Family Photos

Todays post is a guest blog by Lu Etchells about the importance of us mums being present in photos.

Hi, I’m Lu and I’m a slightly squidgy round the edges pregnant again Mum of four. As my eldest has just turned 7, and tiny human number 5 is due in 3 months you can probably guess we’ve had them in pretty quick succession. I confess, no twins, but my two boys are close enough to have passed as them at times. My point is I have barely shed one load of baby weight before I have started to gain more, hence the squidginess, and the double chin and the bingo wings.

There is a lot of junk in my trunk and every part of me jiggles far more than I would like. Spanx is my best friend on a night out but even that has a limited ability to perform miracles. I can blame the kids, but the fact is I have never been a size 10; more accurately I was, once, but I hurtled past it in a blur of soft drinks, fast food and chocolate and landed in the size 14 section. It’s been a steady move on up ever since I discovered wine. As a result of constantly comparing myself to peers, from a relatively young age, I have never been body happy. I’ve avoided swimming, I shun short skirts, the sky has to be on fire for me to risk a sleeveless top and yes, the lights have to be off to conceive those babies!

I have always seen my imperfections (perceived or real) as mine, after all they don’t bother anyone else (though I am sure my husband wouldn’t complain if I felt more at ease in my own skin), but the truth is, as a mother, I am deluding myself. For years I have hidden from the flash of the camera and have automatically deleted many images of me on nights out, in the park or just snuggling with the kids. I do not want to see photographic evidence of the whale I have become, it hurts.

However, the simple fact is that today, at 34 I wish I was as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat. I look back at the photos of me at 16 and I had long, slim legs. There’s no discernible tummy or muffin top despite the fact at the time I considered myself to be a ghastly fat-filled mess (and the bullies at school perpetuated this view). How will I feel in 10 years’ time? Will I look back at the photos and feel nostalgic about the wonderful jobs my body performed, about the lives it created, carried and nurtured? Will I see my children sprawled all over me, content to be in their Mumma’s arms, no matter how squidgy they were?

The way things stand, I won’t have anything but memories to look back on. A flick through any album, either online or hardcopy shows very few photos of me; the obligatory new born first cuddle in hospital and then it trails off. I have very few photos of my Mum, there were no iPhones 30 years ago, but I treasure every one of them. I love looking at her smile and how she has changed over the years. I love the look of pure joy on our faces as we cuddle on the beach, or she pushes me on a swing. These are things that I, as a mere 4 year old at the time cannot remember in detail, but the camera caught it all.

One day my Mum won’t be here and these photos will take on a new importance. Equally, I don’t know if today is my last day on this Earth or if I have another 30, 40 or 50 years ahead of me, but I do know my children will want to have something to look back on to remember me other than words and the myriad of photos I gladly took of them.

So Mums, forget that your hair is a mess or the angle isn’t right. Stop fretting about whether that top hides your rolls of fat or if an eagle-eyed observer can discern your stretchmarks. Take a deep breath, step out from behind the camera, grab that child and smile. If not for you, then do it for them and their future selves who desperately want to be able to look back and remember your incredible beauty.

And don’t forget once in a while take the time to get some professional portraits done of you all as a family.