What I Learned...

Aubrey Brown

Representations of Motherhood

I didn't know what to expect when I first came into this class. I knew in advance some of the topics that we would discuss and it sounded very interesting, but I never thought I would learn as much as I did about mothers and motherhood and how they are portrayed in different types of media and how that has changed over time.

Moms in the News

Throughout the semester, we had to present four articles of moms in the news and talk about how the mother was portrayed. It was fascinating to see all the different types of articles that were found. From the horrific and blood-curdling to the beautiful and tear-jerking, moms could be found in each category and all those in between. The articles showed the diverse array of mothers that are present in the world. There were strong and protective mothers, abusive and psychotic mothers, nurturing mothers, killer mothers, admirable mothers, "what-not-to-do" mothers, and so many others. After all, mothers are just everyday people with children, but once they have children, that seems to become their identity. Because of this, stories about murder and horrific events became even more nightmarish if it involved a mother. How could a mother poison her own child? How could she kill her kids? How could she abandon them and not care about the welfare of her child? Then there were the mothers that you admired. The ones that put their life on the line to protect their child. The ones who stood up for their child in tough situations. The ones who did everything possible to make their child happy. There are so many different types of moms in the world and all could be found in the news. I honestly had no idea that moms were talked about that much in the news.


Here are some of my favorite moms in the news:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRoqk_z2Lgg

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/hundreds-attend-10-year-old-mackenzie-moretters-birthday-party-after-n344391

http://www.singletonmoms.org/jody-farley-berens-2015-cnn-hero/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me9yrREXOj4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bP0Uf3Shd0


Here are some of my least favorite moms in the news:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/12/us/cleveland-zoo-cheetah-fall/

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/21/us/utah-mom-sentenced-baby-deaths/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/03/02/lacey-spears-verdict/24262509/

The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique served as our textbook for this class. This book was the first thing that we studied and I think it gave us a good base for the rest of the class. We got to see what it was like to be a mother before we were born. Before it was socially acceptable to be a working mom. Before it was socially acceptable for women to go to college and get a degree and use that degree. Before it was socially acceptable for women to do what they wanted to do. I never knew just how many limitations were put on women to try and keep them down and keep them at home. I think what gets me the most is that these women didn't have much of a choice. They were taught, dare I say brainwashed, to be nothing but the homemaker and housewife. All of the media at that time was telling women "what they should do" and did not take into consideration what they wanted to do. What was worse was that moms who actually worked and had careers were seen as bad mothers. I grew up with my mother working an important job, one that often required extra hours, but I would never say or even consider the fact that this would make her a "bad mom". For me, I believed (and still believe) quite the opposite! I knew that my mom enjoyed her job and wanted to continue and further her career and help take care of her family in all ways, including financially. I think that is one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book and the conversations we had about it. I think this book was one of the first steps for women. It got them talking to other moms and housewives about how they felt trapped and unimportant and depressed and bored. The conversation started and women took off!

Moms in Magazines

Magazines are everywhere. And moms in or on magazines seem to be everywhere. Who could forget this controversial image of a mom on the cover of Time Magazine. But when we actually took a look at magazines, I was shocked to see that moms really weren't everywhere, especially today. The magazine that my partner and I looked at was InStyle in 2013. While this is a women's magazine, the focus was more on women as individuals rather than as mothers. The magazine seemed to be more of a tool for women empowerment. The magazine focused a lot on how to be the best version of yourself and portraying that through the way you took care of yourself and the way you dressed. The magazine's goal was to strive to make women feel confident in their own skin and to give them the tools to do so. I also think that it is unique that the magazine focuses on women as individuals instead of as a part of someone else. Often times you hear that once a woman gets married has kids, she becomes "Hank's wife" or "Johnny's mom" and she loses her sense of self. With that mindset, this magazine helps women regain their sense of self and their self-confidence.


From a representing mother standpoint, however, this magazine falls short. While we were looking at these 12 issues, we noticed that the only time motherhood was really brought up was in celebrity interviews. Even in these interviews, while they were asked about their kids and about being mothers, most of the interviews were focused on their careers and their hard work to get to where they've gotten and them as women, not just mothers. Again, this goes back to the women empowerment goal that this magazine has. Other than the celebrity interviews, the only other "motherhood" aspect we could find were small articles and tips on how to decorate your home for a party, what foods and drinks to serve (with recipes), and different ways and styles of decorating your home.


When we compared different magazines across different time periods, it was interesting to see how the content had changed. Magazines in the 50s/60s/70s seemed to be all about being the perfect wife and the perfect mother. There were articles about what your kids could do on a rainy day, recipes, how to decorate your home, what cleaning items work best in your home, and other very domestic articles. Now, however, there aren't very many of these kinds of articles, some have even disappeared completely. These changes in magazines reflected the changes in society. As it became more socially acceptable to be a working mother and a strong woman, magazines changed their content to reflect this. Articles went from cooking and cleaning and decorating to stories about powerful women and how to be more confident in your skin and taking charge of your life.

