For 13 years when someone asked what I did for a living I said “I’m a newspaper reporter”. It made me feel like I had accomplished something in life. Four years of college, a degree, and a job in what I went to college for. I was a contributing member of society. I was a public servant, informing the community. I was important, at least in some small way, or so I thought.
Then I burned out on the news and, really, on people. I left newspapers, convinced my love for photography would translate into a successful business. Then I could say “I’m a photographer”
I left the paper for two reasons: to be home with my son and to start a photography business. When the photography business never happened I was left with . . .being a mom because in my mind I wasn’t a photographer if I didn’t have a business, which, of course, I now know isn’t true.
Just a mom.
I couldn’t imagine having to answer the question of what I did for a living with “I’m a mom. JUST a mom.”
As a kid, I’d never imagined myself a mom. I’d always pictured myself traveling the world as a writer and photojournalist.
My mom was “just a mom” and I had never looked down on her for that so I had no idea why being “just a mom” filled me with a feeling of personal failure.
Why was it bothering me so much to be “just a mom”?
I think the society we live in today, especially in the United States, tells moms that being a mom isn’t enough. The idea that being a mom is the best job a woman can have is very popular but only if a person can say “I’m a writer but I’m also a mom and that’s the most important job I have.”
If a woman can only say “I’m a mom. It’s all I do” I believe many look at her as if to say “is that really all you do?”
Last year I sought out a natural doctor for some health issues I’ve been having. She asked me what I did in my spare time. I started to tell her I was a mom so I don’t have much spare tome and she interrupted me “but what do you do for you?” I photograph my children in what I feel is an artistic way and told her but she shook her head in disapproval and I immediately felt that shame at being “just a mom”. Here was another woman, maybe even a mother herself, reminding me that I needed to be more than a mom. I needed to do something more with my life. I couldn’t just be a mom.
Other women shame each other into believing they need to be more than a mom but I don’t believe God desires there to be any shame felt when a woman’s sole job, so to speak, is “just being a mom.”
I’m working on accepting this title of mom, which I know sounds weird since I’ve been one for almost a decade.
I’m practicing saying “I’m a mom,” and not needing to add after it “And I am also a photographer.”
For me, photography isn’t a job, and I don’t want it to be. It’s part of who I am in the same way being “just a mom” is part of who I am and who I always will be.
This photo was taken by sitting the camera at an odd angle and not even looking into the viewfinder because I couldn’t get into the position I needed to get the shot I wanted. If I start Yoga up again maybe I can get into that position some day.. When I knew bending down was going to rip my back out more and give my chiropractor even more business, I put the camera on my knee and shot up because I desperately wanted that backlight around her cute little head. This shot was also edited in Lightroom to give the image even more of the feel I was looking for.
Part of my “Play” personal project.
What we remember from childhood we remember forever — permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.
– Cynthia Ozick
Sometimes I want to give up on photography that speaks to my heart so I can make a quick buck with some quick poses but then I remember why I love lifestyle, or what I also call storytelling, photography.
It tells stories.
It’s memories frozen in time, not poses.
One of my favorite, newly found photographers is Lisa Tichane and she spoke at Click Away, a photographers’ conference, this Fall about why she incorporates movement in her family photography.
She’s right. I have frames full of photos a family member used to give us every year for Christmas. It was the only gift she ever gave and it was her children looking uncomfortable and unnatural in posed portraits. I don’t want this to sound like a complaint, because the images were a kind gesture and we appreciated them each year. However, even though the lighting was lovely the only thing those photos tell me about her children is they know how to follow directions and be forced to smile.
I couldn’t tell from those photos that the youngest was full of crazy fun or the second oldest loved all things sparkly and shiny or that the oldest was a sports fanatic.
Eventually these portraits made me uncomfortable, partially because the family members no longer spoke to us and partially because the expression of the one girl was so full of discomfort I felt bad she’d been forced to pose.
I put those images in a closet and filled my walls with images of my children being children. There is one of my son standing in my parents driveway, wearing my dad’s fishing hat and another of him standing in a pool of light in a local creek.
There are others of him smiling at the camera,but none of them were forced and I didn’t ask for the smile.
The photos on my wall tell a story for me of a boy who likes to explore the fields at his grandparents’ house. They tell a story of a family who isn’t always perfect, but is loved, is trying, is striving to be better.
I have images of smiling faces, but almost none of them were obtained by asking for them, they came naturally, they were gifts, given to me in naturally happy moments.
Most importantly, the images I treasure most tell a story and that story is what I want to remember as the years pass.
I meet my son’s bus at an old school parking lot and usually we head home right away to make dinner and get ready for karate or to get homework started.
This past week we’ve had warm temperatures and sunny days but I’ve been too busy to enjoy it. By the time I have been ready to experience some of the warmth, the sun is already sinking below the hills that surround the small town we live in.
One day I took my daughter out of her seat as we waited for her brother and admired the golden light of the already setting sun. When my son got off the bus I heard myself say:
“Oh wow… Look at that light … It’s amazing.”
I knew we had to get home, get dinner done and get to karate. No time for photography or having fun or just cutting loose. I had to start being responsible and stop being such a goof off, as I tend to find myself being.
“Then what are we waiting for?” I heard my son say and before I could remind him we have responsibilities he took took off across the still green grass, tinted golden by the sun.
Without even thinking I was carrying the baby across the grass and watching my son climb a tree limb that had broken off one tree and fallen against another.
Soon My daughter was trying to eat dried black walnuts and I was admiring the sun flare behind her head.
I forgot schedules and responsibility and we ran down a hill and laughed and hugged each other while the sun set behind us.
Sometimes we need those spontaneous moments of joy. We need to put aside what we tell ourselves are responsibilities but are probably only things we do because someone else does and we don’t want to look like a bad parent to someone else.
My son seems to often transform mundane moments into magical ones. Watching him climb the tree limb, sitting at the top,proud of his accomplishment, I found myself admiring his willingness, maybe even his determination to seize the moment and go with the flow.
Before I had children I saw parents as the teachers and the children as students but now that I’m a mother i realize my son often leads me and where he leads me is into a world where the focus is on what is true, real and important.
I have a new site to take me into the new year and I’m thrilled to welcome you to it. As I write this post it is a work in progress, but I’m still welcoming you to check it out, poke around and learn more about my photography.