I was editing my phone a while back and noticed that I had taken over 3000 pictures in a little over a year, and it occurred to me – I’m the documentarian. I am the family historian, the photographic tracker of our every day. I have kept such a tidy little portfolio of my children’s life since they were born, by taking photos every single day of all of their little idiosyncrasies, that I’ve created a time-worn, visual record of everybody’s everything.
I stay at home with my kids, and but for a few short 7 months back at work when I was pregnant with our son, I’ve been home for nearly 7 years. Closer to a decade than not. Prior to that, I was a teacher for almost a decade. I worked hard, going into work for 7:30 to prepare for the day ahead. Staying after school to coach, and to listen to middle-school drama and troubles from my students. I worked for nearly 8 years, and then had my daughter. When I was on mat leave with our son not two years later, I needed to make a choice whether or not to go back to work.
I chose to stay home.
This was, to date, the toughest choice I’ve had to make. Being with my kids was a no brainer. Yes, days were (are) challenging. But it’s tough for a woman to opt out of the professional world. You do so understanding that you will become redundant and replaceable. That your ‘skill set’ will falter. As an adult, I worried if this choice was smart, financially and emotionally, on our family. As a woman, I worried that my kids would not see me as someone who could be professional. Could sound intelligent. Could work the room, carry a meeting, make a deal. I worried that I’d get lost in it all. I knew that I’d do a good job, but I worried that my family would not see me as significant.
Staying at home is tough. Going out to work is tough. Each side sees the positive and negative to and for each other. For me, the idea of not seeing and hearing the day-to-day ate away at me. I love the snuggles, the battles, the spills, the messes, the hugs. But you know what? It’s still a struggle. There is a part of me that thinks I did not go to University for 5 years to scrub toilets, to fold laundry (that will just get wrinkled anyway), to mop the floor (again), to put Lego away. To dust. To shovel. To windex. To fill and unload the dishwasher. To make the beds.
I’ve often wondered if it would have been so bad if I went back to work. I used to wonder if there was really that much to miss. A lot of this job is boring, and gross, uninspiring, unsexy, and dirty, and thankless, and mundane. Sometimes I would struggle with trying to find a purpose in the cleaning…if you can hire someone to do it, why is it important for me to do? If a nanny can walk my kids to school, why do I need to be here to do it?
During the holidays, nearly 7 years now that I’ve been home, I began deleting all of the blurry and multiple shots that I’ve collected over the years (there are roughly 2500 snaps a year), and while I did this I was able to see my kid’s history over the years. Their Friday snaps, pictures they made and were proud of, hand holding on walks to school, learning to bike ride, running through sprinklers, gardening, cookie-making afternoons, unboxing after our home move, making signs for daddy to come home, messy toothbrushing, brother body slams.
And then it occurred to me. I am the documentarian, the historian, the photographic tracker of our every day. I have kept such a tidy little portfolio of my children’s life since they were born, by taking photos every single day of all of their little idiosyncrasies, that I’ve created a time-worn, visual record of everybody’s everything. I’ve snapped first steps, and corresponding falls and grimaces that only each of them make. I’ve caught that smile when they see a special surprise for them. I’ve photographed regular, day-to-day activities, and charted their progression from birth. Baby feet, one year old toes, 6-year-old homemade pedicures. It’s all there. From me. And because I’ve been there, I’ve talked about and shared all of the silly, sad, joyous, frustrating, proud, scary moments with my husband each day, so that he feels connected to their childhood. And I talk to my kids about yesterday, today and tomorrow, always showing them my photographic evidence.
And nearly a decade after leaving the work that I did for nearly a decade, it became crystal clear. By snapping photos with an almost manic verve, I am the one who has made their childhood visible, and that’s very significant. That’s irreplaceable. Best decision I ever made. And we’ve got the pictures to prove it.