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The Most Important Selfie I Ever Took

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Photograph by Twenty20

I'm an unapologetic selfie-taker.

I take selfies that make me look goofy. I take selfies that make me feel beautiful. I take selfies with my kids and my husband. I take selfies when I want to check and see if my new makeup or hairstyle really works. I love the #365feministselfie hashtag, and I love the selfies of my friends and family.

But there's one selfie—a truly important selfie—that I've never shared with anyone. At least not until now.

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I took it a few years ago, back when I was enmeshed in the chaos of the early parenting years. I had a baby, a preschooler and an elementary-aged child at the time. Each of them had competing needs, and each of them was so very needy.

And I was so very exhausted.

I think on this particular morning, I'd reached peak exhaustion. The baby had been waking up at night, every hour or two, for nearly seven straight months. (He'd continue with that sleeping pattern—or lack thereof—for well over a year.) The preschooler was getting into all sorts of maddening,though age-appropriate, mischief—coloring on walls, refusing to follow directions, hitting his older brother and tormenting his baby brother. The first-grader was having near daily meltdowns after school. And on that day, I had just wanted to take one hot, quiet, soothing 5-minute shower.

I think I feared that I might one day romanticize those early parenting years. I feared that I might soon forget how truly hard that phase was, and how truly hard those years were on me.

Instead, I barely had time to rinse the shampoo out of my hair before the baby started wailing and his older brothers began arguing. I had gotten a hot shower. It was anything but quiet and soothing, and it couldn't have lasted even 5 minutes.

There was no time, it seemed, for me. Not even to shower.

Reflecting on these incidents now, I almost find them comical. All I can picture from those days are my cherub-cheeked baby, my pale-haired preschooler and my toothless first-grader: cute, sweet children, not brain-destroying monsters.

Of course, I do remember that the selflessness of parenting young children often made me feel desperate. But I can't call up those exact feelings anymore. Now that my kids are older—and more independent, self-sufficient and rational—I don't feel so desperately selfless.

Nonetheless, on that particular morning, I did feel desperate. I felt as if my self had been scooped out from inside of me.

And so I took a selfie.

As I snapped the picture, I remember thinking to myself, "Someday, you won't feel this way anymore." Even then, in the midst of it all, I knew that one day, I'd sleep. One day, there would be no more 3-year-old tantrums. Soon, my children would all be old enough to transition smoothly between school and home. "You need to take this picture," I said to myself. "You need to take it to remind your future self just how you are feeling, right now."

In that moment, I think I feared that I might one day romanticize those early parenting years. I feared that I might soon forget how truly hard that phase was, and how truly hard those years were on me.

I took that selfie to capture my desperation. I took that selfie to create some permanent reminder of those heavy feelings—feelings that I knew were fleeting.

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And I think I did the right thing. When I look at that selfie now, I want to tell the person in that picture, "You did it. You made it! And you did an amazing job."

More importantly, I want to say to that woman, that mom, "Thank you. Thank you for reminding me how tough that time was. Thank you, self(ie), for your brutal honesty."

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