Without kids, what pictures go in the album?

Daughters Day. Son’s Day. Last week, social media was loaded with photos of people celebrating their children. As if Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weren’t bad enough. I had to look away.
It’s not just hard on childless people. What about those who have kids but not of that gender? Or worse, whose children have died or whom they never see?
I understand why parents take and post lots of kid pictures. It’s the same thing that makes me focus my camera on my dog all the time. They’re cute. They’re ours. We’re proud of them. We want to show them off. We want to mark the milestones and the changes as they get older. I get it. I just can’t look at it too much before I start feeling sad.

Big yellow dog with white face seen in profile in passenger seat of a car in front of the vet's office.

Photography has changed drastically since I was young, back in the days when people picked up their photos at the pharmacy or photo store, showed them to their friends, then put them in albums, labeling each picture with names and dates.

My dental hygienist, whose life revolves around her kids, said no one does photo albums anymore. True? I hardly ever print out my photos. I stopped doing albums ages ago. My pictures are not even well-organized on my phone and my computer. No one looks at them but me.

Do people still display family photos in their houses? If I had kids and grandkids, I suppose I’d have their pictures all over the place. Instead, I have paintings, knick-knacks, wall hangings, and pictures of relatives who are no longer alive.

I do have a growing accumulation of photos of my great nieces and nephew on my computer, but that’s where they stay.

For generations, my family collected photos and put them in albums. I have inherited pictures from my parents and grandparents, most of them attached to black pages with white or gold stickers slipped over the corners. They’re falling apart. I also have my modern color photos on sticky pages. Those are fading. I have scanned some of the most precious photos to share online because that’s the only place I share pictures these days.

I don’t know where my photos will go when I die. Honestly, I don’t think anyone in my family will want them. But what a tragedy to throw them away. It’s like throwing away a life.

What to do with the photo albums and other family heirlooms is one of the sticky things about not having children. If we had children, I’ll bet we would still be preserving their photos in some way, whether in a traditional album, a Facebook memory book, or a fancy scrapbook. We’d be making virtual slide shows and videos. We’d want to save all those memories and pass them down. But without children, is there any point in doing it?

When my husband died, I mailed lots of family photos to his brother and his kids. But I still have many pictures of precious times I spent with him, including those days when I felt like kind of a mom with his children around. I’m keeping those pictures for me.

Life is so transitory these days. You take a picture, post it online, get some likes and comments, and move on. Is that just the way it is now? Should I stop living in the past? Does it matter that Facebook and Instagram are bound to disappear as technology changes?

What about you? Do the happy family photos online bother you? Do you save your photos in albums or hang them on the wall? Most of my pictures are scenery, dogs, or selfies. Without kids, what do you photograph? Do you have a photo collection? Where will it go when you’re gone?

I look forward to your comments.

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11 thoughts on “Without kids, what pictures go in the album?

  1. Dear Sue, I circulated your story among some of my friends, but not sure how many of them will respond. With much love and hugs, Shokee


  2. Oh Sue. I’m just over it. I’m on the verge of leaving Facebook altogether. And like you said, I get it – they are proud of their kids. But really? Daughters day? Long before there was a Daughters Day, when I was a kid, on Mother’s Day, I remember asking my Mom, why isn’t there a Daughters Day since there’s a Mother’s Day? She wisely said “Every day is daughters day.” But this falls under the “why” umbrella with why are children exalted in church but childless couples or childless singles minimized…?

    I did a naughty thing on Daughters Day when my friend posted a pic of her daughter and waxed eloquently about her as they are prone to do. I know this family well and I love this girl but something in me just rose up, and I typed every day is daughter’s day rather than the usual gushy fluff. I suppose I should call and gush for a few minutes to help smooth things over. No need to explain as they never get it.

    If I had a child and if they needed a day to remind them they are special and loved, there is something wrong with that picture. My kids should know 24x7x365 they are amazing and I love them no matter what. I honor my stepkids all year long in all kinds of ways. They know I love them. If I have to shout it to the world, something is not right with that picture. At that point, it is quite clearly more for me, than for anyone else.


