The Disappearing Mother


From one our nightly iPhone photo sessions.

Here’s a quick challenge. Log onto your Facebook page and look at the last few months of photos. How many of those photos are of your kids? How many of those photos are you in? Now go to the Facebook page of a friend who doesn’t have kids. How many pictures have they posted that are of themselves (with or without other people in them)? See a pattern?

Sometimes a blog post hits me dead between the eyes.

Lisa Belkin’s post last week in the Huffington Post did just that. In it she writes of the overwhelming reader response to an essay by Allison Tate who wrote about her quest to put herself back in her children’s pictures after noticing that she had fewer and fewer pictures of herself with her kids.

Tate asked how someone so omnipresent in her children’s lives could be so absent in the documentation of their lives? It got me thinking. How many pictures do I have of myself with D2? Turns out not as many as I thought.

I remember when I posted the photo below on my Facebook page. I loved the contrast of D2’s face against the colorful design on my dress. One of my friends commented, “Love the photo but where is mommy?” Indeed, where is she? Who is she?

Photo Credit: Heather McGinnis Photography

As I look back on the last three years of photos with D2, I realize that as he has gotten older, I am in fewer and fewer photos with him.

I’ve always shied away from  being defined only by my role as a mother.  As much as I love being a mother, I feel myself cringing when people say “Oh, you’re D2’s mommy!”  I want to say, “Yes, but I’m lots of other things too, not just a mother.”

Am I subconsciously opting out of pictures to make a statement? Or is something else at work?

Or maybe it’s that like lots of mothers, I see so many flaws in my “post-baby” body and pictures only serve as a reminder that some days I just don’t feel or look all that fabulous. I wish my butt was smaller and my boobs were perkier. I wish I didn’t have so many moles on my face. The list goes on and on. Every now and then when the stars align I feel like I look good enough to take a picture.

But what I realize from reading Allison Tate’s essay is that’s a pretty selfish reason to opt out of pictures.  Truth be told, D2 doesn’t care if I need a hair cut or if I am ten pounds too heavy. He doesn’t care if I’m wearing lipgloss or if my eyebrows are perfectly shaped ready for my closeup.

No, he cares about hugs, kisses for his boo boos and our time together in his rocking chair where we record silly videos and take snapshots on my iPhone every single night – without  fail. He needs to see me. He needs to know that when I am long gone, he can look back at our photos and see the documentation of a mother who loved him more than anything else in the world. I was there with him.

So like lots of moms who were moved by Allison Tate’s essay, I’m putting myself back in the picture.

What I know for sure is that no documentation of D2’s life is complete without me in them. Your turn. Do you take photos with your kids? Do you ever find that you are missing from pictures of important family moments? What do you think of Allison Tate’s challenge?






Showing 10 comments
  • Valencia Macon

    You make a good point. In my case, I am not in the photo because I am always the one taking them. Its hard to capture that moment you want to memorialize and remember to put yourself in the photo. I don’t care about my flaws so much as I just wish I had a second pair of hands that could help me capture all of us.

    • bossmomonline

      You are so right about that! Fact is, I too am always running behind D2 with a camera with is the OTHER reason I’m not in his picture. I’ve resolved to get Dr. D. up to speed on our camera so he can take pictures too!

  • Kajsa

    This post is so pertinent in my life right now. I’ve actually gotten FB posts from friends saying “where are the pic’s of you?!” I can’t remember, although I could check, when my last profile was of me, not my daughter. And all but a very few pictures online are of her only.
    Many thoughts arrive from this. I am a single mom who doesn’t have other people around a lot of the time to capture those moments. Also, seeing as how I share custody, those moments I capture are all the more precious and about her…not me. I love to post them for family members that are far away and don’t get to see her. I love to share the experiences we do have together, and her own firsts, of which there are many. However you are right, I am an integral part of a lot those experiences.
    I am also self conscious. I am an older mom (43 with a near 7 year old), and my face doesn’t always look in pictures the way I picture myself in my head ;-).
    too soon for me to contemplate she is going to have her own access to the inernet, and will be irritated by my pictures. So, I am going to post at will for now.
    Good food for thought Portia. Hopefully I’ll find it in me to post more pic’s of myself, in my own life outside of the role of mom. As my daughter grows older that role is changing quickly. I’ve also just started back to work which is changing my role in the world, how I view myself, and how others view me. I am still coming to terms with those changes…maybe my photos can reflect that.

    • bossmomonline

      Kajsa, as always such a thoughtful comment. I can only imagine that as a single mom you find you do so much on your own – not to even speak of taking pictures. I still think it’s perfectly legit to just take pictures of our children but you know what I took away from Allison Tate’s essay was to be mindful of making sure that we don’t inadvertently editing ourselves out of our kids’ photos and thus those special moments. On being an older mother – you are not alone! Trying being 43 with a toddler! I could literally be the mother of some of D2’s classmate’s parents. I realize that I don’t look the way I did when I was 23 but objectively speaking I know that I’m doing okay and that really I just need to be less critical of myself and go ahead and take the damn picture! I think you will see that as you come into your own – as a single mother, as a now a career woman as well as a friend, neighbor, daughter, etc. you WILL see change and I predict a better, and better version of your evolving self. That’s what life is all about.

  • Bridgett Stewart

    I’ve thought about it over and over again. As a mom of four, I have many pictures if my children; however, I’ve noticed that as the number of children increased, the number of baby/toddler pics that I took, personally, decreased. The reason: because I was super busy and taking pics got put on the back burner. Thank God that my sister, BFF and in-laws were big on taking pics and videos!

