Being photographed despite my protests
The name I answer to the most is “Mom” but the rest of the world knows me as Erika. I am one of the hundreds… thousands… millions maybe… of moms who rarely make it into photographs with their children. Sure I’ve taken the occasional selfie that I didn’t totally despise, but my husband has thousands of timeless, invaluable moments to look back on thanks to my diligent photography skills. I’ve asked him here or there to get a picture of this or that, but I tend to delete them because “ugh, look at all that baby weight!” In short… I Hate Photos Of Myself.
Now that our oldest daughter is 4 and our youngest is going on 10 months, I’m really regretting choosing my vanity over keeping these fleeting moments captured to enjoy years later. I mean Avery is practically an adult now and Tessa may as well be driving… That’s how fast it’s all going!
What are they going to say years later when they look back on these photos…? “Look how much fun we’re having with Daddy! Look when he took us to the beach. Remember when he took us on the Ferris wheel?! Look how cute we all are snuggled up. I miss those days…” And then the dreaded… “Where’s mom?” Sorry girls… Mom was too busy judging herself to allow those moments to be kept forever. Her face was a little too chubby at that moment and that was more important than the pure joy in your face when I was swinging you around, or spinning you so fast on the teacups we were both laughing hysterically.
Is that really the conversation I want to have with them down the road? Because that’s where my lack of presence is heading. And if that isn’t bad enough, they hear that judgment. I’m setting the tone of self-worth being directly linked to my weight and how I look. I’m paving their way to lives of self-judgment.
The gift of a lifetime
So where does that leave me…? How do I fix this…? Honestly, I had just about given up on the answer to that. I figured as long as I reminded them that their worth is so deep and beautiful and impenetrable that those words would stick more than seeing their own mother’s self-loathing. That is… until I was gifted with an opportunity. A chance to change the narrative in my head and course correct the path I was leading my children on.
In October of last year, I started working for Mike Allebach of Allebach Photography. Each and every day I got to share in so many clients’ joy from the experiences Mike created for them. There’s never a dull moment, but I sometimes felt a tinge of envy. I wanted to have photographs of myself that I fell in love with like his clients do every day. Little did I know, Christmas Eve, I would receive the greatest gift of all. I had no one to watch the girls that day, which meant I couldn’t go into work without them. So when I told Mike, he was excited to invite them in for a session as a Christmas present. What an amazing gift! My kids are the cutest kids that ever lived… Sorry, all you other kids… it’s true though.
I called the hair and makeup artist to do Avery’s hair (and my makeup since I would be seeing family that evening) and ordered some cute, renaissance inspired outfits for the girls. I was SO excited since, you know, Mike is amazing! I considered being in them, Mike did hint to that, but I decided it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and I’ve been out of sorts for months because of a knee injury. No chance… Mike… NO. CHANCE.
The lessons I learned
I’m sure it’s no mystery where this story is going, because of all the incredible things Mike is known for, my favorite is the way he will take a stand for you when you won’t do it for yourself. So in the middle of the chaos of photographing two children, Mike instructed me to get on a robe, drape myself in some fabric, and go sit with my girls. I really didn’t think this was going to work and I decided to humor him because I knew the photos of my girls would be better than anything including me.
I know… You’re all here for this shocking conclusion, but when I tell you I truly was shocked, it’s an understatement. As Mike went through each photo of us, my inner dialogue was ping-ponging back and forth. “There’s no way he didn’t photoshop these.” “There’s no way he had TIME to photoshop these!”
What I saw in each and every photo was pure love, adoration, and awe I have for my children. I didn’t see my weight or my chubby face or any other cruel criticism I tell myself. I saw Me… as their Mom… the way people around me see me. I saw the joy in my eyes that I feel in my heart when Avery kisses Tessa, or when Tessa smiles up at me with her chunky-one-dimpled smile, or when Avery tells me I’m her best friend.
What’s even better? I get to remind myself of those feelings every single time I look at these photos, and that reminder quiets the negativity in my head. My heart sings a lot louder now. I let my husband take pictures of me reading to my girls. I even let Avery take pictures of me, and when I tell you they’re unflattering, it’s an understatement. But I’ll never delete them. This experience has gifted me with a deep appreciation for what I have, who I am to my girls, and who they are to me. And there is nothing in the world more valuable than that.
After over 20 years of being the one holding the camera, my perspective has completely transformed. If you want to hear more about my experience on the other side of the lens, give me a call or shoot me a text! It’s definitely my favorite thing to talk about.
Erika Schoof has over 10 years’ experience as a photography studio and production manager. Learn more about our studio at allebachphotography.com or by texting 610.539.6920. Join our facebook group here