Moms in Music

I took a slightly different approach to this one. Growing up with working parents who both traveled, my dad was sometimes Mr. Mom himself and that's what got me started on this song. I think it was very different and unique to look at motherhood from another perspective. With this song in particular, I think it really showed just how much moms actually do. Instead of glamorizing the job, it painted a picture of day-to-day life. There was no smoke screen to hide the hard work that moms do. I think there is often a common misconception that moms, especially those that stay at home, do not do much with their time or their lives and they have it much simpler than those who work. With this song, I believe that a piece of this misconception is knocked down. The husband and father goes from thinking he has it easy and can watch TV and nap all day to realizing that taking care of the kids and the house and errands and chores and other various tasks is not as easy as it looks. The song puts on display the craziness that occurs every day and the fact that it is not always easy to handle. My favorite lines from the song are "I though there was nothing to it. Baby now I know how you feel, what I don't know, is how you do it. Honey, you're my hero." Being put in another person's shoes is a great way to understand just exactly what goes on and this songs realization that it is difficult to take care of all the mothering tasks and it can be stressful and he had no idea. Until you are put in those shoes, you never really know what is going on and how that person feels. I think this song was an incredible portrayal of mothers and really puts on display just how much moms do and how important and central they are to everything and everyone.


Moms in Music Presentation:

Mr. Mom by Lonestar -- http://slide.ly/view/1bacd0dfefabd8b3c6fb71d445a3bff0



Some of my other favorite songs about mothers:

Like My Mother Does by Lauren Alaina

Somebody's Hero by Jamie O'Neal

Fore She was Mama by Clay Walker

In My Daughter's Eyes by Martina McBride

Slipping Through My Fingers - ABBA

Mother Like Mine by The Band Perry

Moms in Novels

The novel that I chose to read an analyze was The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe. This book was particularly heart-wrenching because it explored the complexities that are often found in relationships between mothers and their children. This book was about an estranged mother and daughter who spend a summer together twenty years later to try to understand and learn about one another and mend their relationship. This novel showed the distance that mothers will go to protect their children, even if it is at the cost of losing their relationship as it did for Lovie (the mother) and Cara (the daughter). One thing that is not often thought about is that moms used to, and often times still do, have their own lives apart from their children. This novel explores how this separate part of life still has the ability to seep into family life and complicate things. Without the complication that presented itself, the mother and daughter might not ever have been estranged, but because it did, it affected not only the family life, but their individual relationship as well. Even more importantly, how the two try and work out their differences and understand each other's choices and lives delves into just how strong of a connection mothers have with their children.


Moms in Novels Presentation:

https://www.smore.com/ua1yx-the-beach-house

Moms in Television

Like everywhere else, there are many different types of moms on television. Many of the mothers on television, like in magazines, have changed with society. Where you used to have moms like June Cleaver on leave it to Beaver who was typical stay-at-home mom, you now have moms like Rayna James from Nashville and Temperance Brennan from Bones who are working moms trying to balance work and family. When I looked at TV shows, I was curious how moms today were portrayed so I focused on the decade between 2005-2015. Between the five shows that I picked, I found a wide array of mothers. Overall, I think that these shows portrayed good qualities that mothers possess. While some might not be the "picture perfect" mother, they each had qualities that made them respectable moms and their love for their children was always portrayed. Each of these mothers showed that they have their child's best interests in mind and will do what it takes to make their children happy and keep them safe. I think the dedication that these moms have to their children is the most important quality that these mothers possess.


Moms in TV Presentation:

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/645086085507973121

Moms in Films

Mamma Mia was a fun movie to look at because it is different than others with its singing component. The movie was released in 2008 and it portrayed life in that time period. The movie was an adaptation of the musical that was originally debuted in 1999. The extra addition of the singing parts in the movie allowed natural commentary that added layers of meaning to the story. My favorite scene, and one of the best portrayals of motherhood in the movie, is when Donna (the mom) is helping Sophie (her daughter) get ready for her wedding. As you see this take place over a time lapse, Donna sings "Slipping Through My Fingers" by ABBA. This song is about a mother watching her daughter grow up and how she wishes that she could freeze time because it seems to go by too fast and she wants more time with her daughter. The significance of this scene for me was that you could feel the love between the mother and daughter just by watching, but the music that is played over it provides much more depth and allows you to see and hear what Donna is feeling and her adoration of her daughter and her desire to have more time with her.


Overall, this movie was a very positive portrayal of motherhood. Donna was a single, working mother, but she always made time for her daughter. Donna did everything in her power to make Sophie happy and to give her what she desired. Throughout the movie, you saw how much Sophie was like her mother and I believe that is a reflection of how her mother raised her. Donna was a strong and confident woman who knew what she wanted and as the movie goes on, you see Sophie as a strong confident woman who learned to trust what she wanted and go for it.

