These days it seems like just being a “mom” isn’t good enough. Women in parenthood find themselves embroiled in “mommy wars” over anything from how they feed their babies to how much screen time their kids can have. Moms are shamed for breastfeeding in public, while some are looked down on for bottle-feeding their babies with formula. Helicopter, attachment, babywearing, crunchy, bed-sharing, stay-at-home, working are all kinds of moms, and it can be a struggle to find your place and fit in.
But what about just taking a moment to realize being the mom you are is plenty? This is where South Delta photographer Eran Sudds found herself when she launched the Good Mother Project, a website aimed at focusing on the pure positivity of motherhood through storytelling and images from all kinds of mothers.
Sudds, a mother herself to two-year-old son, endured post-partum depression, and the origins of the Good Mother Project stem from her wanting to not only celebrate moms, but give back to an organization that helped her get through some of the toughest times.
I talked to Sudds about the Good Mother Project and her own journey as a mom, and the power of connectivity can help give all kinds of mothers a positive boost.
Eran Sudds: Initially, the Good Mother Project started out as an idea to hold photo sessions for moms and their children, as a Mother’s Day celebration, and a fundraiser for the Pacific Post Partum Support Society. I had wanted to do something to benefit the PPPSS for a long time, as they had helped me with my own postpartum depression, and I felt a strong tie to the organization.
I put a call out on my Facebook page for moms to come and do some promotional shots to use in my advertising, and both moms that answered the call had had past experience with pre- or postpartum depression/anxiety (the information about proceeds going to the PPPSS was nowhere in my original Facebook post…the universe just works in mysterious ways). Both of the women asked if there was anything else they could do to share their story with other moms, so that they wouldn’t feel alone. And then I started putting the word out to potential sponsors to contribute to goodie bags for the moms who booked photo shoots, and more stories started coming forward.
I already knew that I wanted to create a website for the Good Mother Project photography sessions, but I had never planned for a blog/story section. But as I reached out to more people, it became apparent that there were other women/mothers who wanted to share their stories too. And so the blog was born (and has now become the main focal point of the website/project).
For myself personally, I wanted to make sure I was doing everything “right.” So many people have opinions on the best way to do things when you’re a mother, and I fought many battles with my inner perfectionist – wanting to make sure I was living up to the standards of everyone else’s opinion, and wanting to please the masses.
With SO MUCH information out there about pregnancy, parenting, and raising children, it can become really blinding. You want to do what the experts say; you want to do right by your child; you’re terrified you’re going to fuck them up. It’s often really hard to see/realize that YOU are actually the expert on your child. And if you’ve had no past experience as a mother, it’s really, really hard to view yourself as that expert. You second-guess yourself constantly, especially if you’re not doing things the way everyone else is.
Social media and the online community are so tricky. On the one hand, you see all these other moms/parents posting proud moments of their kids online, snapping perfect photos of their babies, portraying what might look like “picture perfect” parenting lives. It can be hard to live up to that. Even the motherhood/parenting posts that joke about or poke fun at “perfect parenting” can be isolating – because sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes it’s just friggin’ HARD.
What I’m hoping that we can do with the Good Mother Project is use social media and our own online community to create connection and camaraderie. By sharing our stories (not our opinions, or our advice – but our stories), I’m hoping we can create understanding for one another. Maybe I don’t do things the same way as you – maybe I do. But that’s okay. I’m also hoping we can provide encouragement and recognition for one another. People are often quick to give advice – they want to help you solve your problem and that’s great – but often, all we need is just to hear “hey mama, you’re doing a great job.” Sometimes that’s better than any advice anyone can give.
This is a tough question. Countless people told me it would be hard. Even more told me that it would be incredibly rewarding. And both are true. I guess I would wish I had known how much I would question my decisions (and I’m still questioning), and that I would never actually know if what I’m doing is right or wrong. I’m still working on trusting my gut. That’s been a huge learning point for me.
I’m interested in pretty much all stories of motherhood. I firmly believe that everyone has their own unique story. Some of them are bigger or more emotional. Others are small, but poignant. Every story is equally important. What I really want to do with the Good Mother Project is create connection. There have been countless times when I’ve felt like I’m the only mother in the world that “does this” or “feels this way.” And I’ll Google the crap out of it, looking for someone else who can relate. I want to highlight the stories of those moms who felt like they were alone. I want to share those stories so that that mom who’s Googling in the middle of the night, comes across the story from another mom who’s gone through the same thing, and she doesn’t feel so alone.
The Good Mother Project is accepting submissions for stories for the site. Information on parameters for storytellers is available here. Though the Mother’s Day photo sessions are fully booked, Sudds encourages anyone looking to help the PPPSS to make an online donation.