Motherhood Through The Generations | San Francisco Bay Area Maternity and Newborn Photographer

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May 8, 2018

mother holding her newborn with grandma smiling at her indian family

Did you know 28% of adults do not feel they know, or knew, their mother as well as they would like? According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, adults were interested in learning about their family genealogy history (64%), personal childhood history (59%), life advice (42%) and career highlights (23%).

Your mother’s story matter. Your mother’s photos matter. Why? Because it shows you where your past becomes your present.

What did you inherit from your mom, grandma, great-grandma and beyond? Was it blue eyes, freckles or a hackle laugh? Maybe it’s your bubbly personality or focused drive. Whatever it is, there’s so much we can learn from our history and how our mother’s stories have shaped the people we are today.

mother holding her newborn with grandma smiling at her

When Your Past Becomes Your Present

It’s interesting to hear the stories about how the past generations of mothers parented differently or the same. Or really, how each generation built and grew from what they learned and observed from their mother.

Independence is a familial trait shared by the women in my family. For example, my maternal great-grandma, who was an old world country type, took over her family’s dairy farm when she was very young after her mother died (my great-great-grandma). Back in those days, the farmhands lived in bunkers on the farm and in exchange for their labor they received free housing and food – all of which my great-grandma was responsible for. She also stepped in and mothered her younger sister too.

My grandma, who was raised by my independent great-grandma, learned by example how to be independent herself. But my grandma built on that foundation and knew she was capable of doing even more. My grandma was a single mother raising seven kids, three of the kids were triplet boys, so yea, she had her hands full. But that didn’t stop her from raising her children autonomously. Oh no, instead she did something very unusual for women back in the 50s. She enriched her kids lives by taking them backpacking and camping, drove them to San Francisco to go to the museums, took them to the local orchestra – even if it meant going to the free rehearsal night since she couldn’t afford tickets – all by herself as a single mom. My grandma taught all seven of her kids that independence isn’t getting it done with limited resources and it certainly isn’t circumstantial – it’s an attitude.

This type of learned independence gave my mom an edge. Shortly after my mom married my step-dad they decided to open a dental practice. My step-dad was a very good dentist and my mom knew that she was capable of running the business-side of the practice. She didn’t have any formal training on how to run a business. But her independence, her ability to think and act for herself, drove her. There was even a time when my step-dad was unable to work, that didn’t stop her from running the business. She contracted dentists to work in the office until my step-dad was able to work again – and she did so very successfully.

How did generations of independent women affect me? I minded very little what other’s thought. In middle school I announced I wanted to go to boarding school – in Australia. My parents said flat-out no. So I convinced them to send me to public school. After one year of public school my parents were so freaked out they ended up sending me to a nearby boarding school in Monterey. Go figure. Then, after my first year of college I decided I wanted to switch majors to photography and to move to San Francisco to attend art school. I distinctly remember calling my mom on the dormitory phone when my first year of college was over saying I didn’t know where to go. She said very exasperated, “Come home like all the other normal kids!” Instead, I packed my bags and drove straight to the Bay Area with my three best friends.

I learned from my mom that I was not dependent on someone or something else for my existence. I simply made choices influenced by a party one – me.

mother holding her newborn with grandma smiling at her indian family

Made in Your Image

On Mother’s Day I ask that you think back to what traits have been passed down by your mother. Pull out an old photo of your great-grandma, grandma and mom and compare it to a current photo of yourself. How are you the same, how are you different? It’s not just a crooked nose that makes one similar to their mother, it’s how you build upon a foundation they started laying centuries ago. If you can, ask your mom questions about her upbringing and your grandma’s and great-grandma’s. Think about how these stories and the underlying morals have impacted the mother you are today.

What life lessons or traits have been passed down for generations and how has it impacted the mother you are today? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

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