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My Mum Story: The Big Draw

Join our next #somum Make Date on Wednesday 9 October from 8.30-10pm UK time (find world times here) to have a bit of a draw together on twitter.

Is your first reaction the same as mine...? "But I can't draw!".

When I watch my kids drawing, I'm amazed by their confidence and vision.

My children see whatever they want to see in their drawings. They don't judge whether the sun should be that shade of pink, or whether the tree should be in proportion to the cow, or whether that hand looks like a bunched up string of pork sausages. They just draw.

They know that none of that judgement nonsense matters. What matters is the simple joy of moving your pencil or crayon or charcoal or whatever you have in your hand, across the paper. Of making shapes. Of filling space. Of dreaming and imagining and creating and remembering. 

Let's reconnect with that inner child's love of drawing. October's Make Date is a joint celebration of our travelling tour celebrating mums (Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves, landing in London on 18/19 October), and The Big Draw, a month-long focus on the fabulousness of drawing. So we'll be using both hashtags: #somum and #bigdraw. And sharing what we create here: Draw Your Story.

Call it doodling if you like. We've doodled before at our Make Dates and it has always been both hilarious and insightful. This one even prompted someone to have a baby. Drawing is powerful stuff!

What will we draw?

We'll be drawing moments from our mothering journeys that we haven't captured in photos, on film, or in words. Or at least not in the same way. Moments and emotions entwined - that sit somewhere in our heads, in our hearts, held somewhere in those fingers that hold the pen.

They might be good memories, bad memories, mixed-up memories - but they are our memories. They are our stories. And the act of drawing or doodling or simply letting a crayon run riot on the page helps to shape them in our mind

That brown scribble above? It took me FOUR goes. Four blank pieces of paper to get to that heart-shaped night of sadness and guilt and worry, that dark sensation of intense closeness and overwhelming responsibility. And to you it probably just looks like a brown smudge with a face on, and that's completely OK. Because the process of drawing that moment, of re-experiencing those early fear-filled days of sleepless motherhood, of connecting with what that really felt like, was strangely healing. It doesn't really matter what it looks like.

At night I watch my children dreamI did try and draw a happier moment too. Of something I do every night - watch my children dream.

I actually take photos of them every night too, (you can see some in this short film from last year). But I've never attempted to draw that moment - and it was lovely to sit in the dark and listen to them breathing and try to draw.

As you can see I completely avoided drawing sausage hands by not giving my daughter any hands at all.

How will the Make Date work?

For a bit of inspiration, we're going to start the Make Date with a virtual screening of My Mum Story films from the exhibition (basically we'll each choose one of the films in the gallery here and watch it at the start of the Make Date, chatting along...).

We'll answer questions and draw as we go, sharing photos of our doodles and scribbles and wrong-coloured suns and giant cows. You don't have to try and think of a hugely significant moment. Because every mothering moment is significant.

And as always, you don't have to get creative at all if you don't want to. You can draw and never show anyone. You can just chat. Or lurk. We love a bit of lurking at a Make Date. (If you're still not entirely sure what a Make Date is, this might help).

Rather wonderfully, our friends at The Big Draw have given us some goodies to give away at the Make Date - just add both #somum and #bigdraw to your tweets to enter.

One lucky scribbler will win a Quentin Blake T-Shirt (you can have a child one or an adult one, or put a child in an adult one for maximum amusement opportunities...), along with a Big Draw Sketchbook, all packaged up in a limited edition Big Draw Tote Bag.

Two runners-up will also get lovely Big Draw Sketchbooks to inspire you to keep on drawing...

The Big Draw campaign struggles to raise the funds needed to spread a love of drawing far and wide, and you can find other goodies like these in their shop - it's a great way to support what they do.

As, of course, is drawing.

So join us on 9 October to share our stories in drawings. Bring your pencils, your felt tips, your crayons, charcoal or pastels. Grab a biro. Whatever you have to hand. And who knows what our drawing hands might help us to discover together. Let's draw.


Visit here to find out more about The Big Draw. 

The 2013 Big Draw runs from 1 October to 3 November in fifteen countries, with more than 200,000 people expected to take part. Hundreds of new and enjoyable drawing activities connect people of all ages with museums, outdoor spaces, artists - and each other. These events are for those who love to draw, and those who think they can't.

Since its launch in 2000, The Big Draw has successfully supported the Campaign for Drawing’s aims by encouraging everyone to draw. Big Draw events highlight the power of drawing to help people see, think, invent and take action.

