My almost-4-year-old snapped this photo of me. She swiped my phone off the couch while I was nursing her baby brother. Her little fingers moved fast to open the camera app.
“Smile, mom!” she cheered.
Without taking my eyes off little brother I yelled, “Please don’t take my picture! And put my phone down now!”
I didn’t even acknowledge her. I just snapped back at her request.
I was exhausted from entertaining three little children on a freezing snow day.
She sighed, slid the phone back to me, and ran off to play.
After the long day came to an end, I sat down to nurse the baby again and watch my favorite show. I grabbed my phone and opened the photo reel to send some snow day photos to my mom.
And there it was—the photo my almost-4-year-old took before I yelled at her. I stopped and studied what she captured.
The candid mothering moment.
The unflattering angle.
The way my top knot revealed new gray hairs.
The teething baby snuggled up close to my tired body.
Yes, I saw the tired face of a mom who feels like a failure when she recounts missed opportunities.
The longer I scrutinized the picture, the more and more mom guilt swelled up inside my heart. My feelings opened the floodgate to guilty thoughts.
My almost-4-year-old is growing so fast. She’s not a toddler anymore. She needs more of me. Do I acknowledge her enough? Do I spend enough time with her? Does she feel loved? I should have let her take more pictures with my phone.
To combat the mom guilt, I made a silly promise to myself to smile for every single photo from now to eternity. The next time she wants to take my photo, I will smile so big.
I kept scrolling through my photos.
And then I saw another photo. It was a candid shot I snapped from exactly one week earlier, another snow day. I drove my daughter to her dance class as white powder fell fast on the windshield. I remember stopping before we got to the studio door.
“Look at all this snow! Let’s take a picture!” I cheered. I studied the selfie snapshot.
The candid mothering moment.
The flattering angle.
The magical snow.
The happy little girl.
The mom who loves her daughter so very much.
Yes, I saw the big, bright smiles on our faces and fluffy, white snowflakes in our hair. Oh, what a beautiful moment.
Mom grace hit me like a ton of bricks. It hit me even harder than the mom guilt just moments before. Thoughts of love and grace flooded my mind.
I delight in watching her grow. I hope she always needs me. I want her to feel fiercely loved forever. Yes, on all the snowy and sunny days to come, I hope she knows how much I love her.
I am not defined by an unflattering photo on my phone or a frustrating moment in time.
Missed opportunities make for much mom guilt. But I am not guilty, I am graced. Yes, I am graced with so many snow-covered snapshots that fill my heart with love.
My photo reel will always be a mixed bag. I know I won’t be smiling in every single photo from now to eternity, but I can do my best to fill my life’s album with love.
Yes, I’m just gonna keep on scrolling.
Previously published on the author’s Facebook page