As mothers, it’s not often that we feel seen, heard and valued. Yet our everyday stories matter, and sharing them can inspire others. Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves is a touring programme of exhibitions and events in galleries and online that aims to put mothers in the spotlight. The exhibition celebrates motherhood, explores the impact of mothering on our identities, and encourages mums worldwide to share their stories in words, photos, collage and film.
We’ve travelled from Britain to America and India in the past couple of weeks, and I love the way the exhibition is unfolding. The stories we’re sharing are distinct and universal, heart-breaking and inspirational. They connect us.
We all share fear and shame. In New York, Why Parenthood Sucks… Sometimes, Rookie Mom’s “I’m a mum and a…” photo was “I’m a Mom and… I’m afraid”. “Afraid I won’t be able to protect my daughter from everyone and everything… Why did I bring this child into a world that I may not be able to protect her from? The answer is clear. Because this is what we do.”
Totally Teen Mum described her journey to become “I’m a Teen Mum and proud”. “Until fairly recently, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I was a teenage mother. When I was pregnant, I got the stares, I got the whispers, I got the lectures. I was told “Well that’s the end of your life now then.” I hid my pregnancy with clothes as much as I could, and rarely left the house other than to go to sixth form…”
We share grief. Shobha at Nylon Living described her experience of being both a loving ‘supporting act’ and a mother experiencing loss: “I am a mum who is missing one child. Sadly one of my sons passed away when he was 5 weeks old. The grief was overwhelming for all of us. My twins who had just turned four didn’t understand how someone can just disappear forever. As a transatlantic family, we are used to partings. This time, however, there was no Skype, no greeting cards and no plans to meet up again…”
We’re all exhausted, and yet somehow we get through. Artist mama, Annie from An Eighth Shot of Espresso in North Carolina admits: “There are days when I really don’t want to get up in the morning. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. I describe the pain as like listening to a low-level frequency that’s just below your hearing threshold. All. The. Time.” Her poem curated from other mothers’ words captures how her children change her world for the better.
Not Just A Mum shared our first virtual exhibition on Facebook (no blog required!), along with a Mama Mash-Up that merged her son’s words with images of mothers. While Andie at Little Bits of Waffle’s lovely identity parade featured Wonder Woman and Sleep Seeker, personal favourites of mine!
We’re at our best when we ignore the chaos and count our blessings. At Raising Loveliness, Becky wrote “To me, being a mother who is blessed beyond measure, means that I do my best to let go of the worries, look beyond the chaos, and devote my energy and attention to love.”
We are all changed by our children. From India, Rads at Women’s Web described how motherhood has also made her a child: “I have realised that the child is indeed the father of the man. A child teaches in his/her own innocent manner the value of priority sacrifice, patience, responsibility and courage even”.
Back in the UK, Adele at Circus Mum added her word to the giant mums’ poem – Peace Maker. “Motherhood can require of you the greatest creativity you can muster. It can call out of you a place of peace you didn’t know existed. A mother’s patience is a powerful energy. There is no “just” about any of this.”
We are all connected. Betty Beston at Floodlife got us thinking, or rather, being: “Mindfulness is living in that present moment, paying deep attention to my children’s words, looking deep in their eyes, enjoying the snuggles and kisses, and embracing the chaos and noise without any judgement. In those moments, I understand what it is to be a mother, and what it means to be alive. I have learnt that the most joyful and peaceful moments can be found in only one place. Right here, right now.”
Betty also made a My Mum Story film for our Milton Keynes exhibition
We’ll be sharing more mini-exhibitions with you and we’d love you to join in and curate your own – just get in touch with [email protected]
Pippa 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.