 

We'd also love you to join us in London for our next real-life Make Dates at The Photographers Gallery. We won't be drawing though - unless of course you've got the bug by then...

Join us on 18 October for a Mums' Make Date with poetry from Hollie McNish, five mums sharing their stories, creative stuff to do, and add to the exhibition, and a special pre-reception with BritMums. We'll be there all day on 19 October and will have a Family Make Date from 2pm to 4pm with puppet-making and storytelling to distract the kids so you can get creative with us. Hope to see you online and in London!

Our Mums' Poems: On Film

As part of our Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves tour, two wonderful poets have already interpreted the words you have shared with us as part of our communal Mums' Poem

Their 'curated' versions of the poem, very different in style, are below.

At our last Mums' Make Date in Penzance, Sally Crabtree created a song inspired by the words submitted to the giant Mums' Poem, including more submissions from the mums in the room that night.

It was genius and hilarious and comes with a heartfelt guarantee to make you feel better about yourself.

 

Sally Crabtree is an international songwriting poet and children’s author who has become well known for her unique brand of interactive poetry installations and performances such as her Poetree, Poems in a Tin, Phone a Poem, The Poetry Postie, Poetry Bingo and  "I'll Eat My Words" edible poetry.

She has been described as “one of Britain’s richest inventions “ (bu Lars Gustafsson, nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature) due to her innovative approach to presenting words in ways that delight and inspire all those who engage with them. You can find out more about her on her website, and watch a snippet of a song from Magic Train Ride here.


In Milton Keynes, Caroline Davies stayed true to the form of a Kenning - using some the lines submitted by mums to describe ourselves without using the word 'mother'. It's a beautiful and touching response to our submissions.

 

Caroline Davies is a poet and blogger as well as being the mother of two sons. Her first collection, Convoy, based on the experiences of my mother and grandfather during WW2 is published by Cinnamon Press.‎  Website:  http://advancingpoetry.blogspot.com/
Next up will be the ever inspiring Hollie McNish - come and join us in London at The Photographers Gallery on 18 October. Bookings open soon... I can't wait!

Mummy is Creative

What does it feel like to create as a child? Or as a mother, alongside your child?

Our second Story of Mum: Mums Making An Exhibition of Ourselves event at The Exchange in Cornwall was our Family Make Date.

In our kiddy distraction toolkit were butterfly and chrysalis-making with the fabulous Annie of Creation Station, along with animal paper-chains and playdough (lemon-scented no less) made by my lovely school-gates buddy Karen.

Plus, we had lots of books, beanbags, a baby discovery basket of textural goodies, and the conch-blowing story-telling force of nature that is John Brolly.

Last but not least, were cupcakes, baked and iced by the finest mama-bakers of Penzance.

It worked.

We created with our children. We had posh coffee and more than sufficient cake. We caught up with old friends over gluey fingers and strips of magazines.

We made Identity Parades and Mama Mash-Up collages of our mashed-up mama identities and took a few precious moments out to remember who we are.

We stepped away from the hubbub of the cafe to put our collages up on the gallery wall. A little ritual. Choosing to take our space amongst all the other collaged stories of mothers from around the world.

We read the stories collected by Proshanti, watched My Mum Story films, and added lines to the communal mums' poem.

My children lay on the floor, fascinated by the rolling gallery of images of mothers from around the world bearing I'm a mum and a... placards. Squeals of excitement whenever they saw anyone they recognised on the big screen.

As well as taking more I'm a mum and a... photos, Chris Webber captured some other images of beauty.

Of our children held in the heart of a story.  

Our children caught in a precious moment of creating.

kids creating

There is something powerful in creating side by side with your child. It feels quite different to moulding the playdough with them, or setting them a task. It is you and them, as creative equals. Enjoying the freedom, exploring your own individual stories together. 

girl in creative thoughtAnd as we took this rare time to create something for ourselves, we remembered a little of what that used to feel like. To be a child again. To believe in the possibilities of our own creations, to dream, to believe in stories.

To believe that our stories deserve to be told. In playdough, scribbles, collage or words, however we feel like creating them right now. 

Which of course is the beat at the heart of story of mum. A space where mums can come together to enjoy creating, to connect with who we are deep down and to be heard together. Join us.

