I Shied Away From the Camera, But Realized I Needed Photos With My Son No Matter How I Felt
When I realized I hardly had any photos of me with my son, my husband reminded me how many times I've avoided the camera. I realize now how important it is to document these precious moments even if I don't feel my best.
As my son, Ameen, was approaching his first birthday, I wanted to make a video for him highlighting all his milestones. I carefully went through my camera roll on my phone and realized there were hundreds of pictures. His changes were so apparent every month and it just made my heart leap with joy.
As I was scrolling through the pictures, I saw relatives—my mother, sister, father, and extended family—holding my son with wide smiles. I also noticed most of the pictures I had were of my husband with our son. Whether it was Ameen blowing raspberries or babbling away, there were so many shots of them together that flooded my camera.
It didn't take me long to realize I was hardy in any photos. It became clear I was generally the last one to be photographed with my son, especially as he experienced milestones. That bothered me. I thought perhaps it was just my phone. With the pandemic, I had more time to go through pictures, so I grabbed my husband's phone. Sadly, it was the same: There were very few pictures of me with my son.
I spent the most waking and sleeping hours with my son. Yet pictures and videos indicated otherwise. I conveyed my disappointment to my husband. He reminded me how many times I hesitated to take a picture with my son since I often thought I "looked bad" or "wasn't dressed properly"—and it all really backfired. As I look back, I regret it, especially when I'm the one who has spent the most time with him.
I decided to reach out to my mom friends and realized that my circumstance was not necessarily an isolated experience. Many of them also hesitated to take photos with their kids because of reasons like feeling they weren't dressed their best.
But that isn't the only reason in my case. I don the hijab and also am a daughter of Bengali immigrants. Modesty has been something that is condoned and ingrained within my family. Even if I'm in the confines of my own home where there are no men outside of my immediate family, I've always seen the elderly women wrap a chador or onna (both are similar to a shawl) loosely around the neck area. While the hair isn't completely covered, it may rest on the head with some of the head exposed. Some of this has transferred to me in subtle ways. Thus, I'm often careful about who has my picture and wary of where it can go in the digital age that we live in.
To break down the cultural and religious nuances, I realized I needed to be brave and do something to change so that in the future my son will know I was there. Even though he may know I took care of him and witnessed his first milestones, he will not remember those moments. I don't want my son to grow up not having proof of our memories.
In some ways, I have to thank the pandemic for making me realize that slowing down and appreciating the not so "pretty" parts of motherhood need to be embraced. The messiness, the frustration, the unknown, are all part of parenthood and cannot be ignored. It's not always picture-perfect. Despite what social media users may overwhelmingly show, reality entails childrearing to be much more complicated than it is, and it ultimately needs to be experienced. And only a fraction of what that means can be done by documenting through photographs. I have started to accept that.
I have made a commitment to myself to tell my husband, trusted family, or friends around me to make a conscious decision to take pictures of me with my son. Even if I don't feel good or am not the best dressed, that will no longer be a stopping point. This way I'll have no more regrets moving forward.