Putting yourself back in the picture

Blue Frame.jpg

Self Portrait, Acrylic on Glass

I had fun playing around with ideas for this self portrait. I wanted it to be positive, reflecting the sense of contentment and gratefulness I feel at the moment. I have so much to be thankful for, not the least of which is an amazing husband and beautiful son. So I chose colours that make me happy, particularly the floral fabric in the background. The image is painted on the glass – partly because it was fun, but also because I didn’t want my portrait to be encased or suppressed by the well-meaning protective glass… Yes, I guess that’s metaphorical.The one thing lacking is a mouth. I just haven’t found my voice. Of all the things that I am – a woman, a mum, wife, friend, colleague, student, there’s so much more that I want to be and so much I want to say. But my voice has wandered away for the moment. It’s probably found a hatter’s tea party and is busy pondering the all important questions of life “why IS a raven like a writing desk?” But that’s OK. I’ll catch up to it, eventually, and when I do, I’ll be ready for it.

If nothing else, becoming a mother transforms most women, in how they feel about and see themselves. Women can experience this stage as both vulnerable and empowering, as they negotiate contradictory feelings of separation from, and connection to, their babies and children, and work towards integrating their experience as a mother with their identity as a woman or person.

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Joys and challenges

Welcome to week 3 of ‘A Month of Mothering’!

joys and challenges

Motherhood has often been described as a roller coaster, with ups that are high and downs that are low. Experiences of joy and challenge are a part of most mothers lives, whether it be daily, weekly or over a year.

This week is an opportunity to reflect on specific joys and strengths and also specific challenges you may face as mums – often at the same time!

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Pop up Art Gathering for Month of Mothering!

Pop Up Art Gathering
Join us in person if you live in or around Reservoir for a pop up art gathering – to be held on Monday 15 and 29 of August at Reservoir Neighbourhood House.

This is your opportunity to reflect on your experience as a mother, stretch some creative muscles (as much as you feel comfortable) and connect with other mums who participate.

Please contact us for more information or to book at motherhood.unmasked@gmail.com


Society and Mothering

society and mothering

This week we move out gaze from the things we do, to the messages we get as mums.

We are surrounded by images and messages about mothers and mothering in our every day lives. In the media, social media, advertising, through the services we access (particularly health and medical), books and advice we read and via our families and other mothers. Whether we realise it or not we are constantly navigating ideals, norms and practices around mothering.

The way Mums and mothering are depicted sends strong messages to us about what it is to be a ‘good mother’ and to raise ‘good children’. Most often, what we see represented is a highly romanticised view of mothering (where mothers are still expected to devote all their attention to their child(ren) and love every minute of it’). A standard of which is impossible to achieve.

Mothers are expected to love and protect their children nonstop but caring, conscientious mothers are often labelled intrusive, meddling and controlling. Those who put their own needs first or work outside the house are at risk of being labelled cold and neglecting and because mothers are blamed for almost anything that goes wrong with their children, the stakes are high as most mothers want the best for their children.

Sharon Hays talks about what it means to be a good mother and agrees society and media representations of mothering are as Mum’s being nurturing and selfless at home and competitive at work.This pressure to be perfect is often demonstrated by highlighting the accomplishments of our children (e.g. comparing sleeping, eating etc) and creates competitiveness between mothers, where experts are seen as more reliable than other mothers for support and advice.

Mothering is increasingly constructed in ideal and perfect terms, with unstated assumptions that include:

  • no woman is complete without a child
  • women are the best caretakers of children
  • to be a good mother one must devote herself to her children 24/7
  • mothers need to prove and demonstrate being a good mother to other mothers.

Intensive mothering also relies on 3 beliefs:

  • children require constant and ongoing nurturing by their biological mothers
  • mothers must rely on experts to meet their childs needs
  • mothers must lavish enormous amounts of time and energy on their children (Holstein & O’Reilly)
  • Where Mum’s don’t ‘measure up’, they are considered ‘bad mothers’ and labeled so in the media and in the way mothers are treated in our broader society.

These impossible standards are the source of much ‘mother guilt and ‘mother blame’.

