed loved-ones in the past than a photo of them now.

Well sure, but the quantity of photos is something we actually have control over.
posted by naoko at 8:32 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


When my mom was my age, she had a six-month-old (my older brother). I love looking at pictures of her as a young mom, trying to find my face in hers and trying to imagine how I would feel if I was living that life. I particularly love the pictures of her wearing her giant 80s glasses and pajamas, cuddling in bed or on the couch with us, because they so strongly evoke my favorite fuzzy memories of being a well-loved little kid.
posted by MadamM at 9:46 PM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think there are perhaps more meaningful ways to contribute to your child's future than making sure you are in photographs. Being "in the picture" is way more important than being in pictures.

I think you missed the entire point of this.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:35 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I bawled.

I keep feeling I'm not important enough to be on the pictures. But...I am. And my mom, she should have been, too. Shit, I can't stop crying.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:04 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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