 

Come and see us at our next two events in Penzance, or in London at The Photographers' Gallery on 18/19 October where we'll be holding another Mums' Make Date and Family Make Date. You can also join in with the exhibition online any time by trying any of these activities.

If you'd like to find out more about our events, take a look this post on our evening event for mums too. You can also find out about our events in Milton Keynes for mums and families.

You can find more of Chris Webber's gorgeous photographs here.


Under the busy-ness into the heart: Penzance Exhibition

Our Penzance Make Dates were so wonderful it has taken me almost a week to recover. I was so completely terrified, and yet they were so powerful and inspiring, and full of such wonderful women, families and children, that I now have absolutely no idea what I was worrying about.

Four brave mums joined me in sharing their stories and you can watch four of the five films online in the My Mum Story gallery already.

Danielle shared her experience of being a mother to a beautiful child with Cystic Fibrosis.

Kari talked about coming to motherhood later in life,  balancing a freelance working life of travel with precious mummy time.

Hayley shared her journey through loss to parenting two daughters, one of whom has Downs' Syndrome - and her new-found life as a blogger and activist.

Helen's story captured her promise to run a marathon when her fifth pregnancy stablised after three miscarriages, and the fulfilment of that dream for 'the ones that got away'.

There was much weeping. And cake. And wine. And margheritas. And more cake. And more wine.

           

As we wiped our eyes, we were transformed again by the inspirational Sally Crabtree, sharing some of her poetry and a truly wonderful song about being 'just a boring old mum', made up of words from our giant Mums' Poem, encouraging us all to add more.  

         

Within a few minutes, Sally had somehow got us singing along, (and even had the whole room flapping our arms about at one point, there is photographic evidence...)

She also brought her edible poetry genius along to encourage mums to create some beautiful biscuit poetry - you can see some mums' inspired creations at the bottom of this post.

Photographer Chris Webber and his partner Tamsin chivvied mums charmingly into having some lovely I'm a mum and a... photos taken, as well as capturing fabulous photos of the event, many of which you can see here - there are lots more fabulous mamas in the gallery.

Lots of us also had a go at making Mama Mash-Ups to add to the exhibition. (You can still add yours - any time...)

Huge thanks go to the mums who shared their stories, to Sally, Chris and Tamsin, Miranda and the B-New Project, Bettina and The Exchange, Mitch of Three S Films and Steve and Georgia of Apple Crumble for their last-minute technical heroism, and of course all the wonderful cake-baking mothers of Penzance!

             

What has stayed with me most is the profound impact of our stories. The visceral proof that sharing our stories and hearing those of others can bring up powerful emotions, sometimes unexpected ones. It's cathartic, and rare. And it's important.

Most mums spoke afterwards about how lucky they felt, how it reminded them of how much we have to value in our lives. It gave us a sense of a bigger sisterhood. Some had a more difficult time, and I was grateful to hear that side of the experience shared openly too. It isn't easy. We don't often create supportive spaces to share and to be heard amongst others who care.

           

For me, the evening was a joy. And I feel very lucky to have shared a unique evening with mums I know, and with mums I'd never met before. We don't value mothers' contributions to society enough, and that impacts on our sense of self. We need to remind ourselves of how valuable we are, mistakes and all. Most of the time, we don't see the story layers of those around us as we go about our daily business. This was an unusual and affirming chance to see under the busy-ness and into the hearts of mothers. It certainly swelled mine.

 

Come and see us at our next two events in Penzance, or in London at The Photographers' Gallery on 18/19 October where we'll be holding another Mums' Make Date and Family Make Date. You can also join in with the exhibition online any time - we would love you to join in with any of these activities.

You can read about our Family Make Date in Penzance here. You can also find out about the events we held in Milton Keynes for mums and families.

You can find more of Chris Webber's gorgeous photographs here.

I'm a mum and a... tank enthusiast

Inspired by our exhibition, the wonderful Hannah from Mama Bear WIth Me shares her I'm a mum and a... story with us today. On the joys of boys, boys' toys and noise... and the secret to having fun as a mum.

I'm a mum and a tank enthusiast.

I bet you didn't know that. But I can't get enough of them. Love them. I didn't use to. I used to HATE them. And my love of tanks came about because I had to change my way of thinking about what I thought of as "fun". This blog post is about "The Battle Of Fun".

I fought the other side (the boys) with lolly pop sticks and squirly wurly pipe cleaners. I tried to flush them out with PVA glue. I bombed them with cotton wool dipped in ready mixed paint.

