The Story of Mum: Stories we tell ourselves

The Story of Mum is coming to The Photographers Gallery in London, and there will be a reception with BritMums in attendance on the evening of 18 October.

We’d love you to join us for a drink, a chat and a “Mums’ Make Date”. There will be creative stuff to do, stories to share, and the brilliant Hollie McNish performing some of her poetry, including her interpretation of our communal Mum Poem. It’s a final fabulous chance to add your in-person contribution to the exhibition before it heads over to the Museum of Motherhood in New York.

Find out more and book your place for our Make Date from 7pm to 9.30pm here and/or join us from 6.30 for a special BritMums reception.

It’s FREE but you have to book a place. Reserve your spot now!

Here, creator of Story of Mum Pippa Best tells us about the latest with the project:

perfectly imperfect

Have Kids Still Tripping

Whose stories define us? Are we more than the advertisers, archetypes, politicians and journalists say we are? Are we more than “working mums” and “stay at home mums”, “single mums” and “young mums”? More than evil stepmothers, bad mothers, tiger-moms and MILFs? More than a post-baby body problem to be solved? Or a mother with mummy-brain, looking mumsy on her mums’ night out?

Of course we are. Our mothering stories are more complex, more poignant, more heart-breaking, more legendary (as Alexander Residence so beautifully identifies in her virtual tour post). Our Story of Mum virtual exhibition has demonstrated that wholeheartedly.

For this final virtual tour round up, I’m asking why we don’t believe it. Why do we still question if we are enough? If our particular story, our unique expression of mothering, is good enough?

Because those limiting labels are the default stories. We know that if you always tell a child that they are naughty, they’ll be naughty. If you read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt every bedtime, you’ll start reciting random lines as you go about your daily business. In the same way, that diminishing notion of being ‘just’ a mum or simply a ‘stay-at-home’ mum (I mean, really, could you parent a child if you only ever stayed in your house?) becomes a part of us. It becomes a story that others tell, and that we tell ourselves. And mostly we don’t even notice.

Unconsciously, we feel that we shouldn’t be more than those limiting stories say we are. A notion confusingly combined with an equally impactful pressure to have and be it all.

mammasaurus mashup

Mammasaurus

Premmeditations’ exhibition reminds us to question those stories we accept about who we are and what we can be. To over-ride the guilt identified by Mothers Milk Books an ever-present subconscious human companion”. We feel guilty for staying at home, guilty for working, guilty for living down to the labels, or for failing to live up to the impossible expectations.

So how do we change the story, and in turn our sense of self? By creating opportunities to share our stories. As Eggdipdip says, even that which seems mundane to us can be inspiring to others. Like Hello It’s Gemma, we might be frightened of sharing. But her moving My Mum Story film, like the others we’ve seen, proves that when we step into the fear and open a door to our reality, our challenges, our mistakes, we remind someone else that they are not alone, and help point the way to a more positive future.

And so while Mammasaurus worries that she is someone that ‘high-achieving’ women would scream at in frustration, she also describes how motherhood has given her the experience and perspective to accept herself. The Reading Residence talks of realising her importance through the eyes of her children, and relaxes into ‘being me’. Pouch reframes herself as a decision maker instead of a worrier. And motherhood finally allows Have Kids Still Tripping to embrace being perfectly imperfect.

identity-parade reading residence

The Reading Residence

As we join the virtual tour, and as we blog, we are rewriting those past stories. Instead of the labels, a set of limitations, or impossible expectations, together we can fill our minds with the stories we want to live.

That means sharing our reality, and listening out for the stories all around us. Those told by people who don’t want to sell us something. That may be the stories of TigerLilly Quinn’s historic lineage of mothers giving birth aged 26. Or Honest Mums’ film of her mothers life, one that has played a huge part in her own story. It may be the stories of those who care for us – like Café Stepmom’s commitment to family, faith in love not blood. Or in the heart-melting power of our first virtual tour post from a dad, where Mutterings of a Fool shared a poem to his wife.

girl by ocean

A Residence

Our virtual exhibition has been inspiring and insightful, full of stories of how motherhood has changed us for the better, despite or because of its challenges, with all of our failures and imperfections. His Feminist Mama captures it beautifully in her My Mum Story poem when she writes “we were entwined in your awakening”. As our children awaken, so do we.

There is no default story. There are only our stories. Each of us awaken in our own way. We define who we are and what we believe about ourselves.

Listen to the stories around you. And share your story with us. Your very own label-free limitless mistake-filled story, from your perfectly imperfect heart.

 

pippa bestPippa Best is the co-founder of Story of Mum, an online community of brave supportive mamas doing uplifting, thought-provoking, slightly silly creative things together to celebrate the ups and downs of motherhood. They host monthly creative challenges at storyofmum.com, and #somum Make Dates on twitter to discover different ways to connect and share our stories. I live with my surf-obsessed husband, 2 year old daughter and 5 year old son in a chaotic sticky-floored house in Cornwall. Things that make me feel good: the sea, chocolate, zumba, yoga, puddle-jumping, tea on the prom, and making me-time for mums.

 

 

 

 

 

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About Jennifer Howze

Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.

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3 Responses to The Story of Mum: Stories we tell ourselves

  1. Pippa 01 October 2013 at 18:58 #

    The virtual tour has been such an incredible experience, thank you so much for all your support, BritMums! We’ve also had some more amazing My Mum Story films made in the meantime for our Penzance Make Date (find out more here: http://storyofmum.com/content/under-busy-ness-heart-penzance-exhibition-2228) and can’t wait to bring you some more moving and insightful mum-stories in London – see you all in October!

  2. pouch 01 October 2013 at 20:29 #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am so glad I found the Story of Mum website via Twitter! I love everything it stands for and have enjoyed reading all the posts in the virtual exhibition. I was really pleased to be asked to be involved and it made me write the most honest piece I’ve ever published on my blog. Story of Mum has lead me to so many other inspiring blogs and so many inspiring women. I think Story of Mum allows us to accept ourselves & helps us to feel part of a strong community.

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  1. Could you pick ten photos to tell your mum story so far? | Wordsby amyibeeson - 10 October 2013

    […] Shelina Janmohamed and Emma Murphy) sharing their short video self portraits. There’s also a Britmums networking event at 6.30pm before the exhibition kicks off from 7pm. Plus the very talented Hollie […]