Becoming a mother threw me into a whirlwind of challenges -broken body, lack of sleep, unrelenting demands. Then the years unwound, and the saying “bigger kids, bigger problems” – really hit home. Issues that until now were just news headlines, have suddenly found their way into my home turf. Now they are urgent and personal.
This is the premise of a documentary film I’ve been developing for the past few years, and the reason why, by hook or by crook, I need this film to be made.
But let’s backtrack.
I grew up in Israel in the 80s and 90s, in an atmosphere which allowed for very little moral nuance. With recent existential wars still fresh in people’s memory, Intifadas on the news, and Sadam’s missiles marking everyone’s childhood memories – morality, values, and identity couldn’t be clearer. There were good guys and bad guys. Smart people and dumb people. There was just and injust. And you were either Israeli or just someone-who-doesn’t-get-it.
When I was 14 I went to a school camp in the desert. Heat, sand, stars, and an irresistibly handsome young lad as my camp leader – I was on cloud nine. Then the aforementioned lad casually told me “you don’t seem Israeli” and my camp was ruined for good. It seemed I hadn’t pulled it off. My three year stint in America still bore marks on my skin. I failed at being Israeli.
Fast forward to 2021: I’m living in Sydney, with my Chinese-Australian man, raising three mixed heritage children and I think the guy was probably right. Nowadays if someone tells me “you don’t seem Israeli” I see it as a compliment. And then I cringe about feeling that way.
It’s such a classic immigrant predicament, it’s almost a cliche – I’m not really Israeli, but I’m really not Australian, I’m more of a Buddhist than a Jew, I don’t know who the good guys are, and most of the time that’s really ok. But then I had kids and the questions get thrown back at you.
Children need a strong sense of identity, I’m told. They need to be proud of their heritage. If they have a strong sense of who they are, they can be more resilient. It gives them something to hold on to when things get rough. I can see that. I can picture that. 2001, another gruesome bombing in Jerusalem, just where I went walking with my friend last weekend. But I’ve got my military uniform, my badge, my mates, my desert – a lot of Israeli identity to hold onto.
I can’t give that to my kids. Because all I have are fragments. Can we really, actually, help our children forge a strong sense of identity? Can we do that when there’s no ready-fit uniform to hand out? Can we do that when our heritage, in fact, is a mix of pride and shame and everything in between?
That’s one of the subjects that leads the journey of my film, and it joins a long list of other questions and issues and dilemmas which parenthood slaps in our face.
How can I help my child create a positive image of themselves?
Be less prone to anxiety?
Feel comfortable in their skin?
What can I do to rise above gender-bias and help build a generation that has more me-neithers and less me-toos?
What is, really, my role here?
The work of raising children – this small work that we do in our homes, every unremarkable day, for a short and fleeting window of time – is the making of the next generation, and an opportunity to build something meaningful. So here I am, making a film that interweaves the stories of five women from across Australia, as they navigate the challenges of parenthood. Creating a film that tries to offer an intimate look into social issues, as well as a snapshot of motherhood today.
This documentary is a labor of love. Though we’ve received supportive feedback from broadcasters, no big funding body can take the risk in supporting a humble film like this. They need big, they need bold, they need stars – and that’s ok. It’s