June 3, 2021

Revisiting a past idea | THE MOTHERHOOD PROJECT



The vision for this project is to explore how society and our own inherited psychology impacts our experience of motherhood

My vision is to create a series of images which explore the intersection of becoming a mother, psychology & society. The photographs will be conceptual and include layers of symbolism and meaning and as such if given a label would be classed as “fine art”.

As a mother to a four-year-old, I’ve explored how motherhood has changed me and in what ways society and my own inherited psychology have played a part in that. I am continually amazed and fascinated by how much motherhood has fundamentally shifted who I am.

Through extensive journaling, I’ve attempted to peel back the layers of what it is that’s shaped my experience of motherhood. Looking at the beliefs and judgements I have held personally and the ones that exist in society as a whole.

My project will create an explorative body of work which seeks to look at motherhood in the context of the expectations which society places on mothers as well as the limits and restrictions women face as they enter motherhood.

My explorations will be rooted in my own personal experience of motherhood, reflecting on my personal journal entries which I’ve kept throughout my own journey into motherhood, as well as the learning I have accessed along the way from the many books, resources and research I have accessed.

I would like to add at this point that I am in no way a psychology or mental health professional and the information I share will be fully referenced should you wish to explore further. In no way is my experience or opinion one of universal truth or “correct” in any way.

It is simply my own lived experience and I will try and share the insights into how I came to the ideas & visions as I work through the process. I believe that in photography/art there are different ways to view the end result. Solely from the perspective and interpretation of the viewer and then through the perspective of the artist who created it which can yield a very different impression. I wish for you to experience both as I believe as we share collective experiences of motherhood it allows us all to develop and expand our perspectives and in turn perhaps our realities.

The affects of covid-19 and the national lockdowns have intensified the experiences that mothers were already faced with. I feel like the past 12 months have amplified the affects of what society requires of mothers (and other carers), the unpaid labour and the inequality of expectations placed on women. 

This project is definitely not intended to be a negative portrayal of motherhood. Rather a recognition of all the aspects of motherhood that women evolve and grow through. It will include a reflection of the very deep and personal experience which I have navigated and my hope is that others will share theirs. My experience of motherhood has been impacted in many ways by the external expectations I have taken on, which have themselves manifested in altering my experience and it is this interplay between experience and expectation and learned beliefs that fascinate me. 

There is more pressure than ever on mother’s to be and do more and in many cases they have less resources/support to do so. How much of this expectation we choose to take on is of course our own choice and what I hope to explore is how much free will I was aware of having when I took on what I thought society expected of me. 

Community Support

I will be looking for community support and involvement in two ways. 

1. I will be asking for some practical donations of old jumpers during this project as some of the ideas I have are based around the idea of inherited ideas/stories/beliefs that we collect from both family and wider society. I’d like to represent this using jumpers and the threads they’re knitted from.

 2. I believe there are universal similarities to the experiences of mothers, however I am also aware that there is a hugely diverse range of both experiences and interpretations and I would love to find a way to create art that has a collective element drawing on collective experience and voices. 

Through this project I hope womxn will share their experiences of their own motherhood both to share with each other and to allow me to draw on collective ideas which I can reflect in the art I produce.  

I believe that by coming together and sharing our experiences and sharing in the creation of art which represents something which we feel represents a part of our own experience we can see the rich tapestry of views and experiences that can all be valid and sit alongside one another as well as the collective experience of motherhood which can help us feel less alone with our own experience.  

I wish for this project to be exploratative and develop to be informed by a collective accumulation of experiences and ideas. I truly hope it evolves beyond the ideas I have for it in this moment, at it’s inception.

The themes

I have themes in mind for this project which I will use as anchors to navigate and focus my work on throughout the project. That is not to say they won’t be altered in any way. I want the process of this work to be experiential, I want to discover new ideas and influences along the way. So this list is not set in stone but simply a rough draft of the map I’m intending to explore.

The birth of the mother. – how we change shape physically and mentally during the process of becoming a mother. How our old selves metamorphasize into something new. With old parts abandoned and new parts taking seed. Looking at how our identities shift and change, sometimes looking back on the lost parts of ourselves and mourning the losses as we work out how the new parts fit in with who we are, and create an existence and identity for ourselves which contains these new parts of us that we could never have for a second predicted the impact and feeling of. We navigate at the same time a new world, that somehow shifts and changes overnight, new circles of friends, new external expectations, a change in how we’re perceived. We shape shift into a new self and this process from personal experience can take a lot of time and acceptance.

Expectation – what society expects, the deep felt need to live up to our own hope and expectations of the mother we hoped to be and the experience we hoped to have. The culture of perfectionism and perfect parenting and the volume of parenting advice (often conflicting) and the pressure of expectation that can bring. The patriarchy, feminism and capitalism all play a part in feeding us narratives about what kind of mother we ought to be. I want to explore what happens when we strip away those layers of expectation, what is left underneath?

Judgement – of ourselves, other mothers, our own mothers and societies judgements of mothers. I was overwhelmed with the amount of judgement I experienced once I became a mother. I journaled a lot on my own judgements, where they came from and the fears/desires that lay beneath.

Unravelling – the threads woven in the past, the inherited stories and beliefs that we hold that mould and shape our expectations but that don’t honour who we are and burden our experience of motherhood. Picking apart all the pieces that we’ve inherited, choosing what fits and works for us and letting go of what keeps us shackled and chained to a version of motherhood that just doesn’t work for us.

Forever tethered – the tethering of our hearts, minds and souls to another being. A piece of us now existing external to ourselves.

Love & Fear (the light and dark) – a love so fierce it shines so bright. Where there is light there is shadow. The shadow of fear, fear of loss, fear of hurt and pain, fear of getting it wrong, failure and not being enough.

The mother shadow – the shadow self of being a mother. The thoughts and feelings in motherhood that we push down and repress and prefer not to exist. The flip side of perfection and judgement. The parts of ourselves that we disown in order to live up to the unachievable ideal. The parts of us that make us human. The parts of motherhood that are a natural consequence of unique humans navigating a relationship with each other.

Duality – split in two – existing as ourselves with a part of ourselves now external with its own and often greatly differing needs. The constant quest to balance the needs of both. Juggling and reconciling the next choice and decision where there used to be none.

The unsung hero – undervalued and often forgotten, neither represented or considered. Often unseen and unheard. The parts of ourselves we’re expected to abandon in order to be a “good mother”. Exploring the heroines journey through motherhood.

What happened?

I created this idea and project and set up a website for where I would host the project but then I felt I needed guidance and support to see it through. That is when I started to look for ways in which I could create my project as part of something bigger than just me. I discovered the Masters programme at Falmouth Flexible and that seemed like the perfect fit for the place I had found myself. I have not let go of the idea of this project yet but I am open to the idea that it might flex and change as I progress along the course. I wanted to document my ideas here so I can reference back to them as I consider project possibilities.