Representations of Motherhood

Katy Matschek


By looking at the 1969 issues of Redbook Magazine, I learned that articles and advertisements towards women were different than they are today. The main topics women were reading about were cooking, cleaning, and child caring. Women were being told how to be the perfect housewife and what steps needed to be taken to achieve this status. There were very few articles about what was happening in the world and letting women know about the news. This lack of information shows how restricted women were in those days and how limited their intake of worldly events was.


Watching the movie Forrest Gump showed me how powerful the love of a mother can be. Mrs. Gump is one of the most devoted, motivational, and caring mothers there is. She stands up for her son and makes sure he understands that he is no different from anyone else. This showed how much love a mother can have for her child. Listening to others talk about their movies showed me the vast array of ways mothers can be portrayed. Some mothers were like Mrs. Gump in that they were loving and caring, but some mothers were mean, evil, or just not good mothers.


By doing the music project, I realized there aren't as many songs about mothers as one might think. The choices of songs were limited and many of them weren't sweet sincere songs about the love a mother gives, they were more about "hot moms" or "sexy moms." The song I ended up choosing was "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard. The song spoke of a young man who was a rebel child and didn't do many good things growing up, but his mother always tried to do the best for he and his siblings. It speaks of a hardworking mother who provides for her family and does everything she can to give them the best she is able to.
Merle Haggard - Mama Tried


Looking at mothers in television I realized a few things. First, most mothers are portrayed in the same light: being slightly ditsy, being responsible for the household duties, and being expected to take care of the needs of the rest of the family. Some shows branch out from these stigmas, but most show mothers in this light. The mothers I studied, mothers in television shows in the late 90's and early 00's, had many of the same attributes. All five mothers had three children, all five mothers were responsible for taking care of the household, and all five mothers had to do most of the care taking of the children. This project showed me that when it comes to mothers, television likes to mainly stick the stereotypical figure.


For my novel I read "When I Married My Mother." The novel told the real life story of Jo Maeder and the highs and lows she experienced by living with and taking care of her mother, Mama Jo. The story, written from Jo's perspective, shows an estranged relationship of a mother and daughter transforming into a beautiful friendship and relationship that neither one thought would ever happen. I learned from this story that many of us don't know the real struggles and things our mothers have gone through. We only know what they let us see and if and when we get to see what their life was really like, only then can we begin to understand them as a person.


It was interesting seeing the different news articles that were presented throughout the semester. Some made us laugh, some made us tear up, and some even made us cringe and immediately ask "why?" Seeing feel good commercials was always fun and reading an article about a hero mom could make you rethink what it is to be a mother. I specifically remember the article about the mother who forgave her daughters killer and gave him a hug in the courtroom. Even though knowing the boy before made a difference in how she felt towards him, it takes immense courage and heart to forgive someone for taking something so absolutely precious to you. She shows what a brave mother looks like.


I had never really paid attention to how advertisements portray mothers until we were doing the advertising project. I chose to look at commercials as my form of advertising and in looking at these I discovered that this form was doing a pretty decent job at portraying what it is really like to be a mother. This discovery was made even more sure when I surveyed my mothers about the commercials asking if they thought it was an accurate portrayal and many of them said they could relate to almost all of the three commercials I had them watch. The advertisements showed how hectic it can be to be a mother and what it's like to have children in today's day and age.

The Commercials:

The Feminine Mystique

Reading The Feminine Mystique showed me a different side to motherhood that I hadn't really thought a lot about before. I knew that mothers were oppressed in a since during the 50's and 60's, but I didn't know to what extremes. Reading about how women took tranquilizers and consistently saw therapists was very interesting and eye opening. I had no idea women went to such measures to try and "fix" themselves, when in reality almost all of them were feeling the same way. It is saddening that this was the condition that many mothers were living in because they weren't allowed to do much more than stay in the home and cook and clean.

Children and Teens

Listening to the lecture and seeing the video clips of the TV shows and reading the books aimed at children and teens proved to be very interesting. I never noticed how most the of the books aimed at children are very similar. Most tend to talk about loving the child and how much they mean to the parent or guardian.

I always knew that many TV shows today have violence or sex in them, but I didn't realize that most of the shows aimed at teens had this in them as well. TV shows that are meant for a teen audience are showing more and more sexual acts and harsh violence.


When were first told that we were going to be surveying mothers we knew throughout the semester, my first thought was I didn't really want to bother anyone and ask them to take it, but as the semester went on and we looked at the feedback from the mothers I began to enjoy seeing their responses. It was always interesting to me that many of the mothers I surveyed had the same responses to questions, even open ended ones. It made me see that many of the mothers think and feel the same way when it comes to their opinions on children and motherhood.

Disney Films

It wasn't until after the Disney moms lecture that I started to realize and notice the absence of mothers in Disney films. It is surprising to me that many of theses movies don't have the actual mother in them when most young children are very reliant on their mothers, both for necessities for living and for their emotional needs as well. I think maybe one of the reasons for the absence of the mother in these movies could be that in the span of an hour and a half that these movies have they need to show the main character being independent and growing, and in order to do this the character has to be on their own in a sense.