With Mother's Day next month - Sunday 31st March, incase you're not sure - we welcome family and newborn photographer, Sarah Hart, to Mama + Max this week who discusses the importance of existing in photographs with our children. We are so guilty of it ourselves, wanting to take the photos and not be featured in them, fear of not looking our best or feeling self-conscious, but we have to remember that children don't care what we look like and at the end of the day, these photographs are for them and their future.
“You won't regret the things you do, only the things you don't.” I think there's a lot of truth in this remark. Nearly everyone of my regrets are over opportunities missed and nearly every one of those decisions was based on a lack of self esteem. Included in my regrets, is not existing in enough images with my children when they were very small. I'll be honest, I too don't particularly enjoy being the other side of the camera, but over the last few years, I do now try to hop in for a few snaps with them when we're on a day out or on our holidays. Why? Because I feel it's important!
- Your children will love to see pictures of you with them in the future. Think about how often you've loved looking back in time at pictures of your childhood and seeing what your mum's hair-do was like, what clothes they wore and differences in our environment (ie. telephone boxes not mobile phones!). They'll also be amazed by how young we once looked! You're documenting your history.
- Do it for your children. Like me, you may not be comfortable with having your photos taken but your children will value you existing in the photos with them. After all, as parents we are the most important people in their lives. When they look back at family albums (and YES, you should still make family albums despite living in a digital world of photography – see why here) - would it be better for them to see no proof of your existence, or a snap of you gazing at them lovingly, or a portrait of you cuddling / laughing / playing with your children? I know what every child would answer to that question!
- You don't have to share it with everyone else! Let's face it, in an age where we share so many of our photos with the online world, we often only post the “best” pictures of ourselves. If you don't like the image of yourself, don't share it....but keep it for both your future self and for your children. If it's recording the fun you shared that day out, or documenting a special moment in your lives – save it!
- No-one else sees what you see. As a professional newborn photographer, I always encourage new parents to have at least one family photograph together and I'm always amazed by how many mums will make comments such as “Oh but I don't take a good photograph,” or, “I hate my nose/double chin/creases around my eyes etc”. I don't spot these perceived “imperfections” - I don't think most people do. Think about it: how often do you tell a friend that there's nothing wrong with the way she looks? We're all so critical of our own appearance but rarely spot any imperfections in our friends. The same is true of our children – they won't see the extra roll around your middle, or the bags under your eyes – they'll just see their lovely mum! Trust me. There's no-one quite like you in your children's eyes.
- You can travel back in time. How often do we say, “Oh, I wish they'd stop growing up!” We'd all like to pause time sometimes. Photographs are a small way of doing this. They can help you relive a special day or moment. They can help bring back the emotions attached to that point in time. Pure magic!
- You are documenting YOUR life as much as your children's. You will take pleasure at looking back at the photographs yourself and reminding yourself of what you looked like 10, 20, 30 years ago. Be yourself. You don't have to pose formally for all photos with your children. Granted, the majority of my studio portrait work is of the posed, smile-at-the-camera, lovely family photograph variety, but that doesn't mean you have to always be photographed in this way if you're not comfortable with this style. If you're having professional photographs taken, ask your photographer if they can take some shots of you playing/ tickling/ giggling with your children. If you're at home or out for the day with your family, ask your partner to take some photos of you just being you with your children.
- It boosts your children's self esteem. There's been lots of research to show that your children seeing pictures of themselves as part of your family unit around the home, will boost their self esteem. It gives them a sense of belonging and pride. And if you are in those photos (no matter how poorly you perceive yourselves in photos), you're teaching your children the importance of acceptance of themselves. You can read more about how family portraits boost self esteem here.
- It's likely you're never going to look better than you do NOW! In another 10 years you're likely to look at a photograph and think, that you really didn't look that bad. In another 20 years you'll regret that you didn’t have more images taken when you were younger. If you keep waiting for the time that you have lost a few pounds or you have been to the hairdressers to sort our your roots, before you get in front of the camera, you never will. So just take the plunge now. “You won't regret the things you do, only the things you don't.”