Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Story of Mum

story of mum exhibitionI was introduced to a this great website "Story of Mum" and exhibit by an inspiring woman I met, Joy Rose, Executive Director of The Museum of Motherhood located in upper Manhattan, New York.  Though the site features our fellow "mums" in the UK, the issues of motherhood are universal.

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 program of exhibitions and events in galleries and online that aims to put mothers in the spotlight. 

BritMums - Leading the ConversationThe 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 

Parallel to the real life events, a virtual exhibition is travelling round the world, stopping for mini exhibitions on blogs - like mine! Participants are asked to choose items from the existing exhibition, create one item to add to the exhibition, and share their thoughts on these and their identity in motherhood. I'm proud to be a part of this important work of art and house it here on my blog.  Here is my exhibition: 

  I Curated This:
I selected two photos that resonated with me from the "I"m a Mum and a...." gallery where women complete the sentence with one or multiple words in a photo.

I'm a Mum and I'm Trying My Best!
Even though this mom looks very happy and has lovely manicured fingernails, I know she is likely tired, feels like her house is never clean, and like she is treading only slightly above the choppy waters of parenthood.  When every hour of every day asks you to be so many things, all you can say as a mom is that you are trying to do your best, celebrate small victories, and forgive yourself daily for the ones that you don't achieve.

I'm a Mum and A Non-Stop Worrier!
This mom's photo reminded me of  a recent discussion I had with a friend about how the anxiety of motherhood is endless.  I remember feeling completely anxious the first time I took my daughter for  walk a few weeks after her birth.  She was no more than a foot in front of me, lying snuggling in her stroller, but the inability for me to simply touch my tummy and know that she was safe struck me.  From wondering if she is warm enough, has had enough to eat, if she will be okay because she hasn't pooped in four days, to whether or not kids are sharing with her on the playground, I know this energy of worry will be something that stays with me for the rest of my life and will continue to fuel whatever is making my hair grow grayer by the minute.

I Created This:

I'm a Mom and I'm Afraid
I keep having the most frightening dream.  My husband and I somehow decide to leave our apartment with our daughter sleeping in her room alone for hours.  We are out having a good time when I realize its late and she probably woke up.  I start to panic thinking no one is there with her.  That she is screaming for us and scared.   We quickly hop in the car but it doesn't move so we get out and walk through thick, tall snow.  Its taking too long and I am calling for someone to help and they don't.   I imagine how terrified my daughter is as I answer my ringing cell phone.  Its my husband who somehow got ahead of me.   "Why did I do this?" I scream at him, my voice loud and shaky,  "How can I do this?"  I'm confused and know even in my dream this is something I wouldn't do.  He tells me his sister is there and I'm relieved but when I ask him if our daughter is okay his voice turns somber.  The fear and guilt well up in my chest and pull me out of the dream.  I'm sweating, back in my bed, my daughter safely asleep in hers. The anxiety is palpable and lingering around me as I catch my breathe.

I'm a mother and I'm afraid.  Afraid I won't be able to protect my daughter from everyone and everything.  While I am so many things:  a worker, daughter, wife, cleaner, errand runner, class parent, I am fearful that the one last sliver of energy I have, the most important job of being a mother, will somehow not get my 100% in the moment its needed most.  My dream can represent so many things and so many insecurities I face as a parent.  But the biggest issue I see when I recall these images is the lack of control.  The lack of control you inevitably have as a mother once the child leaves your womb.  From natural disasters to the unthinkable happening in classrooms  I start to ask: Why did I do this?  Why did I bring this child into a world that I may not be able to protect her from?  But I know the answer is clear.  Because that is what we do.  We are not complete without our children.  Motherhood is our evolutionary right and blessing.  And though bad things happen we have to bury the fear in order to grow and experience the depth and beauty of love.

I am a mom.  I am afraid.  I will likely not stop being afraid for my child's safety for the rest of her life.  And I'm certain I'm not the only one.

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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Princess Story

My daughter has gone to the bathroom three times without a fight today. It's the attempt before bed that is always tricky.  She is playing with her Little People Disney Princesses in the living room.  They are her besties.  She can often be seen toting at least five of them together at once. Mastering the under the chin carry of multiple objects at a young age.

