I love photography and I hate photos of myself, but even I was surprised when I couldn’t find a single recent shot of myself and my children. Not one.
I frantically started scrolling back through months and months and then years and years of photos, thousands and thousands of photos, and found about three photos of myself and just one with me and the kids. In fact, the last time I had any meaningful shots of myself and my children taken was way back in 2011 when Tim Coulson came to visit.
I’m always the one behind the camera and I’m very pleased to be there, but the truth is I never let my photo be taken because I’m scared it will look like me. I don’t want to see myself as others see me; to see me as I really am. I’d rather keep an image in my head of what I think I look like that makes me feel better about myself. That makes me rise about all the insecurities we women are supposed to have – the nit-picking, soul-wrecking, heart-ripping, life-clawing insecurities – and just be me. A person somehow without a face or body, no vessel to label me into. Just a person, just a me going about my me things.
Yet, here I am, my mellow self-esteem in tact but seemingly without hard evidence that I was ever in my children’s lives. I could have been there, I might have been there, but we’ll never really know.
Faced with my absolute invisibility and knowing how wholeheartedly I was there, in all of these pictures, always, always I was there, I cried. I really, really cried. Because I know that while I will never be missing from my children’s memories, I am absolutely missing from their keepsakes of those memories. I cried because I can never put myself back in the pictures. Not the baby pictures, the toddler pictures, the first day at school pictures… I can never put myself back.
I have spent years capturing my children’s childhoods but I have failed to capture just about the most important part of any childhood: mum.
There’s mum and me. Mum and us. Just mum. My wonderful, wonderful mum.
The evening of the morning I cried over the missing mum – the foolish, missing me – we were having a twilight picnic.
“Can you take some pictures of me and the kids?” I asked Bart.
“Now?” He said and there was a lot invested in that ‘now’. Because right ‘now’ I was in a stretched-out old t-shirt with wild hair and not a scrap of make-up on.
“Yep,” I said. Because right now, right this minute, I was about as ‘mum’ as you could get. I was totally, beautifully, perfectly mum. “I want to capture this moment.”
I vow from this day forward to always capture the really important moments of my children’s childhood.
I vow to capture me.