Moms, in real life: Photo exhibition celebrates motherhood

There are the Instagram moments, carefully staged and properly filtered. Then there’s reality.

We all know motherhood is great, challenging and a whole lot messy. That’s just what photographer Terri Roper captured for a photo exhibition two years in the making, The Journey of Motherhood. A brainchild of Dr. Cathy Subber, the brains behind Naperville Moms Network, the project found moms willing to show life behind the kitchen curtain.

That life doesn’t always look like the perfect holiday card, says Roper, who brought the Naperville Moms Network’s real moms photos to life. Subber’s photo, taken in her messy minivan that looks like just about every other busy mom’s van, was the first photo Roper took for the project.

“We all have those moments where life is messy,” she says. “I hope that women of all different types know that they are not alone, that there’s a big support system out there.”

Roper says she knows the project with resonate with other people. That’s why, even though the exhibition is over, the project is continuing.

Not only did Roper capture the women’s stories through her camera, she interviewed everyone to hear their story and had them write about their journey to motherhood. “It made me go wow, I’m not alone. … Some of what they thought were weaknesses, I felt it was such a strength.

They are all amazing, but they don’t see themselves as that.”

Her biggest takeaway from working the past two years on the project is this: Women are trying to do their best by raising their children and should all support one another.

The photography project is continuing and Roper is seeking other moms to be part of it. She believes all moms have a story, even if they don’t think they do. Reach her at

My life as a mom has been completely unpredictable, fun, chaotic, stressful, full of joy one minute and complete anger the next, but I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Ultimately, I want Elijah to be proud of me and I live my life with that goal in mind.

Adrienne Kolasa, mom to Elijah

This photo basically sums up my daily goals as a working momkeep everyone fed and safe, make each day a happy one, ignore the mess around you when necessary to help you achieve goals 1-2, and when s**t hits the fan, just plow through it and hope for the best!

What I want my girls to learn from me is that when they work hard, give their 100 percent to everything, help others, and refuse to give up, success will inevitably follow them along their own journeys. Always.

Sapna Vaghani, pediatrician, dermatologist and mom to two girls

I have experienced so much because of my son: patience, joy, unconditional love, silliness, sadness, heart-bursting pride, gut-wrenching pain and isolation. Motherhood has been much more than I imagined, and almost nothing like what I expected.

Jamie Martin, professional organizer and mom to a 12-year-old son

My strengths and weaknesses as a mother are still developing, but I would say my biggest strength is my whole-hearted love for both of my boys and my biggest weakness would be juggling both their needs and my own. For my parenting style, it is somewhere between crunchy and silky; I am more of a hippie type mom but still enjoy an urban lifestyle.

Elizabeta Simbi, mom of two, Petar and Miodrag

I believe its important to show life … the joy, the struggle, the love, the chaos. When we show ourselves and our lives as they truly unfold, we find friendship, peace, support and acceptance.

Sara Kirby, mom to Patrick, Charlie and Graham

I cant say being a mom was easy or always enjoyable. I changed jobs and sitters and nannies and even stayed at home for several stints trying to find my happy place. My isolation worsened and so did my drinking. The kids were a trigger. My husband was a trigger. I needed to escape.

On April 29, 2013, I made the decision to get sober. That was the BEST decision I have ever made. Now four years later I have an incredible relationship with my kids. They are thriving. They want to spend time with me just as much as I want to with them.

Kim Redd, mom of three

Motherhood, the rollercoaster that never seems to stop. Reality is picking up the kids from daycare, usually crabby and tired. Dinner on a good night is plain spaghetti noodles, a little bit of fruit or as the tiny dictators have preferred lately, plain rice and baked beans. Then its bath time and time to unwind and watch a DVD before settling down. Thats about the time daddy walks in the door so the second wind hits and they get wound up again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Sara Mammosser, mom to Jonathan and Olivia

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