"Come on its time to get one last princess sticker before bed!" I say, reminding my daughter of the super cool reward she gets for going to the potty.  She is playing and doesn't want to stop, which I get.  Her pretend scenarios have gotten much more imaginative and lengthy and thus can't be easily interrupted.  So I figure we can bring the party to the bathroom. "Does someone want to help pick a princess sticker?" I ask with an inviting tone," Come on, who is coming?"  This puts her in a frenzy as she makes her selection.  She grabs only three princesses that are near and scurries down the hall.

She steps up on her princess stool and scoots onto the potty. I assemble her fan base on the edge of the sink. Aurora, Belle, and Snow White are eagerly awaiting what will come next.  I give them some vocals to enhance the excitement.
"Come on let's do this!" Snow White exclaims.
"I'm so excited!" says Aurora.
"Let's do pee pee!" Belle shouts.
I'm tired and feel silly, knowing this is just another act of desperation.  This will go down as it usually does.  She brings friends to the bathroom, plays with them, forgets her mission, and demands off the potty without any result.  We then argue about the sticker reward and I eventually give in with a half ass negotiation because this is the most frustrating parenting task I have to date.  I look at the Pampers in the corner and wonder if we can go on a cruise with the mounting reward points.

But tonight, something unexpected happens.   My daughter gets into it.  She takes over and Snow White is soon shouting her name along with "Go girl!"  She voices each of the princesses with a different cheer, surprising me with phrases of which I question the origin.  No matter,  I'm excited.  This new tactic is working.

"Okay girls, lets all be quiet so we can hear the pee pee,"  I instruct the princesses, in fear she will get too excited and again forget the task at hand.  But my daughter is in full on pretend mode and insists I hold Aurora so I can "talk to her" which means make her talk.  Now we are going back and forth cheering her on in princess voices that range from slightly high to obnoxiously high.

"She's doing it!" Snow White says and is now peering through my daughter's legs.  She spreads them a bit and I quickly warn Snow White not to get too close and end up in the potty.

"Come on Aurora, " my daughter instructs, motioning to me, "She has to see too."
"Yeah, come on Aurora," Belle taunts and joins Snow White at the thigh.   Now the three of them are staring at my child's crotch, assisted by both her and my hands.  Each time I hear the trickle of urine in the toilet she stops and makes all the princesses cheer.  I curse myself for leaving my phone in the other room as this photo opportunity passes.  This will likely go down as one of the funniest parent moments of all time.

"Come on girls lets all be quiet and listen to the pee pee," I kindly nudge, worried about a potential UTI as my daughter starts and stops.  Snow White gets excited and Belle tells her to "Shhhhh!  Be quiet!" and pets her head.  They argue for another minute or two.  Everyone is jazzed up over the excitement.

The princesses all stare into the darkness of the potty.  My daughter watches too, her chin touching her chest. I'm pleased as more, long streams of pee are heard falling into the toilet. More cheers and shushing follow until my daughter finally says, "I'm all done!"

"Okay ladies, let's get back up on the ledge," I say and my daughter puts Snow White, Belle, and Aurora back on the sink.   I help her up, we all say goodbye to pee pee with the ceremonial flush and slip on another "practice panty."
"Alright let's pick out a princess sticker, who is helping?" I ask, continuing this feeling of camaraderie and reach for the sheet above the potty.  Naturally everyone wants to be a part of the fun.  My daughter grabs her friends.
"I'll help!" Snow White says.
"And I can help too?" Belle asks.
"And you can pick my sticker too?" Aurora asks.  I'm overwhelmed and want to stand firm to the two sticker for pee pee rule but I'm clearly outnumbered.  Luckily Belle gets side tracked so only two stickers are picked.  My daughter runs to the hallway and places them on her chart.

"Good job." My husband smiles at me from our bedroom door."Keep it up," he says.   My knees are sore along with my back from squatting but I feel proud and accomplished.  For tonight our small kingdom will celebrate this victory.  Bedtime will hopefully go smoothly and a nice, restful slumber will follow so we can all gear up for the continued journey that is potty training and look forward to our happily ever after.