Exhibition charts the life of a mother

A politician once said “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

It wasn’t Boris Johnson, who made the schoolboy error of thinking it was an error to describe predecessor David Cameron as a “girly swot”.

Canadian feminist Charlotte Whitton’s quip, though, applies to thousands of women who juggle work with motherhood, who are the subject of an exhibition at Brixton library, Motherworks, and a new book, created by two Brixton mums.

The images and stories of the lives of more than 40 working mums, MPs, actors, teachers, farmers, will be on show as well as dancers, poetry and signed copies of the book.

Co-founder, creative director, photographer and mum Fiona Freund, has worked at the top level for decades, including Vogue, The Guardian and Marie Claire.

“Almost every working mum has a horror story about being made redundant or sidelined,” said Fiona.

“If a dad picks their kids up from work it’s all pats on the back and “that’s great”. But when a mother does, there is an intake of breath and you find yourself passed over.

“Mothers are mothers 24-hours-a-day. We are expected to raise children like we don’t have a job and to work like we don’t have kids.

“Factor in a super-smart mum holding a conference call with a baby strapped to her, you can see how crazy it gets.

“More than 54,000 women lose their jobs through redundancy or being pushed out, or have their careers destroyed because they become pregnant.

“There is just this attitude that it is a lifestyle choice. That leads to a strong sense of injustice.

“Motherworks is just about teamwork – we were taking it in turns to work in each others’ kitchens and pick all the kids up from school. But it became very powerful  because it had three mothers driving it.”

Co-founder Maggie Aoussou said: “Motherworks started as a way of celebrating working mums and saying well done.

“Mums are butlers to our children, a magician who pulls rabbits out of hats at the 11th hour, a gymnast stretching time, budgets and squeezing as many hours as we can in our day.

“Working mums face a daily struggle with employers to find flexible working so they can balance work and family life.

“My children are young teenagers, and flexible working is even more relevant at this age. I hope #MotherWorks allows working mums to take a moment to congratulate themselves on what they do.”

One of the subjects, Guardian columnist and TV presenter Miranda Sawyer, said: ” I’ve banged out pieces on the Tube, in Brockwell Park, and once in the car park at Legoland.”

Actor Maggie O’Neill, star of  Peak Practice, Shameless and EastEnders, said: “Children are the best actors as they tend to exist in the moment and that is what good acting is, so I have learnt a lot about acting from Tom and he is a much better actor than I’ll ever be, that’s for sure.”

Dr Rhian Pritchard, a sixth form physics tutor, said: “During their primary school years, the bedtime words I would dread are “forgot to say it’s World Book Day tomorrow and we need an outfit.”

Richmond MP Sarah Olney said: “Yesterday, for  example, I spent the first part of the morning trying to get my son to clean his teeth and my daughter to brush her hair. I then travelled into Westminster and challenged the Prime Minister on spending priorities for education.”

There is also an event on Sunday

from noon at the library, with postcard making, a gardening workshop and the creation of a massive artwork.

Pictured top: Journalist and author Miranda Sawyer with her children


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