Perfectly Their Mother

Posted On: 10.11.12

Last Thursday was my birthday and I seem to be mentioning this birthday thing over and over here, but bear with me because I think this is meaningful somehow. I think I am finally realizing that I am getting older, that time is indeed doing its trademark jig, ticking by. And I also think that I am oddly okay with this reality, that I am thankful for it.

For the most part, the morning was business as usual. There were cartoons. There were breakfast negotiations. There was hair brushing. There was school to get to. As the big girls and I were racing out the door, Little Girl followed, arms outstretched, pleading. All par for the course. She was barefoot, ponytailed, still in her PJs. And it was clear as day: she wanted to go with us. And I looked down at her, this little creature who was wearing the Old Navy rainbow pajamas both of her sisters wore again and again, her blond hair tied into a tiny sprig atop her head, her diaper dipping down, her tiny feet tiptoeing on the ground, and I did it; I surrendered. I bent down and scooped her up. She’s coming with us! I called to Husband. Grab her sneakers!

And he did. He grabbed them and slipped them on her, and threaded her little arms through that little quilted green vest that her big girls also wore, and we were off. All of us Rowley girls. But first. I paused in the threshold of the door to our home and I said something. I wish I had a picture of all of us today. And Husband pulled his phone from his pocket, and snapped a couple. And, no, they didn’t come out great. They were blurry in spots; we were all looking in different directions, making unflattering faces. But the pictures captured us. The girls and me. On my 34th birthday.

And then. Two days later, I clicked on my friend Allison Tate’s Facebook link to a piece she had written on the Huffington Post. I encountered Allison – a fellow insecure Ivy Leaguer and newly-minted mom of four (a fact which makes me only a smidge envious) – in this blogging/writing world years ago and met her in person during summer 2010. We went for Greek food with Lindsey and Denise and talked and laughed a lot. We talked about life and parenthood and I remember discussing whether we’d all have more kids. I think Allison and others were on to the fact that I was hiding a wonderful secret; I was a mere five weeks pregnant with Little Girl.

Anyway, detour. Here we are, two-plus years later, each of us with a new daughter, each of us still writing and asking about parenthood, about life. I clicked on her link and I read her words about how we moms should really get in the picture with our kids – even though our kids are the cute ones, even though we don’t look perfect. She made many wonderful points, all of which resonated with me, and got me thinking. And thinking some more.

Well, it turns out that I am not the only one who was moved by Allison’s words. At the time I am writing this, Allison’s piece has been shared over 140,000 times on Facebook. Clearly, she has struck a chord. And tomorrow? This friend of mine, this honest and witty and refreshingly real mom of four is appearing on Katie Couric’s show to talk about this piece she wrote, this message she has sent, this message that reached me, and so many of us. And I will tune in and watch her, and I will smile.

I will smile for many reasons, including this: Words are powerful things. Words can have such an effect, and a great effect. We mothers and people can cook up ideas, ideas that matter to us, and deeply, and we can communicate these ideas and they can change the way people think, and act, and see things.

All of a sudden, three-plus years into this blogging gig, I am rethinking things. I am wondering if I should post more pictures of myself and my kids here. Yes, with their faces. I have been so adamant about anonymity; about hiding their faces, but what have I been missing out on? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to tell stories about them and illustrate these stories with pictures of them, of us? Wouldn’t it be wonderful, years from now, to point to the picture above and say: It was my birthday, girls, and you guys gave me that red scarf. It had zebras on it. And your little sister insisted on coming with us to school and so we all went, but before we did, Daddy took this picture and I don’t know what I am doing with my arm or what I was saying, but there we were, all of us Rowley girls, at the beginning of another day for us, and year for me.

Regardless of whether I change my approach here, I vow to get in the picture more. To stop worrying so much about what I am wearing, about whether I look skinny enough or young enough or happy enough. I am realizing, thanks to my friend Allison, that what is important is that I am here, alive and well and so in love with these three little girls and this life that is theirs and mine and ours, this hard and crazy and beautiful life I am now more than ever desperate to document.

Thank you, Allison. I will be watching and smiling. And if you need a place to crash for a minute during your NYC media whirlwind, come on over. I have three little babysitters waiting to play with that little cutie of yours. And please know something: As a writer and a mother, I am proud of you and inspired by you. Enjoy every minute of this wild and deserved ride. When things settle down a bit, you need to help me figure out how to get Husband on board for #4 :)

Are you good about getting in photos with your kids or do you avoid photographic evidence of your less-than-perfect self? Did you read Allison’s piece and did it inspire you? Do you think I should reconsider using photos of my kids on this blog? Looking back, do you wish you had more pictures with your own mother? Why do you think Allison’s words have caused such an enormous response?

Oh, and...

To learn more about Allison Tate and her upcoming media appearances, click here. To visit the amazing photo gallery that Allison inspired, click here.