Use this week to observe the messages about mothering that surround you. It may be through books, media, social media, advertising, in art, how mothers are depicted on television or spoken about in social situations, or what expectations for mothers are within health or medical services.

How are Mum’s depicted? Is there anything that strikes you? How do you think mothers are perceived? How do you feel about expectations or assumptions made about you as a mother? What is your reaction to these messages? What type of media or representations of mothers makes you feel valued?

Some ideas?

Can you make a collage (just cut out images from newspapers, magazines, newsletter, information sheets and paste them, adding colour or texture from crayons, pens, paint, wool, household items such as cotton bud!) of images you find and collect about how mothers are depicted, what are the main messages about how and what mothers are doing/feeling/looking like?

Can you find some alternative views or descriptions of mothers that reflect your experiences of mothering? Why do you relate to these images? how do they make you feel?

Photograph advertisements that involve Mums or mothering 

Photograph ways in which your experience of a mother does or doesn’t reflect the images you see about mothering around you

Write a letter to:

  • the editor of a magazine, social media site, newspaper etc who depicts mothers in a way that doesn’t reflect your experiences of being a Mum
  • the editor of a magazine, social media site, newspaper etc who depicts mothers in a way that does reflect your experiences of being a Mum
  • the worse parenting book you read
  • the best parenting book you read
  • the most helpful health professional you have met
  • the least helpful health professional you have met
  • the ideal of a Mum
  • create your own billboard about mothering, what would it say, what image would  you use? 
  • your mother guilt.

What do you do? Every day mothering

Welcome to the first week of our ‘Month of Mothering’.

apples copy

We start with a focus on every day mothering – the day to day of being a mum, particularly the parts not usually seen or represented. Have you ever got to the end of the day and wondered what you did all day? Felt like you haven’t done much at all? Or wondered where the day went? Or have you felt that others around you can’t see what you do/have done?

Whether it’s the caring (care work) involved in raising your baby or children (nappies, feeding, settling, walking, playing, driving places) or the housework (domestic labour) washing, cooking, cleaning) or the mental labour (the keeping of lists, knowing where things are, who has to be where, ensuring they are ok) or the paid work (in the workforce, combined with mothering). Most of this effort is unrecognised and under valued in our society – still!

While raising children is often discussed as being important, on the ground where mothers live, the lack of respect and tangible recognition is still part of every mothers experience (Crittenden, 2010).

Little attention is also given to the everyday practices that mothers carry out on behalf of, and with, their children rather mothers are often judged by what they haven’t done or failed to do (Featherston, 1997).

Our aim is to make visible the often ‘invisible’ to you as a mother but also to others. Mothering, while one of the most important roles and jobs in our society, is still one of the most undervalued and we believe the first step in valuing what mothers do is to make it visible.

By focusing attention on the skills and strategies that women use to operate effectively across different spheres of endeavour (work in the home, raising children, paid work), we can understand not only how much and what mothers do, but that “being a mother” is a more complex, pliable and active state than is commonly assumed (Maher, 2004).

Some Ideas?

Count the number of feeds and hours it takes to feed your baby/child/children, or how many times you wipe, or clean up – can you represent this visually?

Write a letter to your day, what did you expect from it, what did you do all day? How did you do it? What did you achieve and how do you feel about it?

Invisibility – can you explore notions of how mothers and mothering are not visible? How could you make the work you do visible?

• How can you document what you do? In words, numbers, visually?

• Look around you and use some items you have to create an art work, a baby wipe, chux, old school newsletter, receipts, maternal child and health information sheet, odd socks, old medicine boxes or cotton balls!

• Photograph your everyday moments, the ones you don’t often record or see in representations of mothering (turning on a tap for a child, wiping their face, doing up a shoelace)

Photograph the meals you prepare for your baby/child for a day, a week, a month

Photograph the transitions between different activities, home and work, school and home, bed and breakfast, how do you make these transitions and how do you help your children to make them?

How many lists do you keep? Can you represent these visually? Make a collage or something out of them? A stack of lists after a week of mothering?

What do you have to ‘keep track of’ in a day? Can you photograph the important things that are held in your head?

Are there natural ‘sculptures’ in your home, piles of washing, of papers or toys? Can you reimagine these as art works?!