Before I was a mom, I wanted to know that if I became a mom, I would still be able to have my life, my self, my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations; that motherhood would be a gain and not a loss.
When I met moms, I’d ask them endless questions about how they did it all, to make sure I could do it too and not become a shell of the person I knew and liked. When moms told me that motherhood was the hardest thing that they had ever done, but that it was worth it and the rewards outweighed the hardships, I probably thought they were lying. I probably suspected that they were miserable and trying to make it sound like they weren’t. I had no point of reference for something that would cause me extreme discomfort and potentially mess with my career and cost me money but that would all feel worthwhile in my bones, underneath it all, in my heart and in my soul. I don’t think there is another point of reference for a paradox like that.
When I became a mother, it was the steepest learning curve I’d ever experienced. I was blindsided by everything. I was extremely uncomfortable and deeply happy simultaneously. I was both terrified and braver than I’d ever been. I was everything at the same time. The experience was all-consuming, overwhelming, life changing, riveting, vital. Now I see moms and I wonder, “What’s her story? What has she been through? Was she fired from her job? Does she have a supportive partner? Is she tired? Is she all right?”
It’s only when my current life conflicts with the aspirations and expectations I’m used to having for myself in other areas of life that I’m uncomfortable with myself now. When I’m not contrasting and comparing to what I think I should be doing or how I think I should be looking, I’m very happy. Much happier, in many ways, than I’ve ever been.
But it’s not realistic to live inside a mommy/baby bubble. Babies grow up. Mommies need other nourishment. So it’s the conflict between mommy life and the rest of life that I resent. I wish there wasn’t such a chasm between the two. That causes me stress and unhappiness. There are a million reasons a mom would feel anxious or angry about being a mom that have nothing to do with their children. It’s those things that need to be reframed. Motherhood itself is a beautiful gift. It’s the conflict between it and functioning well in the rest of a society that is the cause of stress and anger. Healthy societies need healthy moms.
Bio: Ali Smith has lived many lives; as a ballet dancer, performing at New York City’s Lincoln Center; as a rock musician, releasing nine albums and touring the world playing music; and more recently (and throughout), as a photographer.
Ali’s first book of photography, “Laws of the Bandit Queens”, was released in 2002 by Three Rivers Press and has been called “this generation’s quintessential homage to strong, smart, groundbreaking women.”
She has been profiled on Oxygen television and in New York magazine, was briefly “the face of Cosmopolitan magazine,” was profiled in Women’s Wear Daily, and reviewed in Elle Girl. She has done readings at bookstores across the country, including Barnes and Nobles in NY and LA, and shared her work at The International Center of Photography (ICP) and New York University in New York City.
The running theme throughout Ali’s personal work is a concern about the lives and well being of women. A grant from The Puffin Foundation helped enable Ali’s work photographing incarcerated mothers and their children, and the resulting photo essay was published in Bust Magazine.
She is currently working on her second book of photography entitled “Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives”. It’s a photographic exploration of the realities of the ways in which women live their lives as mothers. Momma Love is not only about the love a mother shows. It’s about the love she is shown, by herself and the world around her. Visit her blog at http://alismith.com/blog/category/momma-love/.