They returned fire with stinky, leafy mud and stained my nice floral-print armour. The sticks and twigs they javelined at me landed with a BOIIIIIIIIIING on my Victoria sponge. I made a paper aeroplane out of my shopping list and launched it over their defences. They set fire to it.

The other side resisted my attack. The other side retreated. The other side went to play in the woods with their dad and build dens. But I hadn't won the battle. I hadn't won anything. I had simply been left behind in a bombsite of glitter and wobbly plastic stick-on eyes and empty toilet rolls crying out to be made into a pencil holder.

I was alone. No one wanted to play with me.

Here is me. Pre-kids and thinking about the fun things we would do together when the kids came along. Here is me thinking inside my box.

inside hannah's head

Turns out my idea of fun wasn't the same as theirs. Well, they like cake making. BUT THAT IS BECAUSE I LET THEM LICK THE BOWL.

Everyone else was off having fun and the only one losing out was me. I needed to change my way of thinking about "fun". Once I figured out the problem, fixing it was easy really.  Now, I have a real excitement about football lessons (turns out I have an excellent right foot), muddy clothes, dens in the woods, making epic sand cars on the beach, water fights and water bombs, fart jokes and, bizarrely, a real true love of tank museums. I am demolishing my pre-baby, pre-conceived (pun intended) idea of what "fun" we would all have together, crashing straight through it like I am sitting on top of a tank. I love tanks.

This poem by A. A. Milne sort of sums it up for me. It is always better to play and be with someone else than to be alone.

 

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,

There's always Pooh and Me,

"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,

"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said; "True,

It isn't much fun for One, but Two

Can stick together" says Pooh, says he.

"That's how it is," says Pooh

 A. A. Milne

 

Have your children changed how you have fun? Let us know how below!

 

You can share your own I'm a mum and a... picture with us here and join in with our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves. This month, we're also making Mama Mash-Ups to capture our mixed-up mummy identities. We'd love you to join in.

 


Mamas get Mashed on Twitter

Last week was SO busy! First up, a quick update on our online #somum Make Date, where we got together to talk identity and make marvellous Mama Mash-Ups - like this one by Georgie St Clair.

You can read a storify of the fun we had below. Big thanks to the Craftivist Collective for giving away copes of their fabulous Little Book of Craftivism (find out what I thought of that here) and to the lovely Suzi Banks Baum, our inspiration for this activity, who also joined us to play!

So what did we talk about as we collaged together? We described ourselves before and after motherhood - how much had changed...!

We talked about the things that motherhood had added to our identity - strength, compassion, patience, empathy, love (on a good day!). What had we let go? A pressure to succeed, perfectionism, needing others, vanity and insecurity.

We talked about the bits of our identity that now feel the most contradictory. For most of us, these were work and mothering. That shift from a high flying (or low flying!) meeting to dealing with tantrums, packed lunches and power rangers.

Where do we feel most heard, as ourselves? Surprise surprise, twitter (and blogging) came out tops! Along with talking with other mother friends, partners and family.

Most of all, I loved the advice offered to new parents who feel they've lost their identity. I'm sharing some examples below - do take a break to read through the storify for more compassionate advice.
 

"it's not lost, just hidden for a while. It'll come back & reshape itself, so just concentrate on enjoying your baby " @IHaveCards

"don't be scared to be selfish every now and then. can't teach your child to be an individual if you have lost yourself" @mummygadgetgeek

"always believe, even if hard to, that you will forge your own way; listen to others but trust in your own inner voice" @leoarnawrites

"you are reborn when you give birth. You just need time for the new you to connect with the old you." @bluebearwood

 

Story of Mum at The Exchange, Penzance

Come and join us at our next Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves event and exhibition at The Exchange in Penzance.

You can find all the exciting details below. And it's all free! 

Mums' Make Date

On Thursday 12 September from 7.30-10pm, we would love you to join our Mums' Make Date in Penzance.

Mums will be coming together to share our stories, get creative, and eat cake. Not only will we be reminded of all the brilliant things we do every day as mums, we'll be reassured that every one else does all the rubbish things too.

There will be a chance for mums to have our very own "I'm a mum and a..." photo taken, make a Mama Mash-Up to add to the exhibition, and contribute a line to our mum-poem (all optional of course!).

Five brave and inspiring local mums will be sharing their own My Mum Story films (like these here), and the wonderful Sally Crabtree will be performing, including her own interpretation of our giant Mums' Poem. Add your own line here and you might just make it into her poem!

