My name is Mamma - Vancouver family photographer
It’s Saturday. I write this as my children play in the living room, my partner is doing the dishes and I’m in my “office,” a desk in our bedroom nestled between clothes that are too large, clothes that are too small, toys they have aged out of, and a twin stroller I was meant to put on Craigslist years ago. This is where I sit on the weekends, when it’s my time to work, unless other family obligations get in the way. Which happens often.
I’m emotional. May is an emotional month for me. It’s spring, mother’s day, Norway’s constitution day (it makes me homesick), but most importantly it’s my motherhood anniversary: my son’s birthday. As the years tick by, I come to realise what people mean when they say: hold on tight, it goes by so fast. Because it does. But it also doesn’t. I’m exhausted. I signed up for motherhood while we were living in Norway, and Norwegians enjoy subsidised daycare and cushioning around being a parent while maintaining professional careers. What I signed up for wasn’t what happened, because life doesn’t work on a plan.
My children are fighting and screaming in the living room. He’s got it under control.
I’m a full time mama, but I’m also a part-time professional. I want it all. Last year I made some changes to my schedule so I could build a business while also being a full time mama. I do kids during the day, work in the evening plus Saturday/Sunday, and one night a week is screen-free where my partner and I just hang out, but it rarely happens. He’s finishing his PhD, I’m building a business, we can't always afford the time. I think it’s important for my kids to see me as not just their parent but also as my own person with my own career. I want them to know who I was before they came along, the person their dad fell in love with, the person who was her own master with a career built from scratch.
My partner just interrupted me to talk about laundry.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I feel guilty. Because on Mother’s Day I want to go to work. I want to sit with the images I made while hanging out with other families. I want to look at my photographs and feel like I’m good at something. But I also want to spend it with my family. Play with my kids, hang out with my spouse. Because motherhood is a constant battle in emotional mountaineering: always struggling to find a plateau to catch my breath, to be able to take in the view of my surroundings, but the climb is steep and the load is heavy so I cling to the side of the mountain and forget to look around. When I do my work I get the birds-eye view of other families. I see how they struggle, but also how wonderful they parent, how well the family unit works, and what a fun childhood the kids get. I see what I can’t see in my own sphere, and sharing that with the people I photograph is one of the biggest professional highs I’ve ever had.
My son interrupts me to take a spin on my chair. I hear more screaming, but also laughter from the living room. It’s under control.
My name is Mamma. Of all the nicknames I have received in my life, Mamma is the most emotional one and by far my favourite. I love being Mamma. It makes my heart sing every time my children say it, and every night I go to bed feeling like I don’t deserve the title. But tomorrow is another day and I will do better. Repeat.