We’re now 35 virtual exhibitions into the online tour of The Story of Mum, with 15 more still to come – that’s 50 virtual exhibitions! Way beyond our initial expectations. So what have mums been gaining from creating and re-telling our motherhood stories, side by side? How might our experiences help you to find and share your own truths?
From campfires to Shakespeare to modern-day bedtime rituals, we have always needed stories to understand our place in the world. Stories that show us we’re not alone. That allow us to understand the perspectives of others. As kids, we role-play our stories with our friends. And as parents, we quickly learn that exchanging stories is a crucial survival tool in the face of constant change. Sharing our challenges, successes and failures, we learn and grow – or just grab that tiny morsel of encouragement we need to get through the day.
Many of us blog for the same reasons.
The virtual exhibition tour for Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves provides a potent combination of creative stimulus and context.
Before attempting to share a blog post (or a magazine feature), mums join one of several communal creative projects – their response influenced by hundreds of other contributions from mothers worldwide. Engaging our unconscious, the creative act offers up a fresh and insightful perspective on who we are. Finding ourselves, and great blogging material.
Each virtual tour stop then connects its writer to a global community of mothers, and to the wider public exhibition. A giant paper chain of bloggers and non-bloggers alike, reminding us that we all have a chapter to contribute to the eternally unfolding motherhood story. A story that deserves to be showcased publicly.
All of these are elements you can use to deepen blog posts of your own. Whose story could you retell and respond to? What creative activity might give you a different perspective on who you are and what you do (hint: there are lots of ideas here). As Jen wrote, our blogs are public curated spaces too.
As we open ourselves to others’ stories, to the links between us, we start to see the world around us differently: looking outwards to see within. 365 Pearls of Wisdom’s exhibition helped her to see her journey in that of her mother. While White Feathers connected her experience of mothering to the loves and losses of a nesting bird.
The latest virtual exhibition stops have ranged from Knackered Housewife quietly admitting her belief in the zombie apocalypse to Mother Venting’s magnificently foul-mouthed poetry. However, each mother expresses their individuality, each contribution will help someone else find their truth – whether they agree or disagree. And so Hollybobbs uses the words and photos of other mothers to communicate her hope of stepping from a darker period into a more positive one. The same gallery inspires Little Steps and Mum Turned Mom to claim and nurture their own strengths, rethinking their previous definitions of success. Trying her hand at a Mama Mash-Up, Instinctive Mum discovers she actually enjoys breaking the rules. While Mummy Gadget Geek is moved to explore a shared belief that wonder is the heart of the home. As I visit all these exhibitions, I am in turn inspired again.
The chain of stories continues as we reflect on how others respond to their shifting identity. Parent Tribe shares sadness at mums rushing back to work in search of a distinct self instead of finding themselves in motherhood. While Mothering Mushroom defines her new identity as a combination of self and mother. In the process of curating her exhibition, Live Otherwise realises that the blog she saw as distinct from her mothering is actually centred around it. The revelation: that motherhood can never be disentangled from identity. Just as what we write and create can never be disentangled from who we are. Instead, we learn our deeper truths from creating, just as we learn about who we really are as we mother.
I wrote recently about invisible mothers. About the importance of sharing our stories so beautifully and loudly that our daily lives, our living exhibition of motherhood, can no longer be ignored. The world needs to hear our stories, and that’s why this exhibition and your contributions to it are so vital. Visit the stops on the exhibition tour and be reminded of how amazing, unique and similar we all are. And if you’d like to take part, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves will be visiting the Photographers’ Gallery in London on the evening of 18 October, where we’ll be continuing our partnership with BritMums, hosting a networking event alongside our Mums’ Make Date. More information coming soon – we’d love to hear your stories there.