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Guilt by a million bytes

If there is anything in motherhood that transcends generations and even technological advances, it is the guilt that we aren’t documenting the experience properly. I’m talking about mother photo guilt.

Our mothers’ unorganized boxes of photos, half finished baby books and empty albums have been replaced by this generation’s abandoned online memory books, forgotten “jpg” files on our computers and mobile phones full of images.

While our mothers lamented forgetting their cameras at special events, mothers today are usually within arm’s reach of a camera phone at all times. We are not only expected to document every birthday party and holiday but also all the mundane events in between. “Check out this photo album of the kids eating their pancakes this morning!” we exclaim on Facebook.

Last week, in an effort to help alleviate my mother photo guilt, I bought a palm-sized device that will hold a terabyte of data. A terabyte of data = one million megabytes, or roughly the capacity to store 200,000 photos.

Of course, the possession of a device that can store more photos than a mother could ever hope to take, even if her kids do win ribbons at the county fair and have cute gap-toothed smiles, is not the end of the problem. Just like the beautiful photo albums our mothers purchased with optimism, getting photos organized, labeled and into the thing, is the challenge.

I now have digital photos on CDs stuffed in a desk drawer, stashed away on my laptop, hanging out in “the cloud,” and on my mobile phone. And so a full terabyte of storage sits on my desk, waiting like an empty scrapbook for me to get organized.

In a way our mothers had it easier. The photos they took often lived on the camera for months before they finally got developed, flipped through and then tossed in a shoebox. And if you did have your act together, you created slides, which caused everyone you knew to flee when they saw you get out the projector and head for the light switch.

Mothers today are expected to insta-share the critical and not-so-critical moments of our children’s lives, including: the birthday cakes and the dinner casseroles; the baseball victories and trips to the park; and special days at the zoo along with every single time we sit down and do a craft.

With all of the obligatory documenting of our children’s lives, at least the result is digital. I think of the dusty boxes of photos that taunted my mother from her laundry room, and I am grateful that if I must collect 200,000 photos of my kids, at least they will all fit in the palm of my hand.





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