Meeting and getting to know new kindy parents is a stressful situation for me. I’m awkward and socially inept. This is my second year in a row and I am still getting it wrong. I hate that conversation we invariably have, the one where we all talk about what we ‘do’. I always expect it and yet it always pops up when I am least prepared to answer it, like when my 3 year old is sick, in the sling, has been all over me ALL day and I’m tired, grumpy and over it.
So I wave a hand and say “Oh, I’m just a mum” and my face burns because I seemingly can’t stop those self depreciating words tumbling out and I duck my head as I accept all the cries of “Oh! But, that’s why we go to work, to get away!” and tuts of “There’s no such thing!”.
It’s aggravating and humiliating and worst of all, I come home and wonder. I wonder what it is I ‘do’. I don’t work outside of the home. I don’t really ‘do’ anything other than stay at home and care for my family. So, I struggle with what else I should say. I know that there’s more to me than being mum, but what are those things? Then I get to a point where I think maybe I’m the exception to the rule that nobody is ever ‘just’ a mum. And that leads to feeling pretty low.
I see all those other mums working, raising kids, running businesses and doing so much while I am doing so little and yet I don’t think I could do more. Which makes me feel worse.
This year, I decided I wanted to do something about knowing what I do, who I am. When you’re making lunches, ironing uniforms and reading bedtime stories you can so easily get to the point where it’s hard to remember what makes you you, what you like, what you do.
And so, my self portrait project began. The basic premise was to explore me. To take photographs of me doing things I love, trying new things, doing things I hate, in places I connect with and so on.
I could have just written a list or something along those lines, but this way I have to really think about what makes me tick – especially for the more posed portraits. And I need to do that, I need to explore and try things because I simply don’t know. For the impromptu snaps (like above) I have to tap into how I am feeling, where I am and remember that I am there too, why shouldn’t I be recorded as such?
There’s more to it than that, though. It’s a multidimensional project. It’s a way of working on my photography skills, to develop and grow. It’s a way to embrace my physical self, especially as someone who has always preferred to be behind the lens. I find it so difficult to be a part of the picture but as my kids grow up I need them to see that it’s okay to accept and love what you look like. To be okay with letting who you are in that moment be captured and remembered.
So far it’s been surprisingly fun. Jasper loves to be in on the ‘photo shoots’ and directed the first photo of the post. It was a blast, with him showing me exactly how I should pose.
Surprisingly, I haven’t felt the urge to delete every photo like I would have in the past. They’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. And, somewhere along the way that became okay.
I’ve only been doing this project for a couple of months and, at first, it seemed so simple (not the getting in front of the camera bit, though) and yet I’ve already grown and learnt so much. It’s made me think that everyone should look beyond that ‘this is what I do’ conversation every once in a while. It’s not just mums who start to feel like this. Life so easily takes over. Everyone is more than how they look or dress, their job, their marital status… We’re all more.
I know that there’s no ‘just’ about being a mum, but I need to take the time to rediscover myself and get the confidence back, to relearn who I am.
What are you more than? I’d love to know!
Read Kate’s great post about being ‘Just a Mum’ from the other day – it’s brilliant.
Linking up with Jess for #ibot