Just last week my dad sent me a link to a bunch of family photos that he had scanned. One photo in particular stuck out to me. It was my grandmother holding my cousin Robyn, probably 35 years ago. The early 1980’s and all the women are in heels. My Tia Isabel is wearing what looks like a chambray romper (want!) and my mom is looking very lady like in black and white asymmetrical designed dress with white heeled sandals. I would love to find both of these looks look in my own closet, I wish I could see their purses and accessories closer. My Welita is in a stylish blouse and pants and looks glamorous with sunglasses and her hair down.
I have saved this photo and come back to it to feeling like a spy. Taking a glimpse at the woman my mom was in the early 80’s before she became fully committed to motherhood. She looks confident and happy. She looks comfortable and effortless. I look at her and love the person I see because, naturally, I see so much of who I am right now.
Then this week I discovered an article from the NYTimes that explores this exact subject. The article, titled Our Mothers As we Never Saw Them, highlights photographs and anecdotes of the unexplored and even unexpected sides of our mothers. The writer points to an instagram handle she created that is a living and breathing archive of ‘mom before you’ and she uses this account to share some thoughts on womanhood, adulthood and motherhood. This excerpt I found especially interesting:
The photos women sent me offer a key to how we, as daughters, want to perceive young womanhood. Pluck, sex appeal, power, kindness, persistence: We admire and celebrate these characteristics, and we long for the past versions of our moms to embody them. But if these characteristics are a prerequisite for a properly executed womanhood, does becoming a mother divest a woman of such qualities? In studying these photos, and each daughter’s interpretation of them, I’ve come to wonder what traits we allow our mothers to have, and which ones we view as temporary, expiring with age and the beginning of motherhood. Can a woman be both sexual and maternal, daring and responsible, innocent and wise? Mothers are either held up as paragons of selflessness, or they’re discounted and parodied. We often don’t see them in all their complexity.
I leave you with that to ponder this weekend, or even discuss at your own Mother’s day gathering.