All of the events will take place at The Exchange, Princes Street, Penzance. Find it here.

Family Make Date

On Friday 13 September, we'll be having a Family Make Date at The Exchange. Join us for family crafting fun, mum-themed storytelling for kids, and of course, more cake. Dads, grandparents, carers, all welcome!

11am to 12.30 pm 
A drop-in crafting session for parents and little ones, with story-telling from the very entertaining John Brolly at 11.15am to distract the kids so parents can have a cuppa and/or get creative and make an exhibition of themselves. That's the plan anyway...

If you fancy lunch at The Exchange, they now have a kiddy menu!

2pm to 5pm
More drop-in crafting and opportunities to eat cake for adults and children alike! John Brolly will be returning for some after-school storytelling from 3.45pm and the lovely Annie of Creation Station will be getting creative with the kids.

There will even be a free cupcake and a cuppa (and they do very lovely coffee at The Exchange...). 

The Exhibition

Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves will be on show to everyone in the Engine Room from 13 September to 10 October. The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm every day except Sunday, so tell your friends!

The exhibition explores motherhood and identity, celebrating the good and bad of motherhood. It's a space for mums to come together to be seen, heard and valued. It features contributions from mums from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds. Hopefully it will feature YOU soon too.

We'd love you to make an exhibition of yourself too. Come and visit! 

We're very grateful to our friends at the B-New Project for kindly providing the computers for the exhibition. They'll be hosting a special event for working mums during the exhibition period too - more news on that soon!

Join our #somum Make Date on Weds 11 Sept - 8.30-10pm

exhibition logoJoin us on twitter for some live craft tweeting! We'll make Mama Mash-Ups and explore our mashed-up mama identities together.

We have fabulous prizes from our Craftivist friends too - hot off the press, you could win your very own copy of their Little Book of Craftivism. You're welcome to join us wherever you are in the world - to find the equivalent of 8.30-10pm in your timezone, go here

This month we're linking the Make Date to our touring exhibition Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves. So we'll be making Mama Mash-Ups together as we tweet. It's a simple but beautiful collage project. We'll also be talking about how motherhood has affected our identity, finding our voice together, and connecting with other lovely mums around the world. You are all very welcome. You can find out more about the usual #somum Make Date here.

mama mash-up collageIf you want to join in and craft with us on twitter (you don't have to, you can just chat if you prefer), all you need to do is find two images that capture different aspects of YOU. They don't have to show us everything about you, just two bits of you.

Then cut them into strips and make your collage on a piece of A4 paper. Give it a title (that's a crucial part) and share it with us here. You can see some of the fabulous collages that have been shared already on the right.

If you'd like to send me the real life version too, to add to our touring exhibition, we'd love that - contact us and we'll send you more information.

You can see lots more fabulous examples in the online gallery - or come and visit us at one of our exhibition events (Penzance on 12/13 September, London on 18/19 October, New York in early December...) where you can meet up with other mums face to face to make your own and add it to the gallery wall immediately.

This project was inspired by the lovely Suzi Banks Baum - you can read more about her here.

#somum Make Date prizes: The Little Book of Craftivism

The Little Book of Craftivism is due to be released at the end of the month - it's a perfectly formed little package of inspiring craftivism projects, stuffed full of beautiful pictures and thoughts.

Sarah Corbett shares some wonderfully inventive ways to use your creative skills (basic or otherwise!) to make your voice heard and get people thinking. Which is pretty much what we're trying to do with story of mum and our travelling exhibition, so we're all in favour of that.

my daughter with A Little Book Of CraftivismWe're giving away three copies to lucky mums joining the #somum Make Date on Wednesday - just add #somum to your tweets to be entered into a random draw as we go. It won't be available to buy until early October, so it's an extra special treat.

And here's a picture of the perfectly formed little book in the hands of my perfectly formed little daughter... Because what are we trying to change the world for, if not for our children?

We want our children to know that mothers are amazing, that our daily mothering work and love for them is inherently valuable, that the attitude with which we mother them is the attitude with which we can mother ourselves and the world around us - learning from our compassionate mistakes, accepting the different parts of ourselves, the dark and the light - and doing our very best anyway.

Sarah quotes Betsy Steer (who coined the term craftivism in 2003) defining it as "a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper". At story of mum, we're voicing ourselves through creativity - and together we are stronger. We understand each other better. Our opinions and experiences differ, but our compassion for ourselves and others holds true.

