Vancouver documentary photos | Day in the Life of the School Day Grind

When I was thinking about the kind of Day in the Life documentary photos I wanted to include in my Breakout for Click Photo School, I knew I want it to honour the busy-ness of life with kids, particularly the "running on a hamster wheel while juggling 5 balls" role that we as parents constantly live. What better day to do that than on a Monday (because who haven't had a Case of the Mondays...a little Office Space humour here!).

Enter The Ryce Family's Case of the School Day Grind

Cassandra is a stay-at-home parent while Tim works full time. Together they have four amazing children: Thomas, Lila, Audrey, and Eleanor. Eleanor has Down syndrome and requires much attention but as parents, their focus is always to make sure that the other three kids are also loved and cared for. Photographing on a weekday allowed me to document the most routine and normal version of their family life. I also wanted to show Cassandra all the moments that define her motherhood on a weekday when Tim is at work.

mom feeding her daughter breakfast mom trying to do her daughter's hair while she resists woman working out at a crossfit gym mom stopping daughter from chewing on a plastic bag mom crossing a school crosswalk with 4 kids a girl doing cartwheel in the front yard while her sister enters the house dad feeding his daughter dinner at the dining table little girl lying at the bottom of the stairs while her brother steps over her to head upstairs dad passing daughter wrapped in towel over to mom mom stroking her tired daughter's hair at storytime dad reading to his son at bedtime

When I finally delivered the slideshow to Cassandra and Tim, I asked them and their kids to share some thoughts about their Day in the Life. This is what Cassandra shared on their behalf:

“Tim loved it. He is always pestering me to be in photos so he absolutely loved it. His comment was that I make it all look so easy. Which is interesting because any day that he has the kids, the crazy shit doesn’t happen. I think he looks at that and sees me managing the chaos and coping and he’s proud of that. But he doesn’t understand the stress that I feel. Like he watched that and said “See look at you! You were worried about being home with the kids and not having help but you’re obviously doing it so well!” And I’m wishing he was saying “oh man, that looks impossible. I am happy to go to work and not have to deal with all that. Let’s hire you some help and maybe a girls getaway so you can recharge”.

And for Cassandra herself:

“Oh. That’s what I look like? Tired and overweight and frumpy, and in need of my roots being touched up. When is my teenage acne going to ease up and maybe leggings aren’t my thing. That sucks. But the more I watched it, the more I stopped seeing that. I began to see us and it’s real and probably, for the first time since having kids, I am looking at photos of myself with them and feel that what I look like doesn’t really matter to me. That’s not what anyone else is focusing on - look at my amazing little people and my cute little family. I love it.”

“On one hand, there is a part of me that sees this and thinks that I can do an even better job of being present and wonders if we are over programmed, and wishes I snuggled more and hurried less. I always worry that I am just going through the motions and do a great job of managing the kids, but are they feeling the love? Because I want them to feel the love.”

“I feel like wow, I do a lot in a day, and that’s pretty incredible. I just recently took a leave of absence from work, and that’s part of me accepting that I can’t do it all, and where I need to be right now is with my kids. So I see this and think, yes, it’s crazy chaos but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Thank goodness I don’t have to work everyday and I can be the one doing naps and baking muffins and there at school pickups. This is exactly how I want my kids to remember their childhood.”

Reading their thoughtful words is what makes my job worthwhile as a documentary family photographer. I wanted the photos to be an honest representation of this family’s stage of life right now and I am so glad Cassandra and Tim were able to feel the sense of busy-ness and chaos that are their weekdays, but also recognize that despite daily shit-hitting-the-fan moments, they are still showing up and doing their best everyday. And that is truly enough for them.

Here is their fusion slideshow:

If you are interested in discussing more of how to document this way for your own family or for others, please join us over at Click Photo School for the live run of Documenting the Unapologetic Life Breakout between November 21 to December 1, 2017.