I did something different this past weekend. I welcomed a photographer friend (who I was finally lucky enough to meet) into my home to do a photo session with my girls. This was not your typical photography sesh. No coordinated outfits, curled hair or heightened expectations. No frustration because two busy little girls wouldn’t sit still or smile when they should. Nope. It was just me and my girls doing what we typically do at home. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have a mouse in the corner of your own chaos, I imagine this is similar. Because I had Kari there for a few hours to document it all.
I read about Kari’s documentary style photography through her blog a few months ago, and I was immediately intrigued. She visits your home, and you carry on as though she isn’t there. Meanwhile she captures what she sees–real life in action. You know, the parts of daily routine that as parents we neglect to see. And if we do see, we often struggle to see the beauty within the little moments.
So I booked a session for two reasons. For one thing, I know I am blind to things that surround me; constantly convincing myself that the sink full of dirty dishes or laundry piled on the floor or messy, mismatched clothes are all signs of me not doing a good enough job; pressuring myself to keep up with all that needs to be done. Second, I find myself in less and less pictures with the kids lately. I am there in those moments I capture, just on the other side. One rare occasion I will snag a selfie with one of the girls but that’s about as good as it gets. If I am in one, I usually nit-pick myself to the point of deleting the photo.
What the hell, I figured. In my quest for contentment, I have often wondered what I look like as “mom” in routine scenarios. Do I smile enough at them? Am I engaging enough? Am I focused? Do I look as tired as I feel? Can they feel my love for them when I am near them? I liked the idea of being unscripted. I wanted a glimpse at real life bonding with my girls. The boys were out doing boy things (because they need that as well), so it was a girls day.
Prior to Kari’s arrival, I began stressing out over the mess that was my house–like I do every time I know someone is on their way; rushing to pick up every last toy that was on the floor, folding up blankets, getting the girls dressed and, of course, stressing about those dirty dishes. When on earth would I have time to get to them before she would knock on the door? I hadn’t even dried my hair or put makeup on yet! There was also a hamper full of clean laundry in the living room just begging to be folded for the third day in a row. But it was not going to happen. And I had accepted it. In that moment, I felt free. It is what it is, I told myself. If I wanted to see what me being a mom really looked like from another perspective, then I would have to allow myself to let go of the little things that don’t really matter. Like the dirty dishes. They could wait. I went back to my bathroom and dried my hair. I threw on a little bit of mascara and wiped powder just below my fatigued eyes, hoping to at least appear bright eyed and ready. I threw on a pair of faded leggings and a regular old shirt. On any given day, that is me.
I got the girls a snack and sat down at the table as we waited for Kari. Seconds later, she was knocking on the door. The girls greeted her excitedly because they are absolutely charming like that. We talked for a bit, then she got to work. But really, it was as though she didn’t even have a camera there at all. The girls and I began doing an alphabet floor puzzle. We do this puzzle every day–like three to four times a day. Kari and I chatted periodically, while the girls entertained us with silliness.
It was also Kendal’s second birthday and we needed to make a cake for her party later that day. My girls love “helping” me in the kitchen. This is about the only time a mess doesn’t make my eye twitch. I love when they get their busy little hands into food and creativity in my kitchen. The TV is off, and the only thing they fuss about while their chairs are pulled up to the counter is who gets to help me first. I can live with that.
After the cakes were in the oven, we headed to the back yard. It was a gorgeous day, and the only thing Kendal and Tessa love more than Dora the Explorer is playing outside. Pretty standard stuff here. Swings…check. Sandbox…check. Slide…check. Bubbles…check. We played outside for a while, then went in for lunch. There was a very typical battle over who wants what to eat and what I make. Meh (shoulder shrug). Kari finished up and checked out of the Carey house for the day.
The next day I received an email that our gallery was up and ready to be viewed. Already? She took like 300 pictures, how is that even possible? I froze looking at each shot, admiring what I saw. In each picture was beauty and love. And you know what? Not once did I see the dirty dishes or clutter on my counters. I didn’t see the sippy cup laying on the floor or the dog toys haphazardly scattered in the doorway. I didn’t see notice the laundry or disarray. At first glance, even second and third glance, I didn’t see any of that. You know what else? I didn’t criticize my appearance at all. I wasn’t ashamed that the “flaws” I obsess over were in plain view. I felt flawless, actually, and proud to see that when my girls look at me they see and feel love. In front of me was proof I could not deny.
I am my biggest critic, and I know for a fact that others are guilty of this as well. As parents, it is easy to be hard on ourselves. We have a big job to do, don’t we? We give into moments of self-doubt, questioning if what we are doing is enough.
What we are doing is enough. As long as there is love in our hearts and happiness in our home, it will always be enough.
Live and breathe in these little moments because they are still moments, and eventually they will pass by without any return.
Kari, thank you so much for giving me the gift of memories. You have such a unique gift, and I am glad you shared it with me. I cannot wait to get my hands on some prints to put up in my house!
You guys, she rocks…look her up!
Check our Kari’s super sweet blog post from our session here!