The Jewish Mother
Project info

The Jewish Mother 1989-2005

My children escaped the stereotypically, smothering gaze of the Jewish mother granting me licence to stare. Periodically unencumbered by worry, I entered their childhood universe; the delicate Barbie world of my daughter, the rebellious, adolescent angst of my eldest and the quiet reserve of my youngest son. This allowed me countless opportunities to stand back and hover over them in a shroud of invisibility. To compensate for my distracted mind my children had the privilege of being born in Israel where they had involuntary access to an endless barrage of Jewish mothers. Passers-by had no pretence of politesse; boldly patting my tummy “you’re having a boy” (it was a girl), “He needs a hat” (he was blond), “she cries ‘cause she’s hungry” (she had a fever). An entire country of random, baby experts, literally EVERYWHERE I WENT. Overbearing mothers, not even my own, smothering me with unsolicited advice at any time, around any corner. It was this stereotype I was curious to challenge, shifting the lines of obsession: I would be passive in silent distance, aggressive in my omnipresence. Rather than hovering over my children, I would hover over those banal, overlooked moments that constitute their lives.

As a silent observer I noticed that the family domain is a type of war zone. There is the sibling bickering, crying and whining, clutching toddlers with dirty hands. The transport of limp, lifeless bodies from sleepy car rides to cold, dark, empty beds. Endless piles of used wet wipes from cleaning sticky fingers, dirty faces and soiled tushies. Car sickness, vomit, chicken pox, ear infections, allergies, skin diseases, stubborn head lice, runny noses, bloody noses, diarrhea and countless boxes of band-aids covering real and imaginary wounds. Then, there is the issue of the friends, not to mention the parents of those friends. All part of the motherhood package, impossible to articulate in an effective warning.

There are immediate demands for candy when the phone rings, which is when the television turns itself on followed by arguing amongst the siblings about what to watch. Secret excursions into my make-up drawer bear the fruits of lipstick art installations in the bathroom, a travelling exhibition. In general, dirty laundry is never just a single wash load but a mountain of clothing and a constant hum of sloshing water, 24/7 . The very notion of a full nights sleep, uninterrupted by requests for water or cookies, is inconceivable.

Family photographs traditionally depict the happiest birthdays, unforgettable weddings, joyous graduations of many kinds. We’ve all seen the yearly family outings, everyone always jolly in the picture at the final destination but, there are never any photographs of the car ride there.

These are the pictures of the car ride there.

Hally Pancer
Paris 2020