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Our mothers
Our mothers come in all shapes and sizes. They are married and single; stay-at-home and working; biological and surrogate; wealthy and impoverished; educated and illiterate. They have done their best to keep us happy, healthy, clothed, fed, schooled and successful. Whether we love them or resent them, we are who we are today because of our mothers. We are their legacy, forever shaped by their decisions, actions, joys and fears.

See Jessica Lagunas’ artwork celebrating three generations of strong Nicaraguan women. View Erin Welsh’s photographs of her many surrogate mothers, and read her story as she speaks of her childhood and the longing she feels for her deceased mother.

Meet Newsha Tavakolian, and see how her photographs of Iranian mothers, in mourning for their martyred sons, speak volumes about the realities of loss.

Join the conversation! Share your stories about your own mother and the many lessons she taught you.
Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
You're just like your mother." Are these words that make you want to jump off the side of a boat? Make you beam with pride?

We all have different relationships with our mothers-- sometimes complicated, sometimes joyful. As we get older and our relationship with our mothers matures, there's no denying how much our lives are shaped by the outlook that they passed down to us.

Tell us about your mother!
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 6:18 PM
I love Sanja's question: What have you learned and unlearned from your mothers?

For me, it's so much easier to think about what I've unlearned than what I've learned. What I've learned is so much a fabric of my being that it's hard to consciously call attention to it.

Some things are obvious:
I'm the young woman who whenever someone tells me they like my shoes or purse or shirt-- smile widely and tell them I got it for some ridiculously cheap price. "Five dollars, Tar- GET (the french pronunciation, of course), can you believe it?" And why do I take so much joy in this bizarre practice? Because my mom always dragged me to sales when I was younger, only bought things if she knew they were ridiculous bargains-- a product of growing up without access to money.

I'm also the young woman who -- even when things are going righter than right, when people are heaping praise and wonderment upon me -- always thinks the floor might be about to drop out, always thinks something is not quite right. I do so because I learned this from my mother and the generations of women that preceded her. In my family, worrying was something of a virtue for the females. I'm unlearning that. Thankfully, it's working.

What have all of you learned and unlearned?

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Fabia Fabyan
Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 4:57 AM
I'm drawn to women, and I appreciate motherhood. I hope that I have the opportunity to be a mother in the future. I really liked the concept of the 3 generational braid by Jessica Lagunas, it's special and humbling especially as I like to think in terms generational influences. 'Special' is also how I would describe my relationships with my mum and grand-mum. I am humbled to come from their stock. My grand-mum was quite revolutionary for her generation, she was a nurse in the Nigerian Army and first Principal of its school of nursing. My mum's a medical doctor, she's a very simple person with an amazing strength of character and selfless dedication to my sister and I. Nevertheless I don't necessarily want to be them, and though I have undoubtedly been shaped by them I like to think I am very much my own person. What I do hope though, is I can emulate the best of both generations to shape the next.
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Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2007 4:53 PM
I often wonder if I will ever be as great of a woman as my mother is. All these years she has been teaching me, but I feel like I have not learned. I am still unpredictable in my behavior whereas she has tried to make me know myself and act accordingly; I am still unaware of my full potential and my capabilities, whereas she has tried to imbue me with confidence and self-respect; I am still a desperate dreamer whereas she has tried to make me tread the earth but, at night, dream of firmaments.

But she did teach me to see only the best in people, to wish for people more than I could ever wish for myself, to be lighthearted and, most importantly, to always be thankful.

What have you learned and unlearned from your mothers?
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Lena Alfi
United States
Posted on Monday, June 11, 2007 10:31 AM
When I look over my relationship with my mother, it is astonishing for me to see the evolution of our friendship over the years. As Shaz explained how a mother's words carry so much weight, it seems my response to these words in recent years have been progressively more positive. I no longer accept her words as a form of scold or reprimand but as life long lessons. Before, I failed to understand that most everything that comes out of a mother's mouth is for the purpose of benefitting their child. The selflessness that mothers naturally inherit has truely allowed me to appreciate my mother for gracing me with so many words of wisdom that I previously didn't understand. For that, I appreciate her more as a person, and feel lucky to be her friend.
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Sunday, June 10, 2007 9:54 PM
Narender-- thank you for your comment. I'm sure you're being way too hard on yourself-- but I imagine a conversation with your mom wouldn't hurt, would it?

And Wael-- welcome back! Was so excited to see your post (check out Wael's awesome film here:

There seems to be a common thread between your and Narender's posts-- which is how difficult it probably is to be a mother. Not being a mom myself, it's hard to comment. But my guess is we're all bound to repeat some of the same mistakes our parents made. Or maybe we avoid those and find other ways to screw our kids up. And in the end, we do our best, and make the best choices we can, and hope our kids only turn out moderately messed up. :)

Which is not to discount what you're saying, Wael. Parents often make mistakes-- big ones.

