© Copyright 2018 Julia Lennox, Ryerson University.
I used to look at motherhood as a blueprint; plans meticulously mapped out by my own upbringing. If followed precisely, I could build a replica of the wonderful nuclear family my parents had created. I envisioned a son and a daughter, four years apart. I imagined raising my two kids alongside my husband, who doubled as a great father. I was determined to juggle the demands of maintaining a healthy and happy household, all while continuing to pursue my professional passions – exactly how my mother had done. Ah, the balancing act that is (our preconceived notions of) womanhood.
Despite my best efforts, a slight miscalculation caused my seemingly solid foundation to come crashing down.
Now, I am a mother: a young, single mother of a beautiful boy.
As you can imagine, my view of motherhood has completely changed.
I actually see it, physically. I see my face in his. Some genetic architect delicately etched my brows, chiseled my chin and drew my dimples onto him; traits passed down to the next generation. I don’t think you understand how truly breathtaking – and frightening – that is, to behold another physical manifestation of yourself on a different body.
Now, I have two sets of eyes.
I’m rediscovering the world through his, recognizing and acknowledging the simple beauty in everything around me. How pure the orange pigment of a pumpkin can be. How round and smooth they are.
But my central focus is all on him. You can see it in how I’ve positioned my body, pulling him closer. I’m clutching his side, cradling his gourd – all in an attempt to provide stability, even if only for one “picture perfect” moment.
That’s the thing about motherhood; it creates a fundamentally shift in your perspective. What you think you know is not so. Love isn’t just about affection; it’s about protection. It’s not just about surrender; it’s about sacrifice. And it certainly isn’t just about pleasure; it’s about pain – born from fight, hardship, and perseverance.
It also acts as a kind of mirror. You see yourself being reflected back, but through the eyes of another. Suddenly, you are far more than your shortcomings. You are a provider, a comfort, a best friend; you are the best version of yourself. This new lens is crucial, because it allows you to step back from the chaos and constant doubt to remind yourself that through the application of your finest qualities, you are shaping the kind of person your child will ultimately become.
The key is finding balance, remembering to pull focus from all these different viewpoints in order to capture a true representation of this new stage in your life. Some days will feel like triumphs, and some will feel like failures. But the ability to pivot, and highlight the positive within each and every experience will push you to keep moving forward.
To put it succinctly, motherhood is a multifaceted illustration of oneself and the world at large. And I’m pretty proud of what I see.
Cheung, Caitlin. Pumpkin Patch. 2016, Digital Photograph.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.