Mothers not only physically create us, they shape our ideas of the potential and possibilities available to us as we grow into our true selves. From creator to protector, healer to warrior, different representations of motherhood in our lives can serve to empower all of us during periods of emergence.
One of our favorite commentaries on all of the characteristics, both beautiful and strange, that the mother archetype can hold is Isabella Rossellini’s wonderfully weird Sundance series Mammas. We hope that you may enjoy it, and the profiles of our favorite mothers below, with the women in your life this Mother’s Day.
1. Artist Moms
Mica Angela Hendricks has a wonderful take on what it means to be a mother, exemplified by her ongoing series of portrait collaborations with her 4 year old daughter. “In sharing my artwork and allowing our daughter to be an equal in our collaborations, I helped solidify her confidence, which is way more precious than any doodle I could have done,” says Hendricks. In this blog post, Hendricks confesses that it wasn’t easy to relinquish control over her art, but was forced to when her daughter cleverly trotted out some old mommy-wisdom: “We might have to take it away if you can’t share…” Read the whole story here.
Other cool art moms: Annie Leibovitz, who made children a priority later in life after creating a wildly successful career as a photographer; Laurie Simmons, mother of Lena Dunham and inspiration for Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture.
2. Mothers to the Masses
What does a hell-raiser have in common with a saint? In the case of these two women, they both channelled the mother archetype, albeit two different aspects of it, in order to uplift those in need.
Mother Teresa’s seemingly bottomless well of kindness and service inspired many young people to dedicate their lives to helping others. Her work with the poor and needy earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
While Mother Teresa calls to the caregiver in all of us with her lifetime of compassion and service, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones inspires the mother in each of us who can fight like a lioness to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Mother Jones was a 19th century labor leader who, rather than dwelling on her personal tragedies, worked tirelessly to organize for worker’s unions. She famously said, “I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.” She remained an active protector for the working class well into her 90s. Her legacy is that of a mother’s stubbornness and tireless pursuit of what is right.
3. Moms in the ‘Biz
We love actress, writer, producer, bazillion time Emmy award winner and mother Tina Fey’s refreshing take on “having it all.” Her 2011 book Bossypants approaches the subject of her anxieties about working outside the home with humor and honesty. She and fellow comedian Amy Poehler regularly use their sharp wit to skewer the double standards for working parents, as seen in this fun round-up of quotes over at HuffPost Parents.
“You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.” ~ Tina Fey
Other moms we love in showbusiness: Wanda Sykes, whose OWN special Herlarious puts female comics in the spotlight; Angelina Jolie who recently wrote a beautiful op-ed piece about her decision to have a mastectomy.
4. Activist Moms
Following the birth of her daughter, Christy Turlington Burns suffered postpartum hemorrhage. The complication was quickly dealt with by her midwife and OB, but not all women have access to the same resources as we do in this developed country. As Melinda Gates says in last week’s Time’s 100 Most Influential People, “Christy’s realization that her life and her baby’s turned on the luck of geography inspired her to take action.” She founded Every Mother Counts to take action against these preventable deaths by addressing the main barriers to maternal health.
Another mother making progress for women’s rights: Cecile Richards, daughter of Ann Richards, mother of three, and President of Planned Parenthood.
5. Moms on Mothering
Michelle Obama, First Lady and self-titled Mom-in-Chief, is clear about her priorities. When making the transition into the White House, her main concern was to support her daughters. But this mama’s power is not just reserved for her own babies. Her Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity aims to empower families all across the nation. Watch her team up with comedian Will Ferrell in this hilarious video about the movement.
“I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.” ~ Michelle Obama
6. Moms in Little Moments
Whether our actual moms, or the mother figures we find on our life’s path, it’s the moms we see day in and day out, through good times and bad, during both the special times and the mundane moments who are often the most powerful sources of inspiration. Listen to Your Mother is a series of live staged readings in celebration of Mother’s Day. In 32 cities across the nation, mothers, daughters, husbands, sons, grandparents and grandchildren gather to share their stories of motherhood. Check in all week for this year’s performances, or dive in to the archives. Don’t know where to start? Try Kris Adam’s take on the body of a mother here.
We are excited to start a conversation and learn more from you, dear emerging women. Let us know, with a comment below, what qualities of motherhood inspire YOU? Who are some of YOUR favorite moms?
Like what you’re hearing? Dive deeper with us this October at Emerging Women Live 2014.