And now for something completely different … Instead of the latest update from Boo Land, today I am thrilled to be taking part in Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves. As you’ll find out if you hop over to the Story of Mum website, this 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. Find out more at www.storyofmum.com/exhibition.
My task (and it was harder than I’d imagined) was to choose one item from the existing exhibition, create one item to add to the exhibition, and share my thoughts on these and my identity in motherhood.
So here goes.
I CURATED THIS:
I really had a tough time coming up with just one exhibit to curate. Coming late on in the exhibition tour, there’s a real embarrassment of riches before me. In fact if I’d seen how great the previous contributions had been I might have been put off joining in.
In the end, though, I plumped for this Mama Mash-Up by a favourite blogger of mine, Instinctive Mum. I loved the beautiful simplicity of this exhibit, titled ‘Creations and Creativity’, just as I love the beautiful simplicity of the instinctive parenting promoted on the blog its from. Combining a black and white photograph of her children and a vividly coloured painting of her own composition this to me sums up so many of my own feelings about being a parent.
For me, this exhibit says it’s not I do this, but I also do that. I paint, or write, or work, or volunteer, but I’m also a parent. It’s I do all these things. And yes, superficially, they might not seem to go or fit with one another. And yes, keeping them together and keeping sight of the bigger picture takes effort and creativity. But, you know what? They do go together. Not always (I have to confess that the messy drafts of the mash-up on Instinctive Mum’s blog were another reason why I chose to curate this). But when things come together, the results are stunning.
As Instinctive Mum puts it: ‘not quite perfect and a bit fragile (couldn’t find any glue to stick it all together!) yet it works!’
I CREATED THIS
When it came to deciding what I might create for my exhibition, I was tempted to do my own mash-up. Anyone who has read this blog before will know I often feel like my life is a mashed up, but not in a good Michelin-starred kind of garlic and rosemary infused mash kind of way. I’m talking lumpy, powdery, difficult to swallow mash that begs for gravy to take the taste away. But it didn’t feel quite right. First, I am far too undecided and greedy to pick just two images to sum up my feelings about motherhood. So the Identity Parade seemed like a much better idea. Besides, I hadn’t made a paper doll chain since I was a girl and it looked like fun.
It took me a while to sum myself up in the five dolls (‘Someone Who Thinks Too Much About Things To Make a Decision’ would have been doll 6 if I’d allowed myself one). There are lots of other dolls I might have made (caffeine fiend and peacemaker were particular contenders), but I think these sum up the main priorities in my life right now.
There’s my desire to fight for and defend my kids against the challenges of life, especially since having Boo. (I’m sorry I ended up drawing a male lion and putting a bow in his hair. Feminist academic me is cross about that but my lioness heads looked awful!) Of wrestling with the financial and psychic necessity that I work versus my desire to be the best Mum to my kids and carer to Boo. The fact that Boo’s birth has turned me into an amateur and hardworking therapist, as well as a runner (to get fit and fundraise) and a blogger. (18 months ago I wouldn’t have believed I would ever me any of those three things.)
When I settled on my parade line, I was surprised, and not a little unsettled, by the strong urge I had to mash it up by tearing down the seams that joined the dolls together. To show how torn I often feel. How I feel I don’t fulfill any of my roles (assigned or aspired to) as well as I would like. Thankfully, I put the dolls to one side and thought hard about whether Pippa would strike me out of the community for breaking the rules. (I know you wouldn’t, Pippa, by the way.)
And then it hit me how utterly stupid that was. What I like so much about Story of Mum and its community is the importance it gives to narrative. How it recognises the power that lies in words and stories. When I started this blog back on the day after Boo’s first birthday in April this year I wrote that I had started blogging because, despite the damage that words and labels have done to us as a family since his birth ‘I still believe in the power of words to alter perceptions and change realities.’ And while the impetus of my blog Premmeditations is, in part at least, an attempt to inform or change people’s perceptions of prematurity and disability, I also know that it has the power to change my views about it all too. And this exhibition can do the same.
The only thing stopping me from seeing the different aspects of myself as being unified, I realised, was me or, more precisely, the stories I tell myself about me. That I’m not doing enough therapy with Boo, or spending enough time with his sister or at my desk. It is vital, as Story of Mum recognises and actively promotes, that Mums tell their stories, that they are heard, that they can represent themselves. But it’s also important that they have the opportunity to question the validity of the stories they have been taught to tell themselves about who they are and what they can be.
I am Mrboosmum, and I am a lioness, a feminist academic, a runner and fundraiser, a carer and a blogger. We may not get on all the time, but we can’t live without each other.
Or coffee. None of us can live without coffee.
To find out about how to submit your own mini exhibition or find other mini exhibitions to visit on the virtual Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves tour here.