"The Mum Complex" - Thrilled to see @dseeland's write-up of Mother Plastic on @sternde Weitwinkel blog yesterday.
A few words about the project: I have two young children, two boys aged 5 months and 3 years, and I suppose the Sugar Mama and Mother Mary images are particularly informed by that. I hadn't necessarily thought of it that way until I described my idea for Mother Mary to a friend and she responded with, “Wow, that's an interesting representation of your experience of motherhood, Erika.” And it occurred to me that she was right. There's so much pressure on women to be perfect mothers – and among a certain subset to be perfectly “natural” mothers – along with all the other pressures to be “naturally” beautiful, to be successful in our careers, to be good homemakers and cooks and wives and bombshells, etc that in the end I wanted to poke fun at that stereotype just like all the others. In my case, with my first child, I tried to follow a course of natural parenting as closely as possible; I had a home birth, used cloth nappies, did attachment parenting (baby carrier, co-sleeping, breastfeeding), made my own organic baby food, stocked up on wooden toys, swore off television and access to technology etc etc, all of this while starting and running my photography business at the same time – and to be honest, even though I'm glad we chose to do all of that, I still often felt as if it wasn't enough. I don't know if other mums truly were judging me or this was just the result of my own insecurities. Because what happened is that all my ideals about natural parenting eventually smacked up against the hard edges of reality and a massive level of exhaustion (as it's all fantastically time-consuming), and eventually it all became too much and, despite our initial objections, we ended up with a house of full cheap plastic Chinese crap, disposable nappies, store-bought baby food, baby formula to supplement the breast milk, occasional sugary snacks, ice cream bribes and a dedicated iPad for our older child. It was after all this started to change that I did feel especially as if I were failing in the competitive mothering arena, while other mums had managed to keep up that level of natural parenting much longer than I had and maintained quite strict adherence to all of those standards, some quite pedantically. I found myself showing up at playgroups with a store-bought cheese sandwich for Oliver that I'd bought in a rush on our way out the door while everyone else had something like organic homemade roasted vegetable couscous full of produce hand-grown and harvested from their own allotments, and well, I wasn't winning any parenting awards among that crowd. In any case, everyone takes it all so terribly seriously, and while parenting is obviously quite a serious and important endeavour, I think we've really just got to keep a sense of humour about it. One part of motherhood that I wasn't at all prepared for was the real loss of a sense of self, the total subsuming of my own identity and needs and desires to this new role as mum, and I spent some time mourning for the loss of my old life and the old me. The Sugar Mama and Mother Mary, in particular, are me rebelling against all that a bit, satirising myself and a social ideal of motherhood that I found impossible to sustain unless I were going to quit work altogether.
Once again I owe big fat huge thanks to all the people that helped make the project possible - Dade Freeman, Dumpster Design, Black Eye Hair, Charlene Howells Make-Up Artist, Jacqueline Damelle, Frankie Kent, Beksies Boutique, RockCakes Jewellery, Katya Vezzadini, Flutterby Bakery. #mothers #parenthood #mums #moms #naturalparenting #stereotypes #motherhood #photography #photographer #fashio #kitsch #hyperreal