A Guerrilla Public Art Project Offering an Alternative Motherhood Narrative
Check out all 150 #MomLists on TUMBLR.
#MomLists is now accepting submissions! Click here to learn more about writing your own list.
The project aims to hang 150 #MomLists in public spaces in the Bay Area—50 in Oakland, 50 in Berkeley, and 50 in San Francisco. Each list is handwritten on a 4×6 card. A layer of bright decorative paper is placed on top and the two papers are sewn together across the top. The act of making—cutting, sewing, hand writing, stamping—then feeling the tangible, finished product in my hands is a relief. Each piece is a clearly laid-out goal—the opposite of the uncertain nature of raising a child. The lists dangle from ribbons in public spaces (laundromats, playgrounds, coffee shops) looking like flattened gift bags, waiting for strangers to stumble upon them. #MomLists require interaction. Readers must lift the pretty exterior to access the gritty, vulnerable list underneath.
Two years after giving birth to my first child, I felt like I was still in survival mode. Our modern-day connector—social media—is a barrage of happy mom-and-tot selfies. I am not living that picturesque motherhood life, and my suspicion is neither is anyone else. In search of an alternative motherhood narrative, I began a guerrilla public art project in the Bay Area, consisting of 150 lists about my early motherhood experiences. Through brutally honest lists that are often mini-memoirs, #MomLists strives to lift the societal surface of motherhood and expose a messier, more resonant truth.
The project title, stamped on each list, contains a hashtag to suggest, “This is a conversation. Join in!” Each time I post a list in the real world, I also post it on social media. Moms comment on, repost, and even contribute their own lists or make list requests. This audience, most of whom I have never met, has become part of my mothering community. They inspire and feed the work. When I began the project, I was sort of writing into the void. Now, I know there are moms like me out there—moms who love their kids but struggle every day with the mountain-like task of parenting—and I’m writing for them. My hope is that if I put my truest self out there, another mom will see it and recognize herself, laugh at the mayhem and beauty of motherhood, and hopefully be a little gentler with herself. When a mom responds on Facebook or Instagram with even a simple, “Yes! So true!” it’s a good feeling. Motherhood is a never-ending series of trial and error, and there’s a lot of faith you have to have in yourself that you’re doing a good job. It’s hard to feel sure all the time. In the midst of society pitting moms against each other (stay-at-home moms v. working moms, attachment-parenting moms v. sleep-training moms, homebirth moms v. planned-caesarian moms), a little mom-to-mom affirmation goes a long way.