Representations of Motherhood

Motherhood in Novels

The major thing I learned from the novel project was how mothers aren’t typically represented as well-rounded characters. I felt like most of the books that were read portrayed mothers as extremely one-dimensional—they were either absent, controlling, ditzy, free-spirited, hovering, uptight etc… In reality, most mothers have a combination of mothering styles that vary based on the situation. I know very few mothers that I could place into just one category, and more often than not, these are some of the more unsuccessful mothers. Motherhood is a very dynamic and fluid experience that requires flexibility and I don’t think the novels portrayed this accurately. But overall, I enjoyed this project because it gave me many new books to put on my “to-read” list.

Motherhood in Films

Before this unit, I never realized how absent mothers are from most major films. And even when a mother figure is present, they are one-dimensional characters similar to mothers in novels. Considering how mothers are a huge part of our everyday life, and how movie-watching is a popular past-time, it’s a little unsettling how mothers are portrayed in movies, if they’re even portrayed at all. I feel like most mothers in films are either crazy or incompetent in some way—there are very few movie mothers that I can relate to.

Pride & Prejudice (1/10) Movie CLIP - Mr. Bingley's Single (2005) HD
In this clip from Pride and Prejudice (2005), we see Mrs. Bennet portrayed as the controlling and hysterical mother.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Harry's first time at the Weasley's home (HD)
Mrs. Weasley is one of the only "normal" mothers portrayed in popular children's films.

Motherhood on Television

Thankfully, there are a lot more moms in our popular television shows than we see in movies. In the middle of the 20th century, mothers were portrayed as the typical housewife which is an accurate representation since that’s the role most women took on at that time. As the decades progressed, we see a little more variation in the mother figures, but most still represent the housewife in some fashion. Two of my favorite TV moms are Claire Dunphy from “Modern Family” and Lorelai Gilmore from “Gilmore Girls” because they are the most real and relatable mothers on television.

Mothers in the News

When I started this class, I was definitely not expecting all the horrible news articles surrounding mothers. A lot of the stories presented were just heartbreaking! But you have to realize that it is a whole lot easier to report on the negative events rather than the positive ones which is why it seems we see so many more motherhood horror stories than motherhood hero stories. While the negative stories are what the general public like to see, I wish our media focused more on highlighting all the amazing mothers and their efforts to raise healthy and happy children.

Mothers in Advertisements

The advertising project was interesting because it allowed me to get real mothers’ opinions on things that constantly surround us—advertisements. The way I chose to do my project is to portray how advertisements have changed over time so I chose an ad from the 1940s, 1970s, and 1990s. It was eye-opening to see how the mothers responded to the ads—they were pretty harsh! They were not pleased with moms being portrayed as beautiful supermodels and they thought it gave the wrong idea about motherhood. I think today’s ads are very stereotypical and extremely unrealistic, and this class has opened my eyes to how mothers are portrayed in everyday life.

Motherhood in Magazines

For our magazine project, we were assigned Ladies Home Journal in the year 1970. It was fitting this project came during the time we were reading “The Feminine Mystique” because the magazines supported everything the book talked about. All of the articles and advertisements were aimed for housewives and mothers which supported the idea that the only job fit for a grown woman was a housewife or mother. What about the single women? Or the women who are married but God forbid, don’t want kids. Thankfully, I think our magazine articles have become more varied and inclusive to all lifestyles, but we still have a way to go with the women and mother stereotypes.

The Feminine Mystique

I had never read this book before this class, but I’m really glad we did because I think people, in general, have such a skewed view of what feminism really is. Feminism is not an “All Men are Crap” campaign, it’s a movement that seeks gender equality in all aspects of our lives. I also had this image in my head that the ideal mother was the 1950s perfect American housewife; I had no idea most of these women were feeling trapped, ignored and depressed! Some of the things women weren’t allowed to do without a man’s approval astounded me. Thank goodness we’ve come as far as we have, but we still have a way to go.

Motherhood in Disney Films

This unit was probably the most thought-provoking for me out of the entire semester. I had never really noticed how absent mothers are in these movies, and it’s funny because my three favorite Disney Films (Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast) all lack a mother figure. And even when the mothers are present, they play a very small role in the film. Also, the amount of movies that show the mothers dying or separation of the mothers is so sad! Fortunately, I think most kids aren’t analytical enough to realize this trend, but looking at them as an adult has brought me a whole new perspective of what I want to show to my kids one day.
Finding Nemo opening
Disney's Bambi - Mother's Death

Motherhood in Children and Teen Media

This unit was extra fun for me because we got to talk about my favorite fictional mother of all time, Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter. This unit was probably the most relatable as well because I had seen most of the TV shows, movies, and books we talked about. But once again, I found that a lot of the moms we looked at were one-dimensional characters. Mrs. Weasley is one of the most “normal” fictional moms and the ironic part is she’s also a wizard! I don’t ever really remember reading picture books as a kid, I started reading chapter books really young. So I don’t really have an opinion on mothers in children’s books. But overall, I really enjoyed analyzing the mothers of some of my favorite TV shows and movies.
Molly Weasley vs Bellatrix Lestrange


It was interesting to see how real mothers in my life view motherhood. For the most part, they were so encouraging in their comments and were excited that I had the opportunity to take this class. This is the unit that gave me the most insight to what motherhood is actually like. I don’t think any woman is truly prepared to become a mother, but these surveys gave me a lot of encouragement and great advice for when I become a mother someday.

Motherhood in Music

I liked this project because it made me realize how beautiful my mother really is. If I was going to write a song about my mother, it would have been the song I chose, “Mother Like Mine” by The Band Perry. It perfectly describes the way I feel about my own mom. Overall, I think music is the medium which portrays motherhood in the most positive light. Most of the songs were sappy and sentimental, which is a good thing because music is so embedded in our culture. It was also fun getting to see everyone else’s mother and how they chose to tell their story through their pictures.

The Band Perry - Mother Like Mine (Ram Country On Yahoo Music)

Letter to My Mom

Dear Mom,

If this class has taught me one thing, it’s this…motherhood is the absolute hardest but rewarding job there is. Words cannot express how much respect I have gained for you while taking this class. The idea of raising 6 healthy, intelligent, God-fearing, respectful, and successful human beings in today’s world seems an almost impossible task. No wonder everyone we know calls you Super Mom. You really are my hero and I will never be able to adequately express our gratitude for everything you have done for me. But I’m going to try…thank you for raising me to do things on my own even when I didn’t want to. Thank you for always having a hot breakfast and dinner ready for us when I was a kid. Thank you for letting me crawl into your bed at night when I was sick or had a bad dream. Thank you for teaching me the power of hard work and discipline. Thank you for raising me with a compassionate heart. Thank you for the endless hours you helped me with homework. Thank you for letting me walk into my first day of pre-school all by myself even when it probably broke your heart to do so. Thank you for showing me I’m a lot tougher than I sometimes think. Thank you for always reassuring me that everything will be alright. But most importantly, thank you for being my best friend. I know this doesn’t begin to cover it, but hopefully you get the idea that I’m more grateful than I sometimes show. The world would be a much better place if everyone had a mom like you, but I’m lucky I get to call you mine.