Representations of Motherhood

Lindsey Pinkston

Novels - Orphan Train

Orphan Train portrays a few different motherly roles throughout the book. Each motherly role had a different impact on Molly and Vivian’s lives. The first motherly role is that of the birth mother. This is the most vacant of the motherly role’s that are played in both Molly and Vivian’s lives. Molly is not an orphan due to a death of her parents, she is an orphan from her birth mother allowing her role to become vacant and Vivian lost her mother to a fire not too long after moving to America. The second motherly portrayal is that of Molly and Vivian’s foster mom experiences. Both Molly and Vivian experienced horrendous foster mothers, but ultimately found a place that accepted them for who they were.The third motherly role is that of Vivian. Vivian and Molly connected in such a vulnerable and sweet way that ultimately changed both of their lives. Vivian walks through life with Molly and eventually takes her in when Dina kicks her out.

The Orphan Train HD


This section was interesting because of many different types of mothers. It's easy to only believe that the the media, particularly news outlets, are the biggest and most powerful portrayer of motherhood, but I have learned that this is incorrect. Films display motherhood in countless ways, but we also see that depending on the year it was produced plays a large role in what the mother will be like. All in all this section was highly intriguing, and has given me new eyes as to what to look for in films when it comes to motherhood.


This was one of my favorite projects we did this semester. I chose to analyze three of my favorite mothers from TV shows that aired in the same decade. I couldn't believe I had never realized how different all of these motherly roles were. It was interesting to see that the way their children responded to their mother was based off of particular parenting habits. There really is a "you reap what you sow" aspect to it. Though all of these mothers were very different, and had different struggles than others, we consistently see that in the end they truly do want what is best for their child.


I learned so much about the different types of mothers in this world through "mothers in the news" this semester. The reality of some mothers capability to dehumanize a child by killing them, injuring them or even emotionally abusing them, is heart breaking. Most people you know personally don't have stories of harmful parents, which makes it easy for us to forget about it. This topic has really stirred a passion in my heart to seek justice for these kids who do not have a voice for what's being done to them. That being said, there were also some happy and silly stories shared that can only make you laugh at what some mothers are willing to do for their children.


Advertisements are constantly portraying motherhood in some form or fashion. Whether it's cleaning, cooking, working or taking care of her family, she is displayed in a way that tells the world who mothers are. Through the advertisement project I gained the realization that mothers often feel that they can hardly relate to these advertisements. They feel that motherhood is portrayed as easy and fun or negative and frustrating. It makes me wonder why advertisement continue to create the things they do knowing that mothers automatically see it as fraud. It also pushes me to believe that advertisements cause under appreciation for mothers due to their poor portrayal of motherhood.
Bounty Commercial
Prevent Child Abuse - "Stressed Mom" (PSA, 1985)


I couldn't believe the amount of change there was in the portrayal of motherhood over the years. From mothers who were only good for cooking and cleaning to mothers who are also bosses and seem to be ruling the world. The change over time is shocking and bewildering. If mothers were portrayed the way they were 60 years ago, the media would throw a fit that someone would discriminate motherhood in that way. I also found it interesting to see that there were years when women were viewed as highly intelligent and the magazines were filled with highly intellectual knowledge. This, I believe, is the proper way to display the mothers of today.

The Feminine Mystique

Studying this story really moved my heart for the women and mothers of that day in age. It's hard to imagine that woman were suffering from depression and loneliness because they weren't being given the opportunity to choose their own life. Decisions were made for them or they were pressured into believing that a certain way was the best way for them to live. I respect Friedan's boldness in criticizing this society that was treating women so poorly. There was fearlessness in the way she approached it and freedom that came from her willingness to do so.
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Disney Films

I really enjoyed learning about the mothers in Disney films mostly because I knew of the films we talked about and I had never thought about the mother role in those films. It's cool to see how some of these roles are ones of super powers, strength and leadership. There are also motherhood roles of gentleness, love and kindness. Personally, I think that Disney films has done a great job of portraying mothers. It's taught us, as kids, that our mother is someone one we really do need in life and she does more for us than we could ever imagine.

