Friday, September 12, 2003

What does a Mojo Mom look like?

What does a Mojo Mom look like?

The process of creating MojoMom.com cast an interesting light on how difficult it is to find healthy and accurate images to represent motherhood. Our romantic societal ideals bear little resemblance to the challenging, hands-on work of raising children. While designing my web site, I scoured graphics sites looking for an image to represent the MojoMom.com concept. As I searched for my new icon at GettyImages.com, our collective unconsciousness flowed out in a river of pictures and descriptive keywords.

Searching the vast image database for "mother," I was overwhelmed by 14,667 results, including those categorized as "stereotypical housewives" (178 images), "housework and drudgery" (45), and more images of families walking on the beach than I knew existed (1224). Browsing this collage of motherhood, the first thing I realized was that to illustrate a mother, you have to show children as well. This seemed instantly obvious once the thought popped in my mind, but I'd never looked at it that way before. "Mother" inherently implies a relationship between two people.

I began to wonder, what would a creative mother pursuing her own interests look like? Well, if she was pictured off on her own, she would be alone, and would not be recognizable as a mother any more. This defined connectedness, combined with a woman's yearning for a measure of separation, creates tension between our identities as mothers and as individuals. Authors such as Naomi Wolf in Misconceptions, and Susan Maushart in The Mask of Motherhood, have explored this territory in great detail, laying out the theory that MojoMom.com hopes to explore in practice. This difficult balancing act between self and family fuels the defensiveness that can arise between work-at-home Moms and work-at-home-and-outside-the-home Moms. I hope that by having honest conversations at MojoMom.com, we can all gain a better understanding that there is no ideal career-life path, and each of our lives is a work in progress. As I say in my book, "One sign that Mommy Mojo has succeeded will be that women are comfortable enough with their own life decisions that they can support other women who have made different choices."

As I continued my search for an illustration that would somehow capture the essence of MojoMom.com, I tried to zero in on the concepts that seemed relevant. "Mother and freedom" gave me 74 cute images that were mostly of families on vacation. "Mother and creativity" came up with 62 choices that were primarily photos of mothers watching their children do crafts. There was one series of photos I really liked of a woman painting her own art while holding her son on her lap, and another of a mother and daughter working on a potter's wheel together. When I limited the search to illustrations only, I was left with only two choices: a cliched cartoon of a family juggling a clock, calendar, and briefcase, and an antique painting of Jesus with his parents! Neither met my needs. Apparently a creative Mom is rarer than an endangered species. Even a search for "Panda Bears" came up with 130 images.

I finally found the illustration I chose to define MojoMom.com's design listed under "Mother and serene people," a small category of only 4 illustrations. "Mother and Child" by Vicky Emptage shows a mother tenderly cradling her baby while looking inward, as though she has other things on her mind as well. I did have concerns about the image; first, that the Mom looked too passive, and second, that the image would make site visitors think that the web site was only for Moms with new babies, but after viewing hundreds of options, I felt that "Mother and Child" was a beautiful place to start. After all, we shouldn't put too much stock into any single image. The question "What does a Mojo Mom look like?" is best answered with a mirror.

Check out the home page of MojoMom.com to view the image I chose for the site.

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