    Why wasn’t I in SO MANY of those baby/toddler pics? I will be completely honest. First, because of my residual baby weight! I did NOT want that “documented”! Second, more often than not, I was not camera ready. Caring for a 2-year-old, 1-year-old, newborn and a busy 10-year-old just didn’t leave a lot of time for cute clothes, hair or even a bit of makeup!

    As my children became older and more independent, I was able to concentrate on me a bit more. The day my youngest went to kindergarten, I dropped him off and met with a personal trainer. I dropped those extra pounds, started running and am feeling pretty darn good again!

    The question remains: WHY AM I STILL MISSING FROM PICS? There is one simple explanation: because my husband never thinks to take pics of me!!!!!

    Who wants to ASK to have a picture taken? HE never has to ask! I used to get a little frustrated about that until I decided to evaluate things. My husband loves me dearly. He is present, thoughtful, kind, helpful…and he still thinks that I’m “hot” 🙂 I know that he’s not purposely “omitting” me from vacation pics. While on a recent vacay, I decided to strike up conversations with other moms that were vigorously taking candid photos of their husbands and kids frolicking on the beach. I WAS NOT ALONE!!!! They were experiencing the same feelings! My husband is NORMAL!!!

    As we went the through the 110 pics that my husband took on that day, I brought it to his attention that I was in ONE pic…that I hated. I was calm. I could tell by the look on his face that, finally, after years of whining, he understood. I left it alone.

    The next day, all I heard was “click, click, click”. It sounded like a photo shoot. I was in the ocean just chilling and talking. Didn’t think twice about being in pics because I never had to consider it before. Later that night, we looked at the pics and I was SHOCKED! About 50 pics were of ME! In the water! Getting knocked over by waves! Boogey boarding! Talking! Choking! Walking to the water! Walking out of the water! Preparing my lounge chair! It was AWFUL!!!! I has to stop him from uploading them (all at once and unedited) to Facebook! I still laugh every time I think about it!

    Men think differently, ladies. We are multi-taskers. We will put the camera down, do something else and wait for the next photo op. Men take 20 minutes of rapid fire pics and are ready to relax for the remainder of the day.

    Be careful what you ask for. I am, once again, back in control of the camera…while on the beach. I no longer mind ASKING my husband to take a pic. I am completely aware when I hear rapid “clicking” and I make sure that I see every pic he took of me that day!

    In hindsight, and sincerity, I don’t regret not being in more baby/toddler pics. I’m in enough so that my kids know that I DID give birth to them and breast feed them. Now that I see that they are growing up so quickly, I don’t care so much what I look like in each pic. I just want the memories.

    A missed photo op with your kids is an undocumented memory.

    • bossmomonline

      Bridgett, I had to crack up when I read your comment. I can tell you that my husband never takes pictures of me either! But you know, I don’t really think of it as his responsibility (though I’m not sure why since he’s the obvious person to take the picture). I too have to remind him to not just take pictures of me but of D2 as well. I guess as moms we are really the ones who think about preserving memories. With four kids I’m sure sometimes it was all you could do to just keep track of them! I think you’ve also expressed what a lot of mothers feel. I also think you’ve made a really good point that gets missed about self-care. I think more mothers would put themselves back in the picture if they could take care of themselves the way they wanted – time to exercise, get the hair done, etc. Why don’t we do it? Because our “free” time is spent taking care of other people and doing all the stuff that needs to get done. That’s a whole other post!

  • Mary

    “He needs to know that when I am long gone, he can look back at our photos and see the documentation of a mother who loved him more than anything else in the world. I was there with him.”

    this line made me weep.

    one of my favorite pictures is of my mom, my sisters and me in front of a birthday cake. i must have been four or five. for those of us lucky enough to have experienced a mother’s love, nothing could be more true.

    • bossmomonline

      Mary, that’s exactly right. One of my very favorite pictures of me and mom was at Bullock’s (a southern California department store) around Christmas time. I’m just standing their holding my mom’s hand looking so darn happy. I was about three and I still remember that day. Those are indelible moments for us as daughters (and for mothers), that’s why it’s so important to remember to take those pictures. Those are memories for a lifetime, as your comment has aptly demonstrated.

  • Jen Gresham

    You would that in my position, I would know better than to fall for this, but as soon as I read that I thought, “Darnit. That’s me.”

    You see, my mother died when I was college. And when I go back through my childhood photo albums, she’s in hardly any of the pictures. It’s all me. So the only pictures I have of her are from when she was young (like from her honeymoon) and when I was old enough to finally get behind the camera. Unfortunately, by that time she was quite sick. So I don’t have ANY images of the mother I now can barely remember.

    Because of my experience, I’m always worried something will happen to me while my daughter is young and she’ll forget me. So yeah, you’d think I’d know better. Going to remedy this starting tomorrow. Thanks for the much needed reminder. xoxo

    • bossmomonline

      Jen, you know I remember one of your blog posts about your mother. Reading your comment made my heart ache. When David’s mother passed suddenly last year, I was so happy to have pictures of her D2 so he could see a grandmother (who was like a mother) who cared for him so much. Our children need to see us in pictures through all the milestones of of their lives! I’m trying to remember that every single day. Let me know how you do with putting yourself back in the picture 🙂

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Bartholomew Williams, Portia Mount, Boss Mom