What is motherhood ? I have thought about this since starting a photography project that celebrates motherhood. I have captured 24 Mothers and their children at play, and in their favourite place. I had set a goal of capturing 20 mothers by Mother’s Day, and I achieved it. However, as I sat trying to create a portfolio of 20 images, I felt flat. I felt that I was missing something from the images. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I didn’t like the images. They are beautiful portraits, and I know the mothers are happy. They have sent me messages of praise and gratitude.
So what was I missing? I didn’t know. I decided to journal, and write down my feelings. I asked myself the question, “What is motherhood? “. The answer is complex, so where do you start ? Do you start at the beginning?
Motherhood is being pregnant. Motherhood is birth. Motherhood is breast feeding, and a body that never returns to it’s original shape. Motherhood is stretch marks, and hormones that have you crying tears when you are filled with so much joy. But what if you adopt your child? Does that make you less of a mother?
Motherhood is diapers, and washing. Motherhood is wearing clothes splashed with your child’s lunch. It is messy, and time consuming. It is cleaning up a mess, to turn around to find a different mess. It is washing dishes, and making lunches. It is snacks, and lots of time in the kitchen and laundry. But what if you are lucky to have a maid or a Nannny to help you in the house. Does that make you less of a mother?
Motherhood is teaching them to walk, and talk. It is bike riding, and scooter lessons. It is ballet lessons and swimming lessons. It is reading groups, and school assemblies that bring you to tears. It is soccer practice, and car pooling. Motherhood is a taxi service. It is dropping off and picking up. It is a car filled with kids. But what if you work full time. Does that make you less of a mother?
Motherhood is timetables, and reading books. It is teaching them to draw and write their name. It is twinkle, twinkle little star. It is reciting the alphabet and counting to 10, 100, and infinity. It is spelling tests, and homework. Motherhood is remembering how to do long division and algebra. But what happens when they know more than you do. Does that make you less of a mother?
Motherhood is sickness, runny noses, and vomit. It is headaches, and belly aches. It is scratches that require a kiss and a bandaid. It is screams of pain that make you drop what you are doing and run to them. It is broken arms, and casts. It is wanting to change places. It is sickness and disease, and long stays in hospital. It is hoping and praying they will find a cure. But what if your child dies before you? Does that make you a less of a mother?
Motherhood is complex. I wrote down all of these thoughts. How do I capture this? How do I create an image or a portfolio of images that encompasses all of this. Why did I pick such a difficult subject for my project? Sigh! I didn’t have an answer, so I hit pause on these thoughts.
My daughter and I had a backing date in the kitchen. She had found a recipe for Cookie Monster cupcakes, and asked to bake it. She baked chocolate cupcakes, and we moved on to the decorating. We made a butter frosting, and added blue coloring. We cut up cookies, and made eyes with white chocolate and dark chocolate drops. I followed her lead as this was her project. I admired her organization, and her creativity. We talked, and laughed. We shoed away the rest of the family who wanted to taste the icing. We were united. And then it hit me. This is motherhood. All of this. This ordinary moment in the kitchen. This special moment of togetherness. This moment of hair pulled back in a pony tail and no make-up. This messy kitchen, and blue food coloring on our clothes. This moment of being present, and quieting the noise. I sighed. I breathed in the moment. And then I put eyes on our cupcakes.
Motherhood is Cookie Monster cupcakes.
Note: images taken with the self timer.
image credit: image421 | photography by Cindy Cavanagh