The Questions We Ask Ourselves—and Why Instagram is the Answer

AS MOTHERS, we question ourselves a lot. Should I be more playful? Are they watching too much TV? Are they eating enough good foods? Mother guilt is a strong force and if you're like me, these types of questions run through your mind all day.

 

But now I'm trying to focus on one question: If I died tomorrow, would this matter?

 

It may sound negative, but it's actually liberating. Just think: the piles of books and toys and laundry covering your house? The extra hour of TV your kids watched? The worry that you normally read one book at bedtime but maybe should read two or three? None of that matters, so don't occupy your brain with it. What *does* matter? All the little moments with your kids. The small, everyday moments that add up to big love. If I died tomorrow, only those little moments would matter. Only those little moments would add up to a lifetime of love, laughter, and time well-spent.

 

So I repeat: If I died tomorrow, would this matter?

More importantly, if I died tomorrow, did I enjoy today?


So when I don't die tomorrow? Or the next day or the next? When I look back on these photos, am I going to remember the dishes that weren't done? The day we watched too much TV? The week we ate too much pizza? No way.

 

I'll remember how he used to love to stack soup cans and was shorter than the countertops. I'll remember how her knees were always grass-stained and her tiny baby teeth hadn't started to fall out yet. I'll remember how he smiled with his face scrunched up and how she would tell him, “I love you forever, even if you’re in a timeout.” I'll remember how they used to always hold hands and pretend to be animals together.

 

I'll remember a lifetime of those fleeting moments—because I captured them.

Because I prioritized them.

Because I appreciated them.

But you may be thinking, "Ugh, social media is all about fake, beautifully-curated photos. It's not real or honest." To that I say: I disagree.

 

For me, posting pleasing photos on Instagram is not pretending I have the perfect life, but rather choosing to see the beauty among the struggles. Many of my favorite photos are from an average day, where there was no doubt frustrations about the morning rush, the kids bickering, or the bedtime stalling. No one's life is 100% sunny, but I truly love finding those moments that might not seem like a big deal at the time, but are the exact moments you're going to miss in the near (and far) future.

 

So, yes—I absolutely use Instagram to curate my life! With all the photos we take daily, will we ever go back through them and sort out the best, our favorites, the print-worthy? Probably not. For me, Instagram is an immediate way to memorialize what's most special to me—big or small. I look back over it often as a visual growth chart for our family. And there are any number of outlets to print them into a tangible keepsake, directly from Instagram.

Another positive result from the question "If I died tomorrow, would this matter?" is actually being able to appreciate the moment. Among the stress and elation of parenthood, my photography helps every day seem magic, even if only for a few minutes. As the saying goes, the days are long but the years are short and Instagram helps me slow down and find beauty in each day.

Simply using Instagram has enriched my photographic eye. By taking and sharing photos daily, I now intuitively recognize and seek out beautiful light, color, and composition. I also look at my kids through what I call a time-machine lens. What are the moments that so clearly say childhood or illustrate their particular age? What little details will I forget when they’re all grown up—or even next year? It doesn’t have to be major, like a birthday or first day of school. Again, it’s the little moments. How they hold their crayon. The face they make while eating ice cream. Their scraped-up knees in summertime. If you look for sweetness and beauty in small moments, I promise you will find them.

The more photos you take and edit in Instagram, the better you’ll become.

Here are my favorite tips to get you started:


  1. Get low! Kids are little, so where they are and what they’re doing is low to the ground. Crouch down, sit down, lie down—whatever it takes to get that great angle.


  1. Look for beautiful color combinations. A bright outfit against green grass, a vivid wall or building, sunny playground equipment, colorful toys.


  1. Look for gorgeous lighting conditions. The late sun peaking through trees in the evening, bright sun flares in the middle of the day, even soft, diffused light in a fast food restaurant. (Yes, really! One of my favorite photos of my husband and daughter is at dinnertime in a Café Rio Mexican Grill.)


  1. Look for simplicity. The focus of your photo should be your subject, not a busy background. Move around and try different angles to see what makes a more beautiful or simple composition.


  1. Try to catch your kids when they’re not paying attention. You’ll capture their authentic selves and smiles that way. My daughter poses like crazy and my son has an extra scrunchy “cheese” face, which are both fun to photograph too. But the photos that tug at my heart are those in-between moments where they are just being kids.


• When you take your photo into Instagram, edit lightly. Sometimes the best photo has no filter with just some brightening, warmth or cooling, and nothing else. Scaling a filter back to around 50% for just the right amount of enhancement is another tip. Lastly, crop your photos wisely. Take out any extra thing you can that distracts from the subject.

/ AS SEEN ON MAMALODE /

To put my money where my mouth is, here’s a behind-the-scenes of a photo from an average day that has become one of my favorites. This was taken in our old bedroom that also used to be my office. My son was napping and I was trying to work, so my daughter was watching TV. She was wearing her favorite necklace and a crown we had made out of pipe cleaners that morning. The backlighting was so beautiful—the way it lit up her profile, her crown, her messy ponytail—so I snapped a pic right there.

Here’s another behind-the-scenes of a favorite photo: I went to vote, and while my daughter was at school, my son had to be there with me. He was being a little bit of a terror, running all over the room and not letting me get much done. Luckily, the volunteers (many of whom were undoubtedly grandmas), watched him so I could vote. After I was done, I saw how he kept running in and out of the empty voting booths. (Again, a bit of a terror!) But the colors were very striking—the striped curtains, the mint wall, his yellow pants. I also love how it captures his age so well: his little toddler face peeking out, the ever-present train in his hand, his first big boy shoes.

I hope you found this useful and will begin to see mother guilt and Instagram in a new light. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them! (send to jp@threepercentmilk.com)

 

I'll leave you with one last question:
Is it possible to use this buzzing social media to slow us down? I say yes.

This article first appeared as a series for #dayinthelifeofmamalode on mamalode’s instagram. Thanks, mamalode!

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