One of the first posts that alerted me to the deep well of mommy blogs was Allison Tate's beautiful and moving "The Mom Stays in the Picture." This piece, and the various responses to it, capture the insecurities of the mom-bodied: women who are exhausted, who can't remember when they last showered, or whose pre-baby clothes won't hang right on their post-baby frames.
Throughout my pregnancy and after my son's birth, the message of Tate's piece has stuck with me. I've made it my goal to get in the picture, no matter how tired and unattractive I'm feeling. But despite this effort, I found that, when my child's daycare asked for a family photo, my most recent one was over a year old.
Sometimes, mom is not in the picture because she's the photographer.
Because I'm generally the one home with D, I'm also the one taking photos of him. As a result, I've had much more practice with the camera we got just before he was born. Though I'm absolutely an amateur, I can make some quick choices about aperture or shutter speed to improve the shot. I know the direction of the light in each room at each time of day. I know what to do to get my child to turn toward the camera. When I hand the camera over to his dad, who didn't spend every naptime of D's first six months taking photos of him, the images might come out blurry, or bleached out, or feature a kid screaming from having to sit still for too long. So when we're trying to get a cute picture of D, it's generally going to be me behind the camera and my husband in front of it.
If, like me, you're having trouble just literally getting into the picture, here are a few suggestions to get you out from behind your camera.
If your kid is old enough to hold the camera without trying to eat it, he can take a picture. Even kids under age 2 can take pictures on smart phones. Many of us dread the head-on, close-up selfie, but that's not the only way to take one. Put the phone on the floor and peek over it. Use a mirror, a puddle, or other body of water and use the reflection in your shot. Lay down and hold the phone above your heads.
Get a selfie stick
As long as you promise never to use it at a museum. Or in front of potentially dangerous scenery. Or anywhere a lot of other people might also want to be walking. If you hate the look of yourself in the selfies you and your children take with your phone, use the stick to get things to a more flattering angle. Bonus feature: my child loves counting down the beeps in my camera's automatic feature, which give both of us time to loosen up for a more relaxed pose.
Realize you're more than just your face
On those days when there's no one around to take your picture and you can't bear another double-chin selfie, you can get into the photo in other ways. Take pictures of your shadows. Take pictures of your footprints after puddle stomping. Take pictures of your snow angels. Take pictures of your names after you write them in the dirt. Take pictures of your hand holding the flowers your kids just picked for you. Just keeping your your shoes in the bottom of the frame instead of cropping them out shows that you were there, too.
Be an invisible presence
Even when you are not in the photo, you are in the photo, because great photos bear the mark of their photographers. The angle of one shot is evidence that you got on your hands and knees to capture your child's joyful squeal as he threw rocks into the pond. In another shot, the ice cream covered face that you weren't too impatient to wipe away captures the moment you stepped back and just let your kid enjoy his mess. The picture of your child standing on his tricycle, on tiptoes, shows that you were strong enough to let him learn an important lesson. The high perspective shot shows that you were the one throwing confetti down on top of him.