Photographer assumes we all have kids

The young photographer was bent on selling me a package of photos. I kept saying no. I was only getting my picture taken so that my face would appear in the new church directory. I had no need for an expensive package of 8x10s and 5x7s. Never mind that I was horrified at how I looked in the photos. So wrinkly, my smile so fake, the poses so unnatural.

“Don’t you want to give them to your children and grandchildren?” asked this 20-something fellow with the dark ponytail.

“I don’t have any,” I said.

He sat back, his eyes wide. “Oh!” he said.

Apparently it never occurred to him that someone my age might not have oodles of offspring. If my pictures had turned out well, I might have bought some to use as author photos for my books and blogs. The photographer probably never realized I did anything besides mothering.

It’s one of those things people who are not in our situation don’t think about.

I don’t get my photo taken very often. I’m alone a lot. Not a single picture of me was shot at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Most of the pictures I post on Facebook are selfies—and I’m terrible at them.

Once my own church picture was done, I took over at the hostess table, signing people in. My friend Georgia, who has a bunch of offspring, didn’t buy any pictures either. She didn’t like how she looked. On the other hand, a couple from our choir bought lots of pictures to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Some folks brought their whole families, including kids and dogs.

Between arrivals, I had lots of time look around. One of the photographer’s flyers said: “Seniors: Don’t forget photographs for your children and grandchildren.”


I picked the least obnoxious shots for the church directory, pulled off my scarf and my earrings and thanked God it was over.

Ages ago, when my youngest stepson had just moved in with us, my husband’s job offered a family photo deal, so we dressed up and posed in the spotlight. The photographer kept calling me “Mom.” None of my stepchildren called me that. I barely knew the child who was now living with us, and I was really hurting over the fact that I might never have children of my own. I finally told him to knock it off. My name was Sue, not Mom.

We looked good in the photos, but “Mom” looked slightly annoyed. The guy probably called all the women Mom so he wouldn’t have to learn their names. He didn’t know how much that word can sting for those of us who want children and don’t have them.

What are your childless photo experiences?


Thank you for your wonderful responses to my questions in last week’s post about what you’d like to see here. Most want stories about people who have overcome their grief and led happy lives without children. I will be on the lookout for those. Keep the comments and suggestions coming.


I’m preparing to publish my next book, Up Beaver Creek, a novel set here on the Oregon coast. PD, the main character, is childless. After her husband dies, she is starting over with a new name, a new look, and a new location. Things keep going wrong, but she is determined to keep trying. Then the tsunami comes. You can read an excerpt here. 


14 thoughts on “Photographer assumes we all have kids

  1. Congratulations on your book! I’d love to be a beta reader, and will if you are need me to, but I have so many things to read right now, I’m not sure I could do it justice.

    Sounds like the photographer wasn’t very good. Ugh. “Mom.” Even if I was a mom/mum, I wouldn’t want a stranger calling me that.

    I don’t think I have any specific childless horror stories. But like you, I don’t have many photos of myself. I need to try and do a self-portrait perhaps.


  2. One Christmas Eve my grandmother gave me a photo of her with my mother and my sister and my sister’s daughter. I was surprised and apologized for missing the photo shoot, and she said I wasn’t invited, that it was a “generational” photo, and because I don’t have children I am not part of any generation.


  3. Your writing this week really got me thinking. There are so many out there who make assumptions that include stereotypes. But somehow I truly do believe we are all family, we are all connected in so many untold ways. “Whatever happens to the least of my brothers and sisters, also happens to me.” In the past, I have drug my dog and whoever will agree to come, to share a photo with me….just because. Another aspect you pointed out that I think is important to think on, is the commercial aspect of church directories. The reason that photo company is there, the number one reason, is to SELL pictures. Perhaps that needs to be disclosed more honestly by churches?
    Finally, I must say, that one day while browsing quickly thru Facebook, I saw a stunningly, beautiful picture of you, Sue. I was in such a hurry, I don’t think I even had time to hit “like.” I have no idea what the source of that photo was, perhaps one of your ‘selfies,’ but you captured your inner and outer beauty so well that I can see the photo in my mind without actually looking at it right now. Don’t put yourself down, you are doing a great job of capturing the real “you”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris, thank you. That’s so sweet. If it’s the most recent picture, I held up my phone and took it myself. I know the point for the professional photographers is to sell expensive photo packages. They take a chance that we’ll buy them. I did buy a CD of the shots from the session four years ago. Those were great pictures. But this time, ugh. And yes, we are all connected. My church family often feels more like family than my biological one. That includes you, even though you don’t go to SH anymore.


  4. Judging others is an unfortunate part of our society, yet, it is one that I believe we are all guilty of at one time or another. Assuming that all women are mothers is something that until you live the lives those of us who are women on here have led, I don’t think many would give a second thought to. The only time I have been made to feel somewhat like you may have felt during your church photography session is on Mother’s Day. Very well-meaning people wish me “Happy Mother’s Day.” Some even have given me roses to celebrate the day. It is a hard day for me, as I can guess it is for most of us who had dreams of it being a celebratory day. My heart goes out to you for what you had to experience during the photo session.

    On a much better note, congratulations on your new book! That is extremely exciting. I have filled out the form and would like to be a beta reader. I love to read and have been a beta reader for many authors on Goodreads. What a wonderful accomplishment and something to be truly proud of.


  5. Hi Sue,

    Great post this week about the photographer. Earlier you were asking for input on what your readers would like to see. Thank you so much for the blog so far. I have appreciated the forums and talking to other people who have gone through similar things as me. I would really like to see a post about childlessness being the defacto relationship situation for millenials. It says in the title in your blog “parenting is expected.” Well, for me and my experience, I would disagree with that statement. My family told me to wait to get married until 25, and I was expected to go to college and find a career path. I was asked at an early age, what do you want to be when you grow up? Not, how many children would you like to have?

    When I got married, my husband was still in school racking up an $80,000 student loan debt. He graduated and had every opportunity that he needed to have a career and have enough income to afford a comfortable lifestyle and be able to pay his student loans. Nevertheless, he used the student loans as an excuse to “wait” before having kids. I asked how long, and never got a straight answer. This is a huge topic in other blogs and forums I visit. Millennials can’t afford to have kids in many instances, they are waiting longer to have kids, or just not having them. Real estate debt, student loans, and credit card debt are putting stress on the family. And the kicker is this: no one seems to care. I was never asked about when I was going to have kids. My parents never pressured me to have kids. I even went to my friends who are the same age as me and tried to talk about it, and they were like it’s so hard to have kids, you know, but it’s okay for us to because we have relatives in town to help us. I was like wtf?


    • Crystal, thank you for this. I may include it in next week’s post. You’re right. I’m from a different generation, but I see millennials all around me not having kids, not even close to ready for it. Of my three stepchildren, now all adults who would have children by now if they were ever going to, only one has had children. Things are definitely changing, and we need to talk about it.


  6. I am all for childless people getting professional photos taken of themselves and sharing them with friends & relatives (I have sent Christmas photo cards of me & dh several times over the years) — but this guy’s sales pitch was completely clueless. Ugh.

    (Somewhat) related recent posts from my own blog:


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