My Dirty Little Secret

Penn Yan, New York

Portrait Photographer

I hear it all the time.

"I just want to lose these last few pounds--then I'll set up a photo session with my family."

"I hate having my picture taken."

"I never like myself in photos."

And trust me. I feel you. I really do. In fact, I AM you. I hate looking at photos of myself. In my mind I am awkward and ordinary. I notice every flaw. My belly that is a tad more prominent now that I have had my daughter. My nose that resembles my father's that's just a bit too large for my face. My skin that probably should have had a little more sunscreen in its past. My hair that is almost never "done" for the day.

Here's the thing I've realized in the past few years. I have a daughter. She's watching me. She listens to what I say. She watches what I do. In fact, as a parent I realize my actions and words matter now maybe more than ever. Unfortunately, I think she pays more attention to my words and actions when I don't think about her listening than she does when I want her to actually listen to me. Ahhh...the joys of parenting [insert eye roll emoji here].

I have essentially dedicated my life to making sure that her life is pretty dang awesome. I am with her most days of the week. I take her to story time. We go skiing. We read together. I research best parenting practices. I worry that I'm not doing the right things or saying the right things or being the right things. I'm not sure if it's just part of getting older, but over the past year or so, I have become hyper aware of women around me--their words and their actions. And, I've realized it's time. Nayyirah Waheed has this quote, "And I said to my body. softly. 'I want to be your friend.' It took a long breath. And replied, 'I have been waiting my whole life for this.'" This spoke to me, perhaps more than maybe any other quote I've ever read recently. Why do I hate my body? It birthed my daughter. It fed her. It cleans my house. It lifts weights. It carries me when I'm running and playing with my daughter. It reads. It works [really hard, I might say]. My body is strong. My body is amazing. It's not perfect, but it's mine.

And do you know what my daughter knows when she looks at me? She sees her mom. She loves me. She doesn't care about my nose, or my belly, or my skin, or my hair. She looks at me and [I hope] she sees love. And I think about someday. Someday when I'm not around any longer and she can't hold my face in her little [or not so little as they will be] hands and say, "I wuv you Momma," I want her to remember these days. The days I spent less time on myself so that I could wash her clothes and make sure she had a healthy lunch, all while working at our store and getting my photography business off the ground. The days that dedicated most of my life and time to her.

The bottom line is that I want her to see that I was there. I existed. I had fun with her. I took care of her. I worked hard. I loved hard. So, I've promised myself this. I won't wait. I won't hate. I will exist in photos. I will schedule a family photo session at least once a year. I will tell that photographer that I want most of the focus on my husband and me or Harper and me [because let's face it--there are LOTS of photos of my daughter and husband]. I will work toward capturing lifestyle self-portraits of Harper and me, my husband and me, and of [gasp!] just me. After all, someday those photos are going to be all that is left of me in her life and I want her to see it. All of it.

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