Keeping it Real, For All of Us

Elena Jenkin

Often on social media, we capture the beautiful stuff – maybe because we want to remember the beautiful stuff or we are trying to maintain a positive outlook. Maybe, because there is so much crappy stuff on in the world that we need space to look at nice stuff and happy faces as an escape from the misery. However maybe sometimes it’s healthy to discuss and share the reality of our lives as that might just make others feel better too, reassuring them that they are normal, that it is natural to have ups and downs in life.

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What do you do? Every day mothering

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

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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?!