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8 Comments for: "Perfectly Their Mother"
  1. JHL

    Allison’s post is so powerful. Thank you for sending me there to read. And I love that what she had to say has inspired this from you today. I think you should do whatever you want to do with pictures here and like the idea that you are up for changing things and letting this place evolve. I love the imagery of your birthday morning – the little ponytail, the hand-me-down pajamas, all of it.

    Good luck on Katie, Allison!

    PS – Yes, I do wish I had more pictures of me with my mother. I hadn’t thought of that til now.

  2. Allison Tate

    Thank you so much, Aidan. I love hearing your thoughts, and I love the image of you – literal and figurative – on your 34th birthday (you spring chicken!). I’m on the plane right now and will let you know if I can break away and meet your sweet little people!

    As you know, I am used to being pretty anonymous. This whole wild ride is taking me far out of my comfort zone. And the irony has not escaped me that I wrote about my reluctance to be in pictures, and now, according to HuffPo, my picture has been seen by over five million people, and I am going on national television. I am so overwhelmed, excited, and a bit terrified.

    But I too have reflected on the power of words this week — and, even more, the power of social media and women. Because look at how fast we can communicate when we want to!

    Thank you again. I’m SO thrilled to be heading to your hometown and a place that feels like a home to me. Hoping you, Denise, Lindsey and I get another dinner together very soon!

    Love, Allison

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Hey you – I was so so happy to see this comment come in this morning, but couldn’t respond as I was on an apple picking trip with Middle Girl where there was a super-strict no cell phone rule in effect. Anyway, I see from your great pic on Facebook that you made it here and that your little lady has already met some pretty major players :) Please do reach out if you think you will have a moment or two to stop by; I would really love that. I will be thinking about you tomorrow and over the next few days as you ride this crazy ride. I had dinner with my man tonight and we were talking about you and your words and how amazing all of this is and he was saying how your post really got him thinking, too. He has never avoided a picture because of worrying about his appearance, but he did acknowledge that he hadn’t realized how important it is to get in pictures, to document these years of our family’s life. I think it is so incredible that your piece has had such an effect on so many of us – women and men alike.

      I was also thinking of something else. You didn’t really ask for any of this, right? You wrote words, you told a story, and sure you wanted people to read them, it – we writers want to be read and heard – but my guess is that you never imagined this would all happen. And here you are, away from home, in the midst of a wonderful mayhem, but mayhem, right? Anyway, I hope that you enjoy this because you have done a good thing, you have made us all think and reevaluate. Again, I am awed by the power of words. Plain old words.

      Okay, I will quit my ADR rambling, but thank you again. For your words on Huff Post. For your words here. I look forward to more words – over a cup of coffee perhaps one of these days.

      Good luck on Katie – and everywhere else!!

      xxoxo

      • Allison Tate

        Hey — I was pretty much scheduled out the entire time I was in NYC, save breakfast at Sarabeth’s before running home on Saturday morning. I thought of you often, though — I was staying on the UWS and envying your life there! I am hoping to get back SOON and we will definitely carve out time then.

        And yes, you are right — I didn’t even edit my post before I sent it in. I actually emailed the editors and told them I knew I probably needed to work on it some more. I had absolutely no idea that sending that post in exactly two weeks ago would result in 6 million page views and a whirlwind trip to NYC to be on TV. It is absolutely crazy. The words from all the people who enjoyed the post or who think about the topic differently affect me greatly. I am still reeling from it all.

        But today I am back home, cleaning up dog pee and doing laundry and trying to get my feet back under me. Tomorrow I do Headline News again and Nightline is on tomorrow night. It still blows me away.

        Thank you again for your post. And thank you for all the support!

        Allison

  3. Like you, I was hugely and immensely moved by Allison’s piece. I have been delighted as I watch it spread throughout the blogosphere and then, the world.
    I have made a similar vow, to be in the picture more often – there are zillions of pictures of just the kids, and of Matt with them, but very few of me. And that has to change. xo

  4. This hit home. I often stay out of the pictures and recently one of my readers made a comment about a photo of my dad and I. She said that you could see the love he had for me by the way he looked at me….I have to agree. Important to leave behind words..and pictures. :)

  5. I remember reading Allison’s post and thinking, “She is so right.” I don’t usually keep myself out of the picture on purpose out of any fear of how I look. (Thankfully I’m usually pretty content with my appearance.) Instead, for me, it’s that I’m always the one taking the pictures and I feel so needy and self-absorbed to hand off the camera and say, “Please take one with me in it.” I need to do it more, though, because from each trip there’s usually a couple of token pictures of me and that’s it. … And that’s not enough.

    Thanks for the heads up on Allison’s upcoming appearance on Katie Couric. I will be sure to set my DVR!

  6. I think I need to get my husband to read this post. Not because I want him to get on-board with more kids (ha), but because I always tell him to take the camera and capture photos of me with our son. I hate the way I look now – I’m 20-30 pounds heavier than I want to be, my face has started drooping in ways I never imagined and I don’t think I look great … but, I do want to capture these memories with our son … to look back to see how I make him smile or frown or walk away … and if I’m the only one behind the camera, then only half the family story is told. Thank you for reminding me of the importance behind balance of family photos.

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