  3. I have to admit, I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw “Daughters’ Day” and then “Sons’ Day.” More than a bit! Fortunately, it hasn’t caught on here – or with friends/family in Australia or Europe. So far.

    I’ve often thought about photographs though, especially as I like taking them. I made a choice that my Instagram (travellingmali) would have only beautiful or interesting photos. It makes me happy to look back at my pics there. I make photobooks of our travel photos, carefully edited and curated. I know that no-one else will want them when we’re gone, but we love looking back at them, and often get requests to see them after our travels or when others are going to the same destinations. I print some photos and put them on the wall, and change the photos around periodically. I do more with my photos than most people I know do with their pics of their kids. They post them on social media, then don’t do anything else. Rarely are they put in frames, or in books or albums. They’re hidden away on phones or laptops, sometimes not even backed up.


  4. This is the first I have articulated my feelings about this to anyone. It was a real struggle seeing my IG feed filled with posts of sons and daughters, I could not avoid the sadness and loneliness of being childless.

    Interestingly enough, I have always printed my photos and put them in albums. Although it was getting harder and harder to find photo albums in stores. Within the last few weeks though, I started wondering why I bother- where will they go when I am gone? Who will want them?


  5. In my private journal writing today I actually wrote about my old photos. All my stuff really. I am more prone to treasuring old photos of my grandparents than I am to take and view photos of my current family and friends. I feel a stronger link to the past than I do to the present and future. I do take, and post photos. Some I really enjoy. But mostly- it’s sort of a “brand” for my business.

    Recently we retrieved my sister from a bad situation. Her apartment was full of cheap, not well taken care of junk. Dirty and sad. Very few personal items, which is why I got emotional when on a forgotten wall in her kitchen I saw a few photos. Once of which was 20-something year old me, standing next to dad. My sister choose to display this, probably before the relationship and life got too complicated.

    My life has been transformative this last decade. It’s been a difficult period of time for me as I sort out some baggage. Being childless is really only a portion of that baggage. Photos from this timeframe make me sad because I see the dysfunction and the fake relationships that I was once so hopeful about. Many of these people are still in my life but in a different, much more honest capacity and that hurts. Sometimes those facebook “memories” really get to me.

    With new relationships I’m not so quick to snap and post pics. People I choose now are a bit more private and don’t want lunch dates posted online. Come to think of it – “I” don’t want lunch dates posted online. But I’m finding that as I slide into more authentic relationships I welcome and take photos – just for me. For us. Not to show the world how many friends I have or how great of a aunt I (thought I was) or how many parties I get to. My photos now help me to remember THAT person, in THAT dress, at THAT special occasion.


  6. Just the other day, I unpacked the last photo album I put together. It was from 2019. I kept photo albums for many, many years, but I suppose the pandemic ended that. Or maybe it was the realization that photo albums take up a lot of space and I already have too much stuff. So for now, my photos are on my phone. But, the funny thing is, there are hardly any pictures of people! My boyfriend is a good cook so half of my pictures are of our meals lol. The other half of the pictures are pretty much fabric, quilt blocks, and the occasional rainbow or beautiful flower I see on a walk.

    As for social media, I had to leave. Facebook became Babybook for me and it was just too hard for me at the time. I don’t think it would be as hard for me now, but it’s still a completely different life than what I’m living. I find that my friendships feel more real now because if a friend texts me a message or a picture, I know it is for me and not for me and hundreds of their “friends.” It’s more personal. So, for anyone considering leaving social media, my vote is it’s awesome. I don’t have FB or IG or anything and I don’t miss it.


  7. I hate all those made up days..daughters day, sons day, siblings day (I don’t have any of those either.) So many reminders of what I lack in life. I try to stay off social media because that’s all it does. It reminds me of all the life experiences and relationships I’ll never have.


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