So let's make our Mama Mash-Ups. Let's display just some of those valuable different complex parts of ourselves here - and put them on the walls of high profile galleries around the world. Let's give our experience of motherhood a voice.

We'd love you to join us on Wednesday, even if your voice is still very very quiet. Come play.

Creativity: a mother's daily life

This month's Mama Mash-Up activity was inspired by the work of Suzi Banks Baum. A woman who has inspired us in many other ways - not least of which is her work to give mothers a voice.

Suzi Banks Baum at a reading of An Anthology of Babes

This is a shortened version of an article written for Studio Mothers – you can read the full article here

An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice was borne into the world from the hope brewed in the hearts of women who cannot but express themselves; women who daily ask if they could possibly continue living their lives without this expression, because after all, wouldn’t it all be easier?

Dinner would be whipped up on time, thank-you notes would go out right after the party, and socks would match day after day if only we did not feel compelled to express ourselves as the wind is compelled to blow, as the seas to wave, and as the apple to ripen.  We are women pressed to express. This urge exists no matter what our life conditions. Every single strata of our culture bears the blaze of women’s creative expression.

It is confounding at times to find a 10- or 15-minute span of time where all the wants and needs and rotting peaches on the counter settle and you can close a door, any door, but a door and write, doodle, read, rest, paint, knit, or whatever rings your chimes that counts for self-expression. Given the bus rides between two jobs, counseling your kids through witnessing life in America, shutting off the voices of self-judgment, containing the flood of input our culture serves us daily: all of these things clutter the on-ramp to quiet time.

I have long advocated and will likely go to my grave promoting the idea that the very act of being alive is creative, and the sooner we agree that the acts of magic performed filling the lunch bags or organizing a fund drive or negotiating work hours and sitter coverage are all works worthy of value and appreciation. 

 Long ago we were convinced that our daily lives are drudgery and only the things we do that are away from daily life are sublime. We swallowed the belief that nothing sacred or transformative happens in daily life, particularly with kids.

I differ with this. Slow is the new slogan. Slow food, slow art, slow time. Many artists today are tuning themselves to slow down and pay closer attention to their lives as a source for inspiration. Most mothers can tell you stories about slow. They have slow covered. They learned about slow when they watched their newborn see a sibling for the first time, the tracing of face, eyes, and smile that moved between subject and virgin observer. Most mothers know much about slow, having stood at the edges of puddles with toddlers. Or with six-year-olds eating cake. Or with seven-year-olds at the beach in a sandcastle construction project. Mothers know slow. And only in slow can the revelatory insight of inspiration come that all we have to be today is awake and beauty worth describing flows all around us.

collage by suzi banks baumThis is the stuff of daily life. Material abounds when we raise the value of mothering from drudgery to playground. The struggle we all experience to express during the fulltime job of raising children can beat us to the typewriter or sketchpad. It can trip us en route to the studio. It can undermine us because of fashion failure, bad hair days, and the long recipe of low self-esteem invented by too little time for self-care. So we don’t write, we don’t shed light on our dreams, and we deprive the world of our value because we ourselves have not experienced that value. We have not made even a tiny step towards our dreams because we are too tired and weary and downtrodden.

In the beginning, I thought the book might be An Anthology of Babes: 20 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. But the response was stronger than I’d expected. So my title went from 20 Women Giving Motherhood a Voice, to 25, to 30, then 31, 32 and hovered at 35 until I had that one last post to complete the set. Thirty-six seems like such an abundant gathering of anything. I will take 36 peaches any day. Or 36 buttons. Or 36 stories of how women sew together lives rich with children, projects, businesses, and yearning.

Now the book is out in the world and has a place on bookstore shelves in the local author section here in my town, in the women’s sections of others, on the shelves at the Kripalu bookstore with other titles about women’s lives, listed on Goodreads, and now is available on Amazon.

I have given the book as gifts and sent review copies to bloggers who are celebrating its impact on the collective value of the creative expression of mothers. Mandy Steward of Messy Canvas and mother of four said, “It’s the most profound book I’ve seen for Mother-Artists.”

Please read the book. Share it if you like. And consider your stories. Yes, this invitation to be vulnerable will feel very much like your regular life, once you get started. Your life can fuel your paintings. Your birthday cakes are works of art that will lead to more works of art. Art that is every day and in every way sublime because it is your passionate expression of what it is to be you, in this life, not waiting for a certain state of perfection to arrive so you can don a certain outfit and then become an artist.

