MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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Childless By Choice?

Written by Annika Tornatore (Edited by M. Joy Rose)

According to a recent article in Psychology Today, American mothers are challenged to balance work struggles and their home lives with increasing levels of stress. At the same time, cultural messaging about parenthood often glorifies motherhood and does not reflect the inherent conflicts between the personal and professional. Some studies show that young women are questioning whether motherhood is something to aspire to. In this blog post, I question whether having children leads to more happy and successful outcomes? I do this by sharing the perspectives of young women who are intent on changing contemporary narratives about childlessness by consciously choosing not to procreate.

Motherhood presents fresh challenges for every parent. Those challenges can include but are not limited to, increased financial burdens, new time constraints, and balancing work outside the home with childrearing duties. “The biggest issue for working mothers is the idea that they must be available around the clock both at home and the office” (Ferrante, Mary Beth). Unrealistic expectations chip away at maternal confidence as new mothers can be forced to confront impossible choices- work more or spend more time with the baby.

In addition to juggling multiple responsibilities, new mothers are confronted with dominant narratives that over-glorify motherhood. In the media, in subtle conversations, and in public discourse, impossible expectations can take a toll on women’s self-esteem: “Whether it’s a pregnant character on a TV show or a photo spread heralding a celebrity’s rapid recovery of her pre-pregnancy physique, media portrayals of pregnant and postpartum women tend to be unrealistic.” (“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.”). These cultural imperatives are rarely achievable, resulting in negative emotions including depression and anxiety. A shift on behalf of media portrayals of perfect motherhood might lead to a more balanced perspective on pregnancy and post-natal realities. Perhaps mothers might experience less stress and more confidence?

Lastly, I would like to share two perspectives from women who are childless by choice. A Time Magazine article titled “Why I have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life,” by Stephanie Zacharek, chronicles her inability to conceive children. She has come to believe that she was okay without having kids. Stephanie writes, “My job these days, as a movie critic-is immensely satisfying, but it’s that much more so because of the freedom I have.” Her decision to accept childlessness has brought her unexpected happiness. It gave her a chance to explore what she was capable of without worrying about taking care of children. Additionally, the website, Cup of Joe recently published stories about women who determined motherhood was not for them. Wudan, a first-generation American, felt intense familial pressure to start a family. She shares her revelations: “I got to a point where I realized that having kids would throw my career for a curve. I’m a journalist who travels all the time, and I truly love my job.” Wudan was motivated to keep moving her career forwards. She determined that having children would cause her to expend energy on other things, and not on her career (Miller, Kelly).

I think it takes a lot of courage and strength for women to go against the norms of becoming a mother. My mother worked two jobs to help pay the bills. I have seen the struggle my mom endured to make sure that I have thrived. Women who decide to go against the norms should know that they can have successful lives without children. This may not be something people think about, but it is an option and it may well indeed lead some to personal happiness.

About Annika:

Hi everyone! My name is Annika Tornatore. I am a Biomedical Sciences major at the University of South Florida. After attending USF, my next goal in life will be to attend medical school. I aim to be an Anesthesiologist or a Pathologist. Although medicine interested in me for a short period, my passion for science and learning will carry me to encounter new discoveries. Besides medicine, I am an avid bookworm. Some of my favorite books tend to focus on a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. Dance and music are some of my other favorite hobbies. Dance has been a consistent passion and shaped me who I am. My favorite styles of dance are hip hop and tap. Furthermore, I aspire to travel the world. I yearn to explore and experience various cultures. I desire to learn from the people around me and hope to implement what I learn in my life.

I came in contact with the Museum of Motherhood, MOM, through an honors class at the university. This class pertains to the issues that arise infertility, motherhood, and reproductive justice. One of the aspects of this class was to partake in a Service Learning Project. This ranged from assisting in research to volunteering to writing blogs. For my service-learning, I chose an internship with the Museum of Motherhood. MOM has several goals that align with what I hope to do. The Museum of Motherhood aims to spread its messages about motherhood and family through art exhibits and blogs. I hope that through this internship, I could also attain some of their goals and spread their mission.

Work Cited:

Ferrante, Mary Beth. “The Pressure Is Real For Working Mothers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Aug. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/marybethferrante/2018/08/27/the-pressure-is-real-for-working-mothers/#40090a582b8f.