But-- is being a mother a thankless, impossible job?
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Narender Preet Kaur
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2007 10:41 AM
i stumbled upon this website by sheer accident and im so glad that i did.. still new to whatever that is published here but i feel like i found a place i can learn of ways to appreciate my own mother as i feel that i have done some wrong to her. im only 22 and many of my friends have told me that its okay, and that my mom has already forgiven me for my blunt foolishness as a young adult but nevertheless i'd like to find ways i can make it up to her and let her rest assured that im no more the inconsiderate child i was. i feel inspired with some of the work i have seen so far here and hope that i will do something as great.
once i thought i was way different from her despite the physical similarities i inherited from her, but as years pass by, i realize that im very much like her in many many ways.. and despite not wanting to be like her once, i feel like i will never be as strong, as dedicated,as loving, as beautiful as my mother. but i will learn from her as long as i can, as long as it takes for her to rest assured that the 9 months of morning sickness and the 22 years of headache i might have caused, was not a lost cause.
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Wael Hattar
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2007 10:10 AM
There is a joke in the arab world especially in lebanon about how the mother would teach the wife of the son all his favorite dishes but leave out a small ingredient so that he would still prefer his mother's cooking.

I want to talk about the things that our mothers don't teach us, I don't mean to create drama for the sake of drama, but there is also that issue of over protection and sheltering that sometimes leaves a young adult lacking the full understanding to deal with the real world.

I never listened to anyone so i always managed to learn things the hard way but learn them non the less, but around me were people who kept their head in the hole in the ground that their mother dug for them to stay safe.

and that isn't good.

the only story i can say from that end about my mother is how when i was about 7 and we all went to canada for holiday my father was offered a killer job there and we would all move.

My mother didn't want because she didn't want us to grow up (no offence to anyone) like the "foreigners" with no social values or respect and end up loose unruly parting too much doing drugs and sex....

little did they know that everyone does that, and we did... but as a mother you would see why that would be a fear.

The differance now is that if we did move i would have had an easier passport to travel around with (i have a jordanian passport which is fine but i can't travel at a drop of a hat, i need to make visas and prove who i am, and as an artist with no full time job or anything owned that isn't too easy!
yet, i might have never grown up to be the man i am now, maybe someone different, maybe a banker.

so i guess thanks mom?
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 11:31 PM
PS: Dirt, ladies (and gents), dirt! Tell us about your mothers-- the good, the bad, and the ugly... No need to be shy.
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 11:16 PM
It's true, Shaz, the word mother does carry an extraordinary amount of weight. I was just looking again at Newsha Tavakolian's beautiful photos (I've gone back to her work about ten times now-- along with that of the rest of the Eve photographers-- what an amazing group) -- and thinking about how mothers are somehow given moral authority, often even to speak about subjects that are otherwise hard to broach.

Like the mothers of martyrs in Iran, there were the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, protesting the disappearance of their sons. And there is (well now "was") Cindy Sheehan in the US, protesting the loss of her son in Iraq. Remember the whole media frenzy that took place after Ann Coulter questioned whether Sheehan should have authority to comment on Iraq if her only qualification (in Coulter's eyes) was just that she was a mother to a fallen soldier?

Is it in every culture that motherhood is given so much symbolic authority? Help me out, friendly readers. :) Is it true in your culture?
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Shaz Bennett
United States
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 11:34 AM
The word mother carries so much weight. Especially if your mother is no longer alive, you are reminded it of it every year on mother's day but I like the idea of Mother and mothering - it's a nice way to live your life, as a mother even if you don't have children.
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pathma r
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 1:41 AM
My mother is so lovable,caring,reponsible person.She take's care of me from my childhood.Now also when i am in great suffering she take care of me.O mother is really gods gift.She suffered a lot during our studies and our all developments.She is really great.We three brothers and one daughter.She is suffered for me a lot.Yes i love her more.
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Jessica Lagunas
United States
Posted on Wednesday, June 06, 2007 7:39 PM
Actually it wasn’t so difficult to convince my mother and grandmother to let their hair grow. My grandma was visiting my mom in Guatemala when I proposed them the project. According to my dad, when they read about it they both were very emotional and even cried!

At that time they both were using very short hair, and the first few months weren’t that bad. After a while my grandma began having the “lion’s mane” and we would joke about this. The hardest part was actually hearing them complain and ask every time we spoke if “it was time to cut it yet?” I wanted them to let it grow at least a year but they couldn’t make it, so they cut it a month or so before time. My original idea was to have a long braid, but the final braid turned out only 3 inches long.