Writer after writer in the blog series reveal the vulnerability that has birthed courage, joy and transformation in their lives. They may not desire to birth books, but in claiming their voices they begin to revitalize their lives, they become as Miranda Hersey says in her piece, “a more spacious self, a more generous mother-heart.” Whether or not the world accepts their works of art, these women have discovered their own value. And it is this value born from vulnerability that leads to a well-built platform, if not for an author, then simply for an authentically happy human being.

Now I invite you.

Want to play?

All images above care of Suzi Banks Baum at Laundry Line Divine and Femail.

 

And a final note from Pippa: An Anthology of Babes is a simply wonderful collection of art and words, made by mothers just like us. Treat yourself to a feast of inspiration and the recognition we deserve.

Six Steps to a MmmmMama-Body You Love (and no diets!)

Just over a year ago, we launched our Love Mum Body project, encouraging mums worldwide to bare all and share the bits of our bodies we’d like to love more. The project had an incredible response and touched mums worldwide. I never expected that it would also mark the start of my journey towards a mum-body that finally makes me go Mmmmm.

This last year has transformed how I feel about my body. My shape has changed too. But losing weight has been far less impactful than finally losing those fat-girl voices in my head.

All those flashy diet claims and 1000 calorie meal plans tend to ignore the deeper issues – and it’s only by shifting my core behaviour and beliefs that I’m finally getting in touch with the Mmmmm in me.

It’s not that I’ve lost a huge amount of weight. While I don’t weigh myself, I can see the change. It’s not that my body now conforms to the unrealistic proportions in those magazines I don’t read. It’s simply that I see my body’s beauty in a way I never have before.

And that means I can think more about how much fun I’m having instead of about my thighs as I finally chase my kids across a beach in my swimsuit.

Most of all, I can look at myself in the mirror and say Mmmmm I love my body. Of course there are still days when I don’t, but there are so many more days when I do.

So thank you for sharing your Love Mum Body story, your photos and your words.

My gift in return is to share the six simple changes I’ve made. It’s not a 2 week weight loss programme or a quick solution, but that’s why it’s working. I hope it works for you too. 

1.     Move

Yes, just move. Whenever you get the chance

You don’t have to sign up for the gym and fit that in around your kids. I started by just envisaging being the kind of mum who runs around with her children. And then I started to become that person.

Now, I look at the bench I’d like to collapse on, and I look at my kids running gleefully across the park towards the swings. And I run after them.

Not all the time of course. Sometimes we all need the bench.

Find the kind of movement that works for you, and do more of it. I didn’t jump straight into exercising three times a week. I took it slow and added in more when I felt ready.

I love yoga, and now I do it for an hour and half every week. I love to dance but now that I’ve two little ones, I rarely get to go out dancing. So I’ve taken up zumba twice a week, and it’s perfect for me. It’s silly and funny and complicated enough that I don’t have time to notice I’m actually doing exercise.

Initially I felt guilty for taking time out for me, for spending money on my needs. And then I realised that it’s not just my needs. I need to be healthy for my kids. To safeguard me for them, I need to invest time in my body. I need to choose to spend money on that over other things. I need to make the space available to exercise, even if it means asking for help.

And for the first time in my life, I am enjoying exercise. It’s a complete revelation. I’d always seen exercise as a chore I needed to do to lose weight. And that never worked. Now I see movement as a gift to myself. One where I laugh a lot, leave my busy mind for a while to connect with my dear body, and end uplifted. Even better, exercise allows me to eat what I want.

2. Make MMMMM noises

Yes. Really. Appreciate what you eat when you eat it. Another staggeringly simple concept, but mind blowing when you actually do it.

As a mum, I was always eating on the go, hoovering up leftovers (with my mouth) and craving chocolate and wine as soon as the kids were in bed. Very rarely did I sit down and actually notice what I was eating.

Choose what you want to eat. I started to listen out for when my brain and body told me that I wasn’t actually hungry any more.

I realised that I didn’t have to eat everything on my plate. And because I had been going mmmm, my meal was already much more satisfying, even when I ate less of it.

Now, instead of just grabbing the first thing to hand, I think ‘what does my body most want right now?’. And of course sometimes that is still chocolate. And sometimes it’s broccoli and brown rice. And sometimes I forget completely and I hoof down a sandwich at my computer or suddenly realise I have just scoffed the kids cereal leftovers to save on washing up...

