It is truly special when you can do your best work for a family member. I would like to introduce Margaret, a self professed dahlia-genetics nerd. She’s a cousin of mine who is brilliant, knits things beyond your imagination and is a thoughtful mama of three boys. This month, I would like to shine the light on her.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself, your husband and how you met. Why you decided to have kids. Was it an easy process?
I’m a biologist/knitter/dahlia-genetics nerd. He’s an attorney/chef. We both love kayaking and hiking and camping. We were introduced at a concert by mutual friends, a year or two after college. We hit it off IMMEDIATELY. That was in mid-April, and by August we took a road trip / camping trip together for a week, and were discussing kids’ names. Neither of us are particularly impulsive people, but it was a shockingly easy decision for both of us.
2. What is your secret to a good relationship? OR what is your secret to happiness? OR How do you want to guide this little person in the world?
I don’t know that we have any secrets, but we do have a really good relationship. We’ve been married for 14 years now. Open communication is important for us, and protecting our time together. I’d say the overarching rule in our family is respect. We respect each other’s time, and emotions, and bodily autonomy. (That means you don’t pick up your toddler brother and carry him around if he doesn’t want to be, even if he can’t think of the word “no” to say!) And when we hurt each other, we say sorry and try to make it right, even if we didn’t mean to hurt them.
3. Tell me about why you decided to have professional family or maternity photographs, and why you trusted me to take these special photos.
I’ve been thinking for several years that I wanted some really nice pictures of the kids, but I never actually got it done. I don’t know why we picked this time in particular to have you take pictures for us, but I’m so very glad we did. The oldest isn’t yet too cool to clown around with his little brothers; the youngest is big enough to hold his own in the pile of kid-bodies. It worked SO well! As for why we trusted you to take these pictures: You’re my cousin! That’s not the reason I wanted you to take pictures of our family, but it is why I knew you’d be so fabulous at it: I’ve had the great honor of seeing you in action, and seeing your work, many times over the years. The time my parents and I had dinner at your house, and after dinner you tossed them in your studio so you could try out a new camera, and took some of the best pictures I’ve ever seen of them. The times you took pictures at family reunions, and managed to not only wrangle our huge wacky family but actually turn out phenomenal pictures of everyone. I can’t even remember why I got to see so many of the pictures you took of survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, but that too contributed to my deep knowledge of your heart and skill with photography.
4. Tell me what the experience was like to work with me, and anything special that you came away with or learned?
So I knew a fair bit about your personality and how great you are, but getting to see you wrangle my three kids was a real joy. My older two are generally pretty easy — they love being talked to, even by strange adults — though both of them can certainly be difficult in strange situations at times. But my toddler is often really skeptical/withdrawn/indignant around new people. I’d warned you about that in advance, and (though it didn’t seem like this was much of an adjustment from how you normally structure your shoots, because of course you know that toddlers can be skeptical of new people!) you handled it like the professional you are. He LOVED you. He LOVED being photographed by you. We had to keep pulling him out of the photography area when it was time for other people to be in the picture! I was worried about the potential for meltdowns or crankiness or any of the other non-ideal things that can happen when you’re dealing with kids, and you handled ALL of it. I wasn’t surprised that you took beautiful photographs, because I knew your work and I expected beautiful photographs. (Though I was still blown away by the photographs, haha.) I WAS surprised at how fun and easy the photography session was!
5. Please feel free to include anything else you like that is interesting about you or your parenting philosophy.
Honestly I wanted to burn a lot of parenting books when my oldest was a baby. (Mostly the books on sleep strategies, haha!) They tend to have an attitude of “MY method will result in children who are perfectly well-behaved and successful; any other method will result in children who become drug dealers and thieves!” that drove me nuts. The most helpful advice I got when I was starting out as a parent was from a high school friend who at the time had three kids and was pregnant with her fourth, and she just gave examples of how she would’ve handled my particular problem with each of her three kids. It was a clouds-parting-angels-singing moment in which I realized “oh, they’re all different, and the same technique won’t work for all of them.” This is SO TRUE now that we have three kids. They’re all SUCH different little people. I have some strategies that I learned with the older ones that I can apply to the youngest, but so much of the time I just have to figure out what works for each one. People will say things about “boys will be boys” or “oh you have three boys, that must mean X” and I find those broad statements mystifying, because my three boys are SO VERY DIFFERENT. One wants to talk nonstop about social drama at school. Two want to run and kick balls and throw alllllll day long. Two want to sit and draw pictures or build with Legos. One includes top-of-the-lungs yelling, in joy or frustration, with most expressions of emotion. And so on. They’re just so different!!!
As far as how we handle three kids and two full-time jobs … It’s just a lot of juggling. It’s a lot of planning our schedules to know who’s responsible for picking up whom, and figure out which activities we can reasonably include. It’s busy! (And honestly my husband does most of the transportation and cooking, since he works in town while I’m commuting by bus.)
To see years of family photography or maternity photography and read the mothers’ stories, please click here or visit the Mother of the Month category in my blog.