Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Invisible Mother

me and the room 

Since becoming a mother, most of my work entails caring for my child, cooking, and keeping house. Finding little time to make money or art, I constantly pondered my worth as a person and productive member of society.  Pre-baby, my work was tangible and quantifiable. I made pictures you could touch and money to put in my pocket. Post-baby, my work was largely unseen. If you visited my home, for example, you would have had to see the hours of labor it took me to get it to that state to fully appreciate it. If you enjoyed the company of my child, you would have had to witness the months I poured into her to know why she thrives as she does. The only time I felt that my work was noticed was when I failed (or appeared to fail) to do it—like when the house was a wreck, or there was no dinner, or my child was losing it at the grocery store. In this way, a good job assumed a quality of invisibility; the better it was done, the less you noticed it.

My introduction to invisibility brought much anger and resentment. Although I observed a superficial sentiment that mothers were valuable and important, I found very little proof that it was actually true. While a stranger might be kind enough to hold the door open so that I might fumble through with my stroller and baby bag, at the end of the day, I still felt short-changed. For doing what people call “the most important job in the world”, I still had no income of my own, no means to make it, and no time for myself. It seemed I only existed to care for my child and clean the house.
I know that I am not the only mother who feels this way. I do not think it is a generalization to say that women carry most of the burden of childcare. And I definitely do not think it obscene to say that women do most of the housework.  Without having to pick up a book researching woman’s work or having to spew some kind of statistic about our labors, I can tell you that it takes up a significant amount of our time.  As a result, we are most often the half of the partnership that gives up economic independence, passion, dreams, and art.  The fact that we are the half of society that makes this compromise is exemplary of how much we really do value women.

Feeling little worth for my great contribution to the world, my work in the house has been done mostly in contempt. The longer I cleaned, the more enraged I would become. I would daydream about what I never became and all the things I could become if I did not have to wash dishes. Slowly, I began to document my work around the house, grappling to find beauty in my seemingly mundane routines. I realized that my feelings around housework needed an alchemical process. My rage needed to be transformed into something else. If no one else will value my work, at least I could. To initiate this alchemy, I began photographing my messy kitchen and bedroom, piles of laundry, chopped vegetables, and cluttered tables. By doing this, I bring into view what is largely invisible.  In addition to creating visibility, to capture a moment in time is also to assign it worth. In this sense, photographing my work at home has become a process of self-validation and an opportunity to assign value to my own labor. I do it to honor myself and the women of the world who deserve illumination.

See the first installation of INVISIBLE MOTHER at:
Abstract Vision
Female Perspective
Opening Reception Feb. 11, 2011
Soundscapes: DJ Shiva
2026 E. 1st St.
Boyle Heights


  1. Yes! Touche! You hit home with this one. Powerful and transforming.

  2. i have been marinating on this for such a long time! it's been an amazing process bringing this idea to life and actually walking in my light. and living through my higher self....