Umbilical Cord

Raisa Mikhaylova

2017 - Ongoing

Relationship with her mother is a cornerstone of a woman’s life, as at some point in live she becomes a mother herself. Even grown up women are often guided by their mothers’ opinions, feel the need of their approval and support. When is the umbilical cord really cut? The physical one gets separated just after birth, but the psychological, spiritual connection can last forever.

The project “Umbilical Cord” is a study of relationships between mothers and daughters, its aim is to discover what common psychological issues they have, find similarities in the way people of different generations perceive behavioural motives. To what extent do mothers define their daughters’ future?  What kind of relationship should two nearest and dearest people have? In this project contributors are trying to answer all these questions. For them it was an art therapy of a kind: an opportunity to speak out, share their personal stories, let go of resentment and pain.

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  • Maria, 54 years old. Painter, graphic-artist, sculptor. Single, two sons 33
    and 25 years old.
    “It’s been 11 years since mum passed away. And now I realize that my childhood
    was, in fact, a fantastic one. But at the time I was feeling miserable all the time. In
    many ways it was because my mum had always been such a bright personality.
    Likable, lively, witty. When my friends came to visit, they fell in love with my
    mum right away. Well, and who is Masha? Masha is Tatyana Nikolaevna’s
    daughter. ...None of them saw me as me, for them I was just a replica of my
    mother, a mere projection.”

  • Maria is in her art-studio

  • Photo of Maria and her Mom

  • Yanina, 28 years old. Teacher of the Russian language and literature. Single, no children. "When I was a child my mum was always at work. I was growing up on the streets or sometimes my grandparents took care of me. Maybe it was for the best, because my mum had no influence on me. I don’t think that her life has been the best one. Maybe deep inside I blame my mother for failing to give me a happy childhood - the one I’ve always wanted. She failed to earn enough money, failed to find a man who could become a pillar of our family, didn’t give me education and opportunities for development I would like to have. Now I feel it so acutely. I have to get everything myself and it’s a struggle…".

  • Photo of Yanina and her Mom

  • Victoria, 41 years old. Lawyer. Single, daughter 13 years old.
    “My mum has a very strong personality and she dominates everything there is. My career path was her choice as well. And I spent many years with this feeling that everything was out of place, that it wasn’t my choice… Only recently I’ve understood that my mum’s choice was the right one, the only one that was possible for me. And I forgave her. Until that moment I had been doing everything either by compulsion, under pressure of my mum’s will, or directly against it. Only through forgiveness I managed to grow up and detach myself from my mother. And our relationship has only improved from it, now each of us is at her right place - I turned to a grown up daughter and she became a loving mother.”

  • Photo of Victoria and her Mom

  • Ekaterina, 48 years old. Housewife. Married, sons 27, 18 and 13 years old, daughter 15 years old.
    “However hard I tried I just couldn’t earn my mum’s love… Strange isn’t it? Isn’t mother’s love something that is given to you unconditionally the moment you are born? But it wasn’t in my case. And all these years, I’ve been trying to prove to her that I am a good girl, that I’m worth her love. And I failed to love and accept myself. I forbid myself to wish, to want something just for myself and I keep apologizing for doing what I want. Ridiculous isn’t it? I am almost 50 now...Why should I feel guilty for, say, my love of knitting? But I do…”

  • Ekaterina in her daughter's room.

  • Photo of little Ekaterina

  • Alla, 74 years old. Retired. Divorced, no children: "I was always by my mum. Always. When my dad was arrested, children were sent off to relatives, otherwise who knows what could’ve happened to them. But I stayed with mum, I loved her so much and was terribly jealous. My sister is 3 years younger and I thought “what if mum loves her more?”. At that time we, like everybody else, were pressed for money and all clothes were passed on from the oldest to the younger, so I would try to ruin my clothes not to give them to my sister, I used to fight with her too - I just was a little piece of crap. But now we are very good friends. And, you know, I have the brightest memories about my childhood, even though the times were hard. Mum would always tell us some funny stories, would have us in stitches, she was such an optimist, just an optimist. When father came back he was already very ill and died soon after. So we grew up fatherless. I remember it very clearly: I’m walking on to school, swinging my school bag, and mum says, “Daddy is coming back tomorrow”. And I reply, “What do we need him for?”. Such a silly girl I was. But this is how it has been all my life, whatever good happens is from my mum. And if something is not so well I tell my sister, “Mum wouldn't approve of it!”. My sister and I still regard things in the light of “what would mum do?".

  • Photo of Alla, her Mom, brother and sister.

  • Maria, 39 years old. Psychologist. Married, daughters 13 and 3 years old.
    “My star sign is “Cancer”, my mum’s star sign is “Cancer”, my daughter’s sign is “Cancer” and even my granny on mother’s side is a “Cancer”. People born under this sign are very emotional, have strong bonds with their families and especially with mothers. I have always felt this bond with my mum, felt responsible for her: I went out with my friends and almost immediately started to worry that my mum was sad and alone. Despite the fact that my father has alway been there for her… I got angry with my little brother and sister when they upset our mum, I always wanted to protect her. At some point, being a big girl already, I realized that I simply “adopted” my mother…”

  • Maria in her daughters' room.

  • Photo of Maria and her Mom

  • Katerina, 29 years old. Photographer. Divorced, no children.
    “I didn’t really live with my mum. As a child I lived with my granny and grandad, my father died young, so my mum had to work. I was scared as hell of my mum. She is actually really hip and fun to be around, but she is such a perfectionist that I felt like I was some kind of project for her… At 18 a left home and never came back. But at that moment I realized one thing: it's as stupid to defy my mum as it is to do everything “her way”. I started to rebuff things I couldn’t accept and agreed with her on things I was flexible about. I think she did the same. And with this “love/hate” we gradually built really cool relationship.

  • Photo of Katerina and her Mom

  • Elena, 44 years old. Economist. Married, sons 20 and 13 years old.
    “When I was in middle school and my grades began to drop, at home it was always implied that my mum was a physicist, my dad was a mathematician and the apple had fallen far from the tree. And I built all my life around the idea that I would prove them wrong! No, I didn’t manage to become the most beautiful one, because the most beautiful has always been my mum. But at least when I got my first pay check my mum exclaimed, “Who could’ve thought that this job brings such good money!”. Of course there are still comparisons to “mum’s friends’ daughters” and even daughters-in-law, who are, by default, better than just “the daughter”. But I don’t pay much attention to these comparisons, because all these people do not have what I do. They, by no means, have my love of life!”

  • Photo of Elena and her Mom