The photos from my “Slice of Life” session are in and wow. Just wow. Julia’s work is unlike anything I’ve ever see. I’ve loved our traditional family portraits and will continue to cherish those images forever. But those aren’t our life. Those are a forced, matchy-match fabrication of ourselves filled with high-stakes lollipop bribes to encourage cooperation. Julia’s photos, however, are a little peek into our day and it was incredible and overwhelming to behold them.
The day of the photo shoot, as I alluded to, went incredibly well despite any previous concerns I may have had. There were some nerves on my part and it took maybe a solid 45 minutes for me to warm up. For example, when AJR woke up from his nap he requested to watch a show on the iPad because that’s what we do every day since his naps are the shortest naps ever in the history of naps. I turned to Julia and asked “Is this even allowed?” She laughed and assured me it was fine. From then on, our day was much like any other except the kids were exceptionally well-behaved and I may have spent more time playing with them than I normally would. I mean, no one wants a photo of me checking Facebook while I pretend to unload the dishwasher. Nothing was fabricated. We simply were ourselves.
I wrote this letter to Julia approximately an hour after she left our house because I was absolutely overwhelmed by the deluge of feelings her images invoked. Not that I’m a Grinch by any means, but it seriously felt like my heart grew three sizes that day and I’ve been on a major feelings bender ever since.
I’m excited to share the photos with you all, so without further ado, here you go. Enjoy!
With these images you have given me a gift. A gift I needed more than you could ever know. Or maybe not since you have children of your own and you’ve done this for other families. Other mothers like us.
You see, I am tired. Yes, I’m tired because sleep is in short supply and caring for little ones is a taxing duty. That goes without saying for all parents everywhere since the beginning of time. But lately I’m tired emotionally. I’m tired from carrying the overwhelming responsibility of motherhood. I am exhausted by the constant worry over whether I am making the right decisions. If staying at home in the first place is the best thing for my children, for all of us as a family. I am tired of the guilt that assails me on a daily basis. I know I am my own worst critic. I lack self-forgiveness and can be a more punishing boss than I ever encountered in the corporate world. I am tired of giving so much into this job called motherhood without any sort of validation or sense as to whether I’m succeeding or failing miserably.
Your photos broke me. But in the best way possible. Upon viewing your images – your interpretation of our life – I laughed, I smiled until my cheeks were sore, and I allowed fat tears to well in my eyes over the beautiful simplicity of these every day moments. The floodgates were open and all of the emotional baggage that had been getting stuffed into any place I could fit it into came tumbling out. Your images showed me a glimpse of the mother that I am from an outsider’s perspective. I saw tenderness. I saw love. I saw a freaking superhero as I wrangled my two-ring (well, three-ring if you include Ruby) circus. I saw my children be confident, adventurous, inquisitive, and endearingly mischievous. I saw in my children’s faces a reflection of love and adoration for their mom, which was a huge relief because my growing weariness has given me an increasingly short fuse. I yell more than I should. I often lack the motivation to get on the floor and answer the call to play. Instead I throw out the “Ok, just a minute. Mommy needs to do this first” line hoping that within a few minutes they forgot they requested to play with me in the first place.
What I did not see was this “mom-ster” vision of myself that I had concocted out of the murkiest depths of the ugliest of mom guilt. No, instead, for the first time in a long time I felt right. All of the self-doubt and inner voice whispering you’re not cut out for this faded into the background. It felt like being at home with my children was exactly what I was supposed to be doing – something that I don’t think I’ve ever had complete certainty of.
I may not be The Best Mom. There are a lot of things that I could be doing better. But those images showed me that for all of my short comings I am still the best mom for Anthony and Olivia and more importantly, I am doing my best by them.
These photos tell a beautiful story. It’s messy, ridiculous, exhausting and it’s uniquely ours. It’s a story of love between a stay-at-home mom and her children; a story of a husband and wife managing the chaos around them while trying to maintain their own relationship; a story of a father rushing home from a grueling job to squeeze in a hug and book before bedtime. The kids are growing so fast and it feels like everything is constantly changing. These images allow me to hold onto this frustratingly glorious time so that a year from now, 5 years, 10 years and when my children have children, the raw emotion captured by your lens can transport me back to this chapter of our lives.
You aren’t just a documentary photographer, Julia. You are so much more than that. You are an artist. You are a therapist. You are a truth teller. You take the way we view our life and reflect it back to us with an empathetic, yet honest lens. You uncover the love radiating within the most mundane of daily acts. A love that sometimes gets lost in the weight of the day, but a love that is always present and driving us on.
So thank you. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for giving our family, and mainly me, this extraordinary gift.