Slipping Through My Fingers - Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried

Moms in Advertising

This project turned out to be more educational than I originally thought it would be. There are a lot of moms in ads in present day, but when I was searching, I came across these older ads. I loved the colors of the ads, but especially the humor! One ad (the first one) also didn't make all that much sense to me, so I was really curious what my survey mothers would think about it. I got the best responses on this survey over all of my other ones. It was really interesting to see how so many mothers picked the same ad as being most effective or least effective, yet their reasoning as to why were completely different. I got some of the funniest responses on this assignment and am not afraid to said that I was laughing through a lot of them. A couple of my favorite responses was in regards to the first ad and the mom said "It looks like the lady is drunk and ready to shoot anything" and "I don't see a woman using the colt in heels and a dress...". One even said she looked like a "crazy woman." I loved the variety of opinions that came out of this project. I think what I learned most is that while moms may have different opinions regarding many things about motherhood, they are parents first and what they desire are products that will benefit their family.

Moms in Disney Films

This was by far one of the most interesting and shocking parts of the class. I grew up watching Disney movies and absolutely loved them, but I don't think that I ever noticed that moms were not in them. There were many films that simply didn't have mothers in them and many more that had evil mother figures that nobody every liked. But what really shocked me was that I never realized just how many mothers died during the films. There are movies where I remember the mom dying and it made me sad, but I never realized just how normal that was. I don't think I ever made the connection that mothers died in a majority of the movies. When I saw Frozen for the first time a couple years ago, I teared up in the movie theater when the parents died, but my only thought was "Why do Disney movies always make me cry!?" I never made the connection. This class opened my eyes to the absent mothers. After we discussed that mothers were often not present or died during the film, we watched clips of the scenes where the mothers died, and I must say, I was pretty horrified. I cringed, and sometimes couldn't really watched. It is crazy to me how that went unnoticed throughout my life.


One other interesting thing that I learned about these Disney films was their reasoning behind killing off the mothers. It was said that in order for there to be character growth, the mother could not be present. Their reasoning was that "the movies are only 80 to 90 minutes long, and Disney films are about growing up. They're about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility." From that standpoint, it does make sense that mothers must be absent, but it was still a shocking and fairly unsettling realization. One thing to soften the blow... mothers often died trying to protect their child. I think that is one of the reasons it is more acceptable for mothers to be killed off in the movies. Their positive image is protected and their love for their child is seen in their sacrifice.

Projection to Children and Teens

This section of the class was also surprising to me. I love to read and read a lot as a kid and got read to quite often as well. I was shocked at just how many books I read as a kid didn't have a mother figure in them at all. Not only that, but there were close to three times as many published children's books without mothers than there were with. But again, as with the Disney movies, I never noticed the absent mother figure. When looking at the lists of books with and without mother figures, I also realized that I have read many more of the books without mothers. Even my favorite book as a kid didn't have a mother figure in it. I could never get enough of Green Eggs and Ham!

Surveys

This was one of my favorite parts about the class. We got to come up with questions that we wanted to ask our group of moms and see what their responses were. For me, I really enjoyed seeing the varying responses that I received not only from my group of mothers, but from all of the mothers that the people in our class surveyed. It was really cool to see just how unique each mother was and how they viewed motherhood and what their opinions were on certain topics. Special shout-out to all the moms who participated in my surveys throughout the semester!

So what did I learn?

Motherhood is unique. Each mom has a different experience. Each mom chooses to raise their kid differently based on what they believe is best for them. But all moms have one thing in common -- they are moms. They love their kids and want what is best for them and I believe that creates a unique bond between mothers. They all have to same goal in life when it comes to their children. I loved seeing all of the different perspectives that moms brought to the table.


It was very interesting to see how not only moms viewed themselves and motherhood, but how the world did as well. Everyone has their own opinion on what makes a good mother, how a mother should raise their child, what a mother should do regarding not just her family life, but working life as well. It was interesting to see this idea manifest itself in the different areas that we studied. I loved seeing all of the different types of moms that our class found in the news and our conversations about them were always intriguing. As I've mentioned, one of the most shocking aspects of this class for me was seeing just how many moms are absent from children's books and movies. If mothers are such a huge part of our lives, then why aren't they as large a part of what children pay the most attention to?


I have learned so much from this class, more than can be summed up just on this page. After taking this class, I have even more respect for mothers and all that they do. It is hard to sum up what motherhood is and what it encompasses and what it means. The video that I have inserted below was the most eye-opening moment in this class for me. I think it is probably about as close as you can get to describing what motherhood is. I remember watching this video and being shocked by what was being asked of these people and once it was explained, I teared up and immediately thought, "Wow! My mom is awesome..."

World's Toughest Job - #worldstoughestjob - Official Video