I feel that I have a very good relationship with both of them. It wasn’t always like that with my mom, although most of the time it has been good. Since I moved to NY, I feel that the relationship with her has been the best ever! This could be because now that we don’t live in the same country we just appreciate more each minute that we talk or spend together when visiting.
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Luz Sanchez
Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2007 10:19 PM
I forgot to say:
I think my life is very different than my mother's life. VERY VERY different. She had six children-- I would never have more than 3. I'm not alone in Mexico- we nowadays have fewer children. She was born in Mexico City and lived there until she died. I've lived on three continents.
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2007 10:16 PM
Adita, thank you for your comment. Rest assured I have had the very conversation with my mother you suggested! And she nodded knowingly, as if to say-- I should have realized sooner, but she was glad I'd realized...

Okay- a few questions:
Jessica Lagunas-- how on earth did you convince your mother and grandmother to chop off a whole long lock of hair for your art project? You must have very understanding and supportive relatives. :)

Amy Neil-- What a beautiful movie on Alzheimers. I would love to hear more about what you learned from making the film.

It made me reflect on my last few days with my own grandmother, who was in a nursing home and had pretty bad dementia. (More here: I wondered at times if she even really knew I was there with her-- she faded in and out so often. But there is a way of knowing beneath conscious knowing-- and in that capacity, I do hope my presence was of some comfort.

And on a positive note: Juliet-- an inspiring story on transforming destructive familial patterns. After all you've been through, what made you believe you could trust so wholeheartedly?
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Luz Sanchez
Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2007 9:55 PM
In answer to your question, Paula-- I get told I look like my mother all the time. It's strange-- my mother was quite overweight (she died just a few years back, happy, at 87). I'm quite slim. She had brown hair and I blonde (sorry I haven't gotten around to attaching a picture yet). I think she was far more beautiful than me. And every time anyone says that, I think maybe they're just wishful thinking or something. I think sometimes I can't live up to her. I can't live up to how strong she was, how beautiful. How much my father loved her. Do we idealize our parents? Is it real?
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Bojana Kos Grabar
Netherlands, the
Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2007 2:27 AM
i grew up within the family interaction of four generations of women. i was 13 when my grand-grand-mother, who was born in 1884, passed away and even that happened due to an accident. she fell off the stairway, which she walked several times a day, since her room was placed in the first floor. because of the broken hip she became tighed to the bed and got pneumonia.

unbelievable, but she barely spoke to her several grand-grand daughters. she was busy cooking and sewing until the end of her days. she and her husband were the 1st world war refugees, who had sattled 300 km away from the region were they were born.
on the contrary, my other grand-mother loved to speak of her memories. she hardly refused the grandchildren's wish to listen at her tales. as i was a child we spent plenty of wonderful nights in a silent village on the edge of the Panonic plateu sitting in front of the house or around the fire chatting, singing and laughing.

these women were my first history teachers. none of the experiences i was told by the verbal transmission of theirs i have found described in a book. it is not about what our mothers experienced personally, it matters what has been left of that. that's what the joy or sadness of women is about, becoming the future of everybody's.
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Adita Benton
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2007 9:01 PM
young women today are ungrateful, it's true. we worked hard. now girls in west africa go to school, it's expected. do they say thank you? paula, you should thank your mother for what she has done.
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Sunday, June 03, 2007 10:54 AM
I've been thinking a lot about how much our lives today as young women are different from those of our mothers. A couple of years ago, I was at a party at a shmancy bar in San Francisco and was chatting with a guy about my age-- and found out that he used to work for my mother at a big firm in Silicon Valley. "Yes," I said, "She was a Senior Director, right?" He looked at me with widened eyes, and said, "No, Paula.-- She was a Managing Director (one level higher). She was a big big deal."

I realized in that moment I'd never actually really appreciated what my mom had accomplished in her career, coming from a working class family, making her way up the foodchain in the corporate world. Growing up I'd just taken that all for granted-- it was not only normal for a woman to have a career such as that-- it was expected. And so it was never a subject of much interest for me.

I'm not a mother myself yet, but I imagine that all generations face this. We work hard so that the next generation can enjoy a level of freedom that enables them to think about new questions and not worry about the questions that challenged us in our lifetimes. And with that comes an attitude from the younger ones that probably seems like ingratitude.

How is your life different than your mother's life?
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Posted on Friday, June 01, 2007 1:15 PM
In response to the prayer for our mothers. I would have never been able to see her beauty if God did not show me the way. Thank God for the mitsza of my mother, and thus thank you mom for your mitsva, and so the circle turns.
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Posted on Friday, June 01, 2007 1:10 PM
My God, my mother must have been heaven made, because I've never understood how she always sacrafices for me, and all she ever asks in return...well she doesn't ask for anything. My mother in her own way has done so much for others, and she never complains, never takes credit for anything. She is the most humble person I know. She is always full of life. She is my hero.
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