#MomLists

#MomLists is A Guerrilla Public Art Project Offering an Alternative Motherhood Narrative

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For the #MomLists project, I hung 150 literary art pieces 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 the guerrilla public art project #MomLists to chronicle 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.

Each time I posted a list in the real world, I also posted a photo of it on social media. Moms commented, reposted, and even contributed their own lists or made list requests. This audience, most of whom I have never met, has become part of my mothering community.

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.