What My Son’s Photography Taught Me About Self-Appreciation

My three year old son has a fascination with my iPhone camera.  Pretty typical stuff for a three year old.  He likes to walk around my house and record random objects, or take 50-60 selfies in the span of a few minutes. 

We’ve been stuck at home together for the past few weeks, as have many families, and I decided to teach him how the camera should work.  “Look here,” I said, “you look at the screen to make sure you can see what you want in the square, then you hit this little white button.”  It was a perfect quarantine activity to eat up an hour or two of our day.  He pointed my phone at me and I could see him furiously pushing the shutter button. “Look mommy!” He said, proudly showing me the shots he’d taken of me.

Oh god, I look so old, was my first thought.  Look at all those wrinkles around my eyes.  And those dark circles! The no makeup look had been my standard for the past 5-6 weeks.  But hey, I look way skinnier than I expected!

I started thinking about how to make the picture more appealing.  Could I Facetune my teeth to be whiter?  Use the smoothing effect on Snapseed around my eyes?  Maybe I should just delete it, he won’t know the difference.

Then a new thought came.  Those laugh lines are well earned

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I remember being afraid of what motherhood would turn me into.  I saw joyless moms who seemed bothered by their kids and didn’t seem to laugh or smile too often.  As someone who enjoys making others laugh, and likes to be overly silly at times, I had an irrational fear that motherhood would take away my sense of humor.  Three years later, I’m obviously more responsible and serious at times, since I am in charge of a couple of tiny humans, but I’m also the same goofy girl who does some pretty ridiculous stuff for a laugh. 

I delight in making my kids laugh.  I belly laugh myself when they do or say something funny.  I don’t hold back with my boys, and it makes our relationship stronger. 

While I was at it, I started thinking about the under eye bags.  I’ve always had dark under eye circles, but these were darker than ever before.  I’m a single mom of an infant and a preschooler.  I can say with absolute certainty that I haven’t slept a full night in over 7 months.  Two little people depend on me through the night to get them onto the potty or to feed them when they get hungry, even if it’s at 2am.  I don’t have a partner taking over after the third middle of the night wake up, and I’m proud that I can power through every night and provide for their needs, even though I’m running on fumes.

I’ve been working a lot on giving myself grace for the past few years.  Going through a divorce has strengthened my resolve to start treating myself kindly.  That starts with how I talk to myself, even though I’m the only one listening.

And so, I’m keeping the picture in my phone, eye wrinkles, dark circles and all.  I want to have the reminder handy that the work I’m doing as a single mom to two little kids is hard, but that I’m doing a great job.  Fellow moms, I challenge you to do the same.  Your body housed one or more tiny people.  You give them love, security and healthy boundaries every single day, and with the current pandemic, their needs are even greater.  If you’re seeing extra grays that haven’t been covered up in months, or a few extra pounds around the middle from stress snacking, don’t sweat it.  The work you’re doing is really challenging, and I guarantee you’re doing an amazing job.