“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 7 Aug. 2017, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170807152604.htm.

Miller, Kelsey. “8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids.” A Cup of Jo, 18 Dec. 2018, cupofjo.com/2018/12/childless-by-choice/.

“Mothers Are Drowning in Stress.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Mar. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/201903/mothers-are-drowning-in-stress?amp.

Zacharek, Stephanie. “Why I Have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life.” Time, Time, 3 Jan. 2019, time.com/5492622/stephanie-zacharek-childless-life/.

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M.A.M.A. 37- Clipping the Church and a Measure of Grace

Art by Tereza Buskova – ‘Clipping the Church’

In many cultures, even today, new mothers and their infants are subject to a period of physical seclusion or confinement from the rest of the world. During this time, the support of relatives and the local community plays a vital role in sustaining the family by caring for the older children, providing food and completing chores typically carried out by the mother herself. It is hard to imagine now that things were not so different for the generation of our own great-grandmothers.

No longer restricted by this custom, women today enjoy the benefits of improved healthcare, education and childcare options, which grant them greater freedom than ever before. Yet the stigma and judgment that come with pregnancy and early motherhood linger, whereas support of the local community has all but disappeared over time. Today’s society too often adopts a patronizing, utilitarian attitude which blinds it to the particular needs of parents and families. As a consequence, many new mothers experience feelings of loneliness and isolation from their social networks, unknown to them before. Some feel actively ostracised and judged when they should be encouraged and cherished.

Clipping the Church is a project based on an old English tradition in which parishioners ‘clip’ their local place of worship with hands and bodies and sing songs of a celebratory nature. The overarching aspect of this custom is inclusiveness and Buskova married it with the representation of motherhood expressed by the act of baking and sharing baked goods with family, friends and anonymous members of the community.

Dressed in traditional Czech outfits, ornate with sensuous red ribbons and elaborate baked accessories, two women lead a procession via Erdington’s High Street. Their white skirts are decorated with flowery patterns and bunched around their hips, emphasizing the connection with nature and its fertility.  The work subtly harks back to the history of Erdington, which remained a rural area until recent times. Accompanied by two young girls and followed by a simple wooden frame made of celestial crust (sugary pastries based on an old Czech recipe) topped by a small figurine of Virgin Mary and carried on men’s shoulders, the procession was joined by a multinational crowd, old and young. All precincts vanished for the duration of the performance and the lively chatting was underscored by accompanying cello music performed by Bela Emerson, resulting in a festive atmosphere that resonated within the surroundings.

One of the most moving and symbolically saturated moments of the procession took place upon its arrival at St Barnabas Church’s gate. There, Frieda Evans, the parish priest and the artist invited the crowd to ‘clip’ the church. Despite its overarching religious connotations, the act of forming a circle around the church added a universal dimension to this Christian custom. The church, decorated all the way around with sourdough bread in elaborate shapes hanging on red ribbons from the building’s façade, echoed the human bonds created around the church. Prepared by Buskova and the community members, this simple bake became a gesture of kindness and generosity. With the act of sharing and consuming the celestial crust, ‘Clipping the Church’ was finalized. The custom was reinvented, becoming not English, not Czech, but an inclusive community act.

Image credits: 

Erdingtonia Series, Tereza Buskova 2016
Image Size 21×15 cm
Archival inkjet print with gold screenprint overlays
Edition number 20 + 4AP’s

More about the artists: 

Tereza Buskova (b.1978, Prague) completed her Fine Art Printmaking MA at the Royal College of Art in 2007. Her intuitive practices capture and renew Czech folk traditions through a combination of film making, screen printing and performance. Buskova’s work has been exhibited at Rituals, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2008);  A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2009);  Rituals Are Tellers Of Us, Newlyn Art Gallery, UK ( 2013); and Reality Czech: the Czech Avant-Garde, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2015. She has exhibited, performed and lectured in a broad range of different spaces including Lincoln’s Chambers Farm Wood (2010), Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014), and Erdington High Street, UK (2016).