Children and Teens

When we studied mothers in children's books I was taken by surprise when I realized how vacant the mother role can be. Sometimes she is not ever mentioned or brought into a story, which is interesting because the only reason the character exists is because of their mother. The mother role can also be confusing as that of Wendy in Peter Pan.

The mother role in teen books and movies I find to be a bit more exciting. They tend to play a larger role and have more of an impact on their kids. I really like that each motherly role is different. It reflects the motherhood well by showing that every mother parents in their own way.


I probably learned the most about motherhood through our survey projects. It was inspiring to hear what other mothers thought about how motherhood is portrayed today. I enjoyed receiving feedback from them and hearing how interested they were in what I've learned in class thus far. I received a lot of great advice from the mothers that participated in the survey, and I know I will take a lot of it into the way I live the role as a mother someday. The surveys gave a sense of realism to motherhood, something that movies and books can't always offer.

Music - Turn to You by Justin Bieber

This project was really fun because I got to do it over a song by none other than Justin Bieber. The song is titled "Turn to You" and it describes his relationship with his mother. He shows his full appreciation for how hard his mother worked to provide for him and love him well. He speaks of her choosing to never give up and that the strength he has is because of her. The heart of this song is that when things get too hard for his mother, he wants her to be able to turn to him to lean on and be cared for. Justin also gives credit to God for being the ultimate giver of hope for him and his mom. This is such a beautiful story of a relationship between a mother and son, as well as the role that their faith played in that.
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The Letter

Dear Mom,

First, I want to say thank you for everything you've done for me. I've participated in a "Representations of Motherhood" class this semester and have learned so much about you.

Through the novel I read I've learned how there are so many children out there being tossed from foster mom to foster mom. I'm thankful to have only ever called you mom and for the way you've loved me unconditionally as your daughter.

After studying films, TV shows and Disney films, I've learned that you are a mother with many strengths and is capable of accomplishing many great things. Often times television leads us to believe that mothers can only be one type of mom, but there are numerous moms to portray different types of mothers. You live the role of a mother who holds a multitude of motherly characteristics and I'm so grateful for that.

As I've researched the news about mothers I've seen how much you really do love me and love being a mom. You have never, nor would ever, abuse that role. I've learned so much from you because of that.

Advertisements of moms can be silly and incorrect. No, you don't happily clean up my messes, especially when you've asked me to do it, but you do extend a lot of grace to me in mistakes. I definitely think that makes up for it.

Through magazines I've realized that you are a combination of motherhood from the 1960s until even now. That shows your diversity and ability to be a mother of many gifts. It also highlights your love of being a mother and a wife, but those roles do not hinder you from impacting the community.

The Feminine Mystique has developed a thankfulness in my heart for you being mother at the day in age, rather than 1963. I can't imagine you having to be told what to do and have to suffer through depression and loneliness. That being said, I am truly thankful that you find joy in being a mother. Even if that means cleaning up messes, cooking countless meals and serving dad solely because it's your heart to do so.

Children's and teen books have showed me that you are not only super mom, but you're also a mom that loves to meet your kids needs, especially through reading to us. You were committed to do it all. From cheering us on at games and standing up for us when we couldn't do it for ourselves to sweetly speaking truth over us through scriptures and precious stories through books.

The music I researched to have a better understanding of motherhood has softened my heart and created a deeper appreciation for all that you've done for me. You have made so many sacrifices for me. I will never be able to put into words what that means to be. Thank you for going above and beyond.

The surveys you took and the way you always made sure I had enough responses has showed me that you will never stop caring about what I'm doing. As a 22 year old college student, you could easily have told me to figure it out on my own. You love to be a part of everything in my life, even my surveys for class. Thank you for that.

I'm sorry for all the times I've taken you for granted. You have loved me so well and I am who I am because of the woman you are. Thank you for being a woman of courage, faith and constant hope. I love you more than you'll ever know.

Your favorite daughter,