But I make more conscious choices most of the time, and every little choice helps.

Most bizarrely of all, I have realised that when there is cake on offer, it is not the only time in my life that I will ever be offered cake. And I think about whether I actually really want cake right now. Sometimes I don’t. THIS was a complete surprise to me.

3.     Model

Now I don’t mean flash your stuff on the catwalk or pose in a naked calendar. Although, feel free, all power to you.

I mean model a healthy happy lifestyle for your kids.

Our children are an incredible asset on the MmmmMama-Body front. Firstly, when they’re young, they accept us and love us just as we are – or at least until we tell them otherwise. Secondly, don’t tell them otherwise.

I don’t criticise my body in front of them, I talk about all the things I love about my wonderful purposeful functional body. I talk about loving being healthy.

And most of all, I walk the talk. They know mummy loves going to zumba. They laugh when I come back sweaty and red-faced to give them bed-time cuddles.

They would probably rather not see mummy dancing around naked at bath-time, but it makes them laugh. And one day, they will do that too.

4.     Magazines

Don’t read magazines. I just stopped reading magazines. I don't even look at them on the shelves in the shop.

Airbrushed versions of women who barely eat because someone somewhere has decided that is what beauty is?

Impossible expectations set up by advertisers to spur us on to spend money on trying to attain an impossible perfection?

No thanks. 

Instead I look at the beautiful women and mums I see all around me – I look at their eyes, their smiles.

I look for how their behaviour reflects an inner beauty.

I think about what beauty means to me. And it isn't about the clothes size, it's about the woman, or man, inside those clothes.

I decide what defines beautiful.

And I’m finding that a much healthier set of expectations to work with.

5.     Massage

Massage the bits of your body you’d like to love more. 

I listened to a body love specialist describe how she takes time to massage her body every day, with love. As she does so, she switches between feeling like she is the one giving the loving massage, and the one receiving it. And I thought, no way.

As a mum, I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone lavish cream all over my body. But I’ve started to spend a minute, just one minute, applying some body cream each morning after my shower.

Not my whole body obviously, that would take too long, just choosing one small bit that needs some attention each day and connecting that to the rest of me.

At the weekends, I can make time for a little bit more.

And as I’m massaging that cellulite on my thighs or that wobbly stretch-marked tummy or those dry elbows, I tell myself how much I love that part of me, how grateful I am for all that it does.

How I love that wobbly tummy because it carried my children. How I love those strong thighs for carrying me through my day. How I appreciate my elbows for moving my arms so I can hug my children.

It feels pretty silly at first, but it starts to work. Slowly but surely, I’m seeing my body less as a collection of ‘problem areas’, and more as a wonderful whole that supports me to live a full and fabulous life.

6.     Mirror

Love yourself in the mirror. Now, this was really hard at first, and sometimes it’s still hard.

After I had been doing all the other things for a few months, I started to look at myself in the mirror. In my underwear. And then, naked.

And as I looked at myself, I tried to see the beauty. That same beauty I can see in my children, in other women who have shared their photos here, in the people all around me.

In the mirror, I gaze at myself with kindness.

This took a while you understand, but I can genuinely do it now, with ease. (Apart from a couple of days a month, where I’ve learnt to keep my clothes on, and stay out of my own way…)

In that mirror, instead of noticing all the things that I’m not, I now notice all the things that I am. Healthy. Flexible. Miraculous. Warm. Lovable. Mmmmm.

The last thing to share is that I don’t even do these things all the time. I forget. I fall back into the old patterns. And yet, it still works.

Because my mindset has changed. I’m not giving myself a hard time when I mess up. Instead, I’m celebrating every little success. And I’m seeing the Mmmmm in my mumbody more every day.

And that’s it. No diets. No giving up cake forever. No crazy exercise regime. Just a slow and steady change for the better. So here they are, my six diet-free steps to a MMMMMmama-body you love:

Do you do any of these things already? Could you start trying to add one of these into your life today?

Maybe you could add a line to our Ode to Mum-Bodies as a first step...

And of course visit our wonderful Love Mum Body gallery stuffed with pictures of beautiful real mama-bodies and mama's own stories.

If you'd like to pin any of the lovely blackboard reminders above, we would really appreciate that - you can use the 'share' buttons on the left :)

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