Recently, I attended the “Picturing Motherhood Now” exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As a single mom of twins, this event was particularly impactful for me.
There were two moments at the exhibit where I struck up beautiful, genuine, heartfelt conversations with other people who were visiting the museum. It was amazing to share some of our experiences of motherhood, and despite our differences, we had so many common themes in our stories.
There was one painting that was especially profound, and seeing it and reading the description nearly brought me to tears (I said ‘nearly,’ because I didn’t want to smudge my mascara). The moment occurred at the very beginning of the exhibit, as I viewed the Ginny and Andrew painting. Here is an excerpt from the description of the painting:
“In Ginny and Andrew, which depicts the artist Alice Neel’s daughter-in-law and grandson, the pictured mother stares out at the viewer. Even as she holds her child, she seems to be lost in her own thoughts. By turning the child away from the viewer, Neel directs our attention to the mother’s interior life beyond her role as caretaker…”
I was so moved by the woman in the painting lost in her own thoughts, because I’ve been that mom. At times as a single mom, I thought I had failed. I thought that I failed my parents who have been married nearly 40 years. I thought that I failed my children, because I couldn’t give them a two-parent household like I had, and because of this, I parented from a place of fear. I believed I constantly had to prove that my children were wanted, loved, and would thrive.
The other moment during the “Picturing Motherhood Now” exhibit that was impactful was a collage of pictures showing all the different roles we have as moms. Honestly, seeing that made me exhausted just thinking about all the hats we wear.
By spending time in self-reflection, I was able to reflect on and confront the emotions that came up as a result of this exhibit. Doing this helped me identify feelings and heal in ways I didn’t think I needed to heal. I think that sometimes as moms, we are focused on the day-to-day of motherhood, and the busyness of it all doesn’t give us the time to step back and reflect on how we are doing mentally, emotionally, and physically. This exhibit allowed me to do just that.
I encourage moms to attend and spend some time in self-reflection. Go at your own pace. See what grabs your attention and where you naturally want to linger, or even where you want to engage in discussion with another attendee.
I only mentioned two of the pieces in the exhibit in this post, because these were the pieces that spoke to me the most. However, there are more pieces. Therefore, I encourage you to check it out for yourself to see what speaks to you. What spoke to me may not speak to you, because all mothers are different, and we have different life experiences. This is why you should visit the exhibit to see what speaks to you and how these things impact you. Pay attention to the things that emotionally impact you. These are the areas where you need to spend more time in self-reflection.
Taking time for yourself, even if you initially feel guilty doing it, will allow you to fill your cup back up. This ultimately allows us to serve from our overflow instead of through exhaustion, and this helps us not only to be better moms, but better women as well. This helps us to remember that we matter, we have a purpose. Motherhood is an extremely sacred and important role, but it isn’t who we are or who we are defined by. Therefore, don’t forget you during motherhood. Take time for yourself and not only will you thrive, your children will thrive as well.
The exhibit runs through March 13, 2022. Visit The Cleveland Museum of Art for more information.
Please leave a comment, and let me know how this exhibit impacts you.