The Mom Egg Review – Words
Measure of Grace
by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

The longest person’s eyelashes were ten inches,
or maybe six. I think 8. She lived in China,
my daughter tells me, who is nine, like the youngest soccer coach, in Barcelona, which,
she says, is the best. The length of your integrity
is directly correlated to your forearm in prayer.
If you want to be seen as a woman, wear a string
of pearls. If you want to be seen as everything,
make yourself scarce. Math is comforting, my
daughter says, because the answers are clear.
Meanwhile, the length of time between school
shootings decreases at a rate comparable
to the disappearance of the words “climate change”
from government documents. Or the disappearance
of ice in the Arctic sea, or honeybees from warm
habitats. Yesterday, Sudan, the last Northern White
Rhino was put down in Kenya. The buds that bloom
beneath my daughter’s breasts are harder than
I remember on my own body, my own breasts,
whose alveoli no longer make milk. If you squint
at two women, they can almost be one.

Caitlin Grace McDonnell was a New York Times Poetry Fellow at NYU, where she received her MFA. She has published a chapbook, Dreaming the Tree (belladonna books, 2003) and a book, Looking for Small Animals (Nauset Press, 2012). Her poems, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Salon, Washington Square, Chronogram and more. She teaches writing in Brooklyn, NY, where she lives with daughter, Kaya Hope.

MAMA_Logo_2015

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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Visit M.O.M. Today [CLICK]

VISIT MOM: Eight months after re-opening the Museum of Motherhood in St. Petersburg, Florida, the M.O.M. Art Annex has enjoyed visitors from all over the country. To schedule a visit write us: info@MOMmuseum.org. See just a few of our visitors here:

CONFERENCE: Our first “I ❤ MOM” Conference” titled Mothering from the Margins was a truly inspiring two-day event with a packed house that took place during Valentines’ week in February. We are in the process of editing and uploading content from the conference to the Journal of Mother Studies (JourMS), as well as crafting next year’s CFP.
COMMUNITY: The local Historic Kenwood Artist Enclave has been busy organizing of community events, including the Arts Walk last March. Their new enclave motto “where art lives” is particularly salient considering we really do live and work at the museum.

RESIDENCIES: Thus far, M.O.M. has hosted three residencies. In January, artist and activist, Christen Clifford arrived as our first guest and spent two weeks editing her latest work. She returned again in July. Also, we saw the first summer Spirited Woman Residency with Dawn Louise Parker who has been hard at work on her manuscript titled Forty-Seven Days of Love. Dawn continues to manage the M.O.M. space while editing her manuscript and we are grateful for her participation. In October, we will welcome Hannah Brockbank who will be joining us for a two week residency. Hannah is a poet hailing from Sussex, England. Her pamphlet Bloodlines will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2017 and she is a Kate Bett’s Award winner (2016). Hannah is a PhD student and will be utilizing the Demeter Library onsite among other things. Read more about our residencies here [LINK]

INTERNSHIPS: We currently have several calls out to local college students for internships for the fall of 2017. Our high school intern, Andres’ has been with us since the spring and is a St. Pete High School senior. He is hard at work cataloging our library and creating a new student exhibit for the fall.

ONLINE: In July of 2017, according to our google report 4,239 conducted searches and found us online. We are happy and proud that people are thinking about us. We hope that we can continue to expand in our new location. If you have ideas or want to get on board, please write Museum Director: Martha Joy Rose at MarthaJoyRose@gmail.com Introduction to Mother Studies classes will re-launch with a new partnership sometime within the next six months – stay tuned.

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The Art of Motherhood

Since immersing myself in the motherworld in 1989 I have observed the rise in the visibility of humans engaged in the practice of birth and caregiving. This visibility has translated into music, scholarship, literature, theater, and most recently a rise in fine artists lending their passion to making video, photography, paintings, and performance. I am thrilled by this because making the labor, love, and struggles of motherhood visible lends itself to introspection, observation, and contemplation of mother-work, mother-identity, and the ties that bind. Indeed, I feel blessed to have been born exactly at this time and to have been an active participant in this process. As Alana Ruben Free said to me the other day after an especially tedious and frustrating week, “at least we changed the world.” Martha Joy Rose

Please enjoy the beautiful work of Ana Alvarez-Errecalde here [CLICK}

“Birth of My Daughter”

Ana Alvarez-Errecalde

Ana Alvarez-Errecalde

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The Motherhood Double Standard

Mary_Poppins2

For my work, I am the nanny to an adorable “four and three-quarters” year-old boy. He is extremely bright, sweet, friendly, and funny. I pick him up from school five days a week, bring him around to his after-school activities, cook/feed him his dinner, and supervise his bath before going home. With his school being across town from where he lives, we spend a decent amount of time on public transportation. Every time we go on the bus or train, we inevitably make friends with the people sitting near us. The boy I look after (we will call him Alex for the purposes of this blog) loves to engage passersby/fellow commuters in conversations and tell them a funny joke, share the most recent piece of knowledge he has acquired, or get them to try and venture onto his plane of imagination. This also goes for MTA workers that we encounter on our travels. Alex always greets the bus drivers when we step on-board. We have even come to know a few by name. I have found that a fun activity to plan while waiting for buses is to have Alex try to guess whom our driver will be that day.

The other day, per our routine, Alex and I got on a bus and, being that we didn’t recognize that particular driver, Alex asked him his name. His name was Tommy. We introduced ourselves to Tommy and found a seat in the front between a woman and a man who, having overheard Alex’ precocious approach to the driver, were excited to meet him. Cracking up, they remarked to Alex how funny they thought it was that he had asked the bus driver his name. This started him talking animatedly to them.

At one point in the conversation, gesturing towards me, the man referred to me as Alex’ mother. Alex, being the smart little whip that he is, corrected the man and informed him that I was his “caregiver.”

“Ho, ho,” the man exclaimed, sitting back in his seat and looking at Alex, surprised. “Tell me, [Alex], does your mommy work?” When Alex replied yes, the man pressed on. “What does your mommy do for work?”

Though seemingly benign, the more thought I put into this man’s reaction/line of questioning, the angrier I became. I have come to the conclusion that this man’s reaction signaled one of two things: he was either judging Alex’ mom for employing a nanny when she does not work, or judging Alex’ mom for working and therefore, needing a nanny. Either way, both are emblematic of a gross double standard when it comes to motherhood in our society. If this were not so, then surely the man would have asked “Does your daddy work?” too, or even at the very least, “Do your mommy and daddy work? What do they do?” Instead, to him, the presence of a non-relative female caregiver indicates a motherhood gap, which is why his thoughts when to her immediately.

In the end, Alex never lost his cool for a second and went on to tell the man and woman how his mom is a lawyer, which is much more than I can say for myself in the situation. No doubt similar reactions like this will reinforce for him that people think it odd that his mother is partner at a major law firm, works long hours, and is the breadwinner of the family, especially as he gets older. My wish for him is that he will always maintain the same cavalier attitude when he responds, and that he will appreciate that he has a pretty special mom.

Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

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Community, Caring, and Education [CLICK]

Next_GenerationThe Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) is an exhibition and education center dedicated to the exploration of family – past, present, and future. We highlight the many roles of women throughout history and in contemporary culture.

In our museum space we provide mothers, fathers, youth, caregivers, and mothers-to-be insights into what they will experience as parents and how to handle it. We educate them about the emotional and physical aspects of child rearing, exposing them to different global traditions, and giving them insights into the context of mothering in the social sphere in which mothering is done.

Institutions can create a positive sense of community and an increased sense of connectedness. We share library books, films, collaborative art projects, and conferences, often at little or no cost to make cultural literacy available to those who might not otherwise have access to these types of resources.

The need for M.O.M. is highlighted by the work of the feminist movement, the gender agenda, and global women’s health initiatives.

Precedence for M.O.M. has been established through the initiatives of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the International Museum Of Women and the First Ladies’ Library. They are all positive contributors to expanding education about women in history. But our intense focus on the motherhood, fatherhood and caregiving roles opens the conversation to unlimited opportunities for exploration and documentation within the sphere of procreation and sustainability, not to mention how humanity hopes to evolve.

The development of a “Motherhood Movement” during the last twenty years as well as other mother-related literature and the explosion of “Mom Blogs” and awareness of the “Mommy Wars”, have impacted the vast social, economic, and cultural landscape. Thus, the expanded museum exhibit space and educational facility that we envision will be eminently worthwhile. Together we will be putting the subject of motherhood and family on the map.

Our long-term goals include the acquisition of a permanent physical space to house M.O.M. as we continue to develop our traveling exhibits and online initiatives, which include courses in Mother Studies, the MOM Directory, and the student run, Institute For Family Research and Development.