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6 Reasons You Need to Be Present in Pictures Today, Mama

6 Reasons You Need to Be Present in Pictures Today, Mama

Self portrait of motherhood. | Image by Documentary Photographer in Kansas City, Merry Ohler.

Every year, I receive a slew of family photo requests for “just the kids,” and while it’s great to have photos of children alone once in a while, the underlying issue these requests bring to my mind is real, and we need to talk about it. In order to get to the heart of the matter, we must first answer a question: Why do we have our pictures taken, anyway?

There are a few possible answers, but I think I speak for most mamas when I answer that we tend to boil it down to the following two reasons:

  • One - for family members and friends who don’t live nearby

  • Two - for ourselves, to print and display in our homes or offices

The problem I have with those reasons though, is that we are leaving out the single most important reason we should have family photos taken - for our children to have later in life! Regardless of how we feel, regardless of what we like or dislike about our appearance in this moment or whether we feel comfortable enough to be in photos or not, we need to remember something that should negate all of those feelings:

Our children deserve to have tangible memories of their mama.

No matter what flaws we see when we look in the mirror, our children see one beautiful thing: their mama.

They don’t see the double chin, or the telling gray hairs, or the crow’s feet we fight so hard to ignore. Instead, they see the mama who hugs them and cuddles them each morning. The mama who makes their meals and helps them with homework. The mama who tells them everything is going to be alright. The mama who works endlessly to keep their home clean and safe. The mama who makes time to play with them, even when she has a hundred other things to do. The mama who encourages them to do hard things and tells them when they’ve crossed boundaries. The mama who prays over them with intention and faith. The mama who knows their quirks and flaws, and loves them wholly anyway.

If that reason isn’t enough for you…read on for a few more compelling reasons you need to schedule family pictures which include you today, Mama.

1. We aren't promised "one day."

Mother laughing with baby. | Image by Documentary Family Photographer in Kansas City, Merry Ohler.

We will live long, healthy lives, God-willing, but He never promised us tomorrow.

There are few things more sad in this world than a child who can not remember their mother’s face anymore. One of them might be the mama who can not remember her child’s face anymore. I know three young families who  recently lost a mama or a daddy. My heart aches for them every time they come to mind.

And can I tell you what I know they’re not doing? They’re not looking at their last family photo and agonizing over anyone’s hairstyle or double chin. They’re not wishing they had saved the money they spent on those final portraits. They’re definitely not talking about how they just don’t see the value in family photos. Those photos have become absolutely priceless to every member of those families.

Mama? You may not be thrilled with your current weight or haircut, but will you receive a little truth and challenge from me today?

Choosing to be in the photos is not about you at all. It’s 100% about your loved ones.

As moms, we tend to put our children’s needs ahead of our own in nearly every way... except this one. And before you tell me this isn’t a need, let me stop you right there. This is a need. There will come a time when we will be gone, and our children will be left with what we have instilled in them, their memories and whatever photographs we had taken. Your children will one day long for just one glimpse of your eyes, your smile.

Not the woman you wish you were, or who you might have been. They will long for you, Mama. 

Would you deny them such a small thing? 

2. Our children learn their confidence from us.

Our sons and daughters learn to accept and walk in their identity by watching the way we live and accept ourselves.

Mother and daughter smile. | Self portrait by Documentary Family Photographer in Kansas City, Merry Ohler.

Every one of us has things that we wish we could change about ourselves. But Mama? When we fail to get in pictures with our families, we are teaching our children that we don’t truly believe the things we spout to them in the quiet moments.

We can chirp all day about how each of our children are special and unique and beautiful, but when we refuse to step in the frame, our words will fall flat. How can we expect them to believe us and be confident in their uniqueness and individuality, when we aren’t setting the same example? 

They know when we are lying, Mama. We may not feel confident in ourselves, but for their sake, we have to learn how to press through that and be the example they need.

3. Our children learn how to think about themselves by watching our example.

There is nothing wrong with having goals and aspirations, but if we avoid being in photos because we “need to lose 15 (or 50) more pounds,” or because “no one wants to look at me” we are doing our children a great disservice. 

Don't think for a minute that your 9 year old doesn’t hear the way you talk about your appearance. Think about the narrative you allow to play in your mind when you look in the mirror. If he said the kinds of things to himself that you say to yourself, would your heart break, Mama? 

Then why in the world do we allow ourselves to do it? 

Bottom line...it isn’t okay. It’s harmful behavior, and there’s no time like the present to correct our thinking! 

4. We need to accept who we are today… and live in the moment.

We must stop banking on tomorrow or “some day” and choose to live confidently today.

Mother and two children on hay bale. | Documentary Family Photographer in Kansas City, Merry Ohler.

In spite of our warped body image. In spite of our pride. In spite of our inner desire to be different than we are. Listen, Mama. We can huff and sigh and roll our eyes at the state of marketing and advertising all we want, but real change begins or ends with us. When we begin to show our daughters and sons that we are comfortable in our own skin, and that we can strive for change while enjoying the lives we are living right now, we will begin to raise a generation who doesn’t look to peers or social media or marketing or any other person for validation.

5. We need to understand that we are not doing this for ourselves.

We don’t take photos for ourselves, for our gratification. we take photos so our children and loved ones will have a tangible legacy and memory of us.

I know, I know. I mentioned this at the beginning, but I added it to the list because it is that important. If you excuse yourself from family photos or from photos with your husband, or wife, or sister, or mother, for any reason, you are operating under a wrong mindset, Mama. Existing in photos does not mean that you are full of yourself, or prideful, or vain, or any of those negative things!

It does mean that you care about your children. It means you love your spouse. It means you have the foresight and vision to see that you are important to your family, and that they love you and you love them.

6. We need to be more thankful. 

regardless of our circumstance, situation or upbringing, we can choose to be thankful.

Mother comforts toddler as two other children sit and lay on bed nearby. | Self portrait by Documentary Family Photographer in Kansas City, Merry Ohler.

No matter what we are going through, or how displeased we are with our appearance, there is always something we can be thankful for. When we choose to exist in photos with our loved ones, we are effectively saying that we are thankful for them and that these people, our tribe, bring value to us. And that we bring value to them.

Mama, this is so important. I’m so passionate about this because I struggle with it, too. That’s why I don’t do extreme Photoshop work on my clients - because they are who they are at that moment in time, and I want them to see themselves as they are - perfectly and wonderfully made. This world is full of photos of over-edited models, mamas with erased smile lines and unnaturally creamy skin. But that’s not why I do this. I do this because I love to tell the stories of real people. The ones who live real lives and give real love to their tribes. The ones who are imperfect and brave and wild and free. The ones who have earned their grays and chosen joy, day after day, to create those laugh lines.

And ultimately, the bottom line is that I don’t want my own children to grow up with a warped view of beauty. I want them to embrace their bodies, minds and souls with confidence and thankfulness, and I can’t expect them to learn that if I don’t model it for them.

And the truth is, neither can you, Mama.

XO,

Merry