The other night my husband came home from work and found me in the oversized chair in my toddler’s nursery. All three of my children were snuggled up on every available inch of my lap as we read an old book from my childhood. The scene was truly picture-perfect, and of course he immediately recognized it as such. Quickly, before he got the kids all riled up with tickles and games, my husband whipped out his iPhone and took a slew of pictures – a couple candid, one posed in portrait mode.
LOL just kidding of course he didn’t!
He never has, and probably never will.
Like a lot of mothers out there, I’m the photographer in the family (if a person wielding an iPhone pointed at her children all the time constitutes a “photographer”). I take between one and 91 pictures per day, of everything from my kids doing cute/funny/weird things to them simply breathing/existing/growing hair.
Often, those photos also feature my sweet husband. I send regular batches of these photos to his parents, so over the years they’ve gotten to see their son whipping up pancakes while wearing a BabyBjorn, jumping off the dock in the summer with a gleeful son on his back, and being gazed at adoringly by his daughter while adjusting his tie before work. When my in-laws occasionally reply “We’d love to see your face as well!” I usually respond with a dismissive “Nonsense!”
But the actual reason I don’t send pictures of myself with the children is that I don’t have any pictures of myself with the children. I do my best to convince myself that I don’t really care (They’re the cute ones, not me! No one needs to be distracted by a puffy old lady in the frame!), but the truth is that I do care. And the even truthier truth is that my photograph-free existence is 100% my husband’s fault.
I mean sure, I could — and do — occasionally splurge on the services of a professional photographer friend of mine. Her pictures of our family are beautiful and I truly treasure each and every one. But that’s not the point. The point is that I wish my husband was so moved by the sight of me with our children that he would immediately want to capture the image for posterity. I wish he found the ordinary family moments as transcendently magical as I do and, like I do, wanted to make sure he could freeze them in time. The fact he doesn’t leads me to one of two conclusions, neither of which is all that heartwarming: (1) he doesn’t find the ordinary family moments transcendently magical, or, (2) he’s lazy. Take your pick!
I know I’m being a bit hard on him here. The truth is, I truly love taking pictures. I take genuine joy in documenting the ins and outs of our days, and I spend much more time with the kids than my husband does, which means there’s much more photojournalistic opportunity. Plus I love sharing the photos with my sisters, parents and friends — no gif or meme will ever be as rewarding to me as using a real-life child picture to punctuate a point. And, to be totally honest, I don’t always like looking at pictures of myself. I tend to zero in on the bags under my eyes, my roots, my double-chin. I always look so tired.
Despite all this, though, it does make me sad to think of how few pictures my children will have of us together.
Throughout my own childhood, long before the dawn of iPhones, it was my father who was the photographer, forcing us to sit still for Christmas card photo-shoots and birthday party cake-poses alike. Because of this, and the beautiful albums he put together, I’m able to look over and over and over at pictures of my mother and me. There are even many of just my mother. I love each and every one of these photos, each and every frame. I never look at her under-eye region; I only marvel at how young, lovely and happy she always looks with a bunch of little girls piled on her lap, and how much she clearly loved us.
Given that this is one of the arenas in which my husband dramatically differs from my father (perhaps a check in the “healthy” column??), my children are at risk of not having this gift in their own lives. This breaks my heart a tiny bit for them, and I can say with complete sincerity, after multiple trips on the soul-search express, that this really is not about my own vanity. (See above re: eye-bags.)
I wish my husband would be moved to capture the beauty and charm of his wife and children in ordinary moments, but he mostly isn’t, and as a result his iPhone tends to be reserved solely for work email. (And by that I mean baseball scores.) So if I want this to change, I need to speak up. And I need to figure out how to do so in a way that doesn’t (always) translate to: “TAKE A PICTURE OF ME FOR ONCE IN YOUR GODDAMN LIFE.” Maybe I’ll try…: “Hey, handsome? I love you. Would you mind taking a quick picture of me and the babies FOR ONCE IN YOUR GODDAMN –” OK, clearly I’ll need to put some more thought into this one.
And in the meantime, I’ll dream of my new fantasy universe, where there are dozens of flattering pictures of my children and me lighting up the iCloud. In this universe, my husband will not only take photos of us but lovingly frame them, putting duplicates in gorgeous, leather-bound volumes to be passed down to our children. Said children will look at them often, of course, and never fail to call me to marvel at how young and happy and well-rested I look.
When they do, I will smile, and tell them why: