Invisible Motherhood

This entry is part 38 of 86 in the series Scrapworthy Lives Results

Here’s another post from my dissertation.

I was pregnant for the first and only time while conducting my interviews for my dissertation. Scratch that. I was visibly pregnant while conducting my interviews. I was not (and still am not) an aunt. I point this out, because motherhood was a very recent notion in my life while conducting my research. I was already a scrapbooker. Most of my scrapbooking friends were child-free women. My scrapbooking world was a bit different from the stereotypical image of a scrapbooker: a pregnant woman documenting her pregnancy (or the fetus which seems to be the more often case) or a pregnant woman preparing a baby album or a new mom attempting to deal with an influx of baby photos. I think you get the idea. Motherhood is related to scrapbooking. This surprises no one.

What was surprising to me, was how motherhood is deeply entwined with scrapbooking, yet motherhood is rendered invisible in scrapbooks. Scrapbooks might serve as evidence of sort regarding “good motherhood,” but the mother behind the scrapbook is rarely seen.

This invisible motherhood came to light when I was shown a scrapbook from a mother that was made a s gift for the children’s grandma. The children were four or five at the time–too young to have created the scrapbook themselves, yet there was absolutely no evidence that their mother was the scrapbook creator. The title of the book was “For Grandma” even though the children did not make the album; their mother did. The status of grandmother superseded the status of mother and her work is  made invisible by making the gift come from her children despite the fact she made the album.

I’m not sure why this surprised me so much because, mothers are usually behind the camera[1] instead of in front of the camera, too. Many respondents, however, make an effort to have others take photographs so that their picture can also be in the scrapbook.

Many scrapbooks may be a site where women do motherhood, but that motherhood is often made invisible in the scrapbook itself.

If you are a scrapbooker and a mother (or a father), how visible is your parental status in your scrapbooks? How do you get your image included in the scrapbook? Join the conversation below.

[1] Holland (1991) argues in our culture, snapshooting is classified as a domestic skill and something women can do, unlike becoming a professional photographer (e.g., fashion photographer, photojournalist).


Holland, Patricia. 1991. “Introduction: History, Memory and the Family Album.” Pp.1-14 in Family Snaps: The Meanings of Domestic Photography, edited by J. Spence and P. Holland. London, Great Britain: Virago Press.

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  • First of all, I want to say I love your new blog header. Photos like that one have always caught my eye and are perfect for bringing the viewer in, and in your case, bringing the reader into the blog and following along.

    Secondly, I must say that for the majority of my pages, I’m invisible since I’m the family photographer and don’t often capture myself.  However, my voice and design are definitely featured and I do make an effort to include a few pages of myself in family-themed scrapbooks.

    Taking scrapbooking classes have helped me to include more of myself. If I were to look back 5-10 years ago, my scrapbooks primarily featured my daughter. Thanks to the classes acting as reminders to scrapbook yourself, I scrapbook myself more often. And this post acts as a reminder to make a page about motherhood itself…now I feel like scrapbooking 😉

  • Glad I could help and thanks for commenting. What strategies do you use to include more of yourself?

  • Z. I. Sierra

    I am not (and I am NOT planing to become) a mom. But I am an aunt. Actually, I am a distance aunt, since my toddler nephew lives in a different country.

    I am creating scrapbook pages for him. Not too many, since I am scrapbooking photos where we are together. But on all of them I document both the facts, and our relationship as aunt and nephew. I actually created a very simple embellishment that is included onto each layout, and it reads “What Auntie Zaira Remembers”. (The wording is actually in Spanish, my native language.)

    So, yes, in many ways I am doing “aunt-hood” thru my scrapbook, but I am sure I include myself shamelessly in it, since I live so far away from my nephew. I am somehow suspecting that my presence in the scrapbook could be invisible if I were physically into his world.

    Then, you may also consider that maybe, just maybe, doing motherhood and “aunt-hood” are two very different ballparks…

  • Oh, I’ll be getting to aunthood and child-free women in a few weeks. I’m glad you’ve shared your experience because it is similar to other child-free aunts who scrapbook. 

  •  I have to give most of the credit to Layout a Day. I’ve taken the class five times; think 5 months of 28-31 daily prompts that made me scrapbook things I don’t always plan on, including myself. That was prevalent during last month’s class, Past Perfect, where I focused on documenting my childhood. It helps when someone else reminds you to scrapbook yourself.

  • Cool. I’ve never done LOAD (they always overlap with my semesters, so there is no way I can make the commitment). That’s great, though, that it motivates you to scrapbook in new ways.

  • mandy

    I’ve learned that if I want to be in pictures I have to pass the camera off to whoever may be around…whether that be my husband (who doesn’t initate picture-taking), a friend, or other family member. I really wanted a pic of me and my son in the snow this year, so I used my timer function…I do have a tripod, but it’s kind of a pain to get out sometimes. I also get pictures from other friends/family who may have taken pictures at an event or outing.

  • I need to use my tripod and timer more. I bought a remote about a year ago and use that some, but need to do the tripod/timer or tripod/remote more. I just don’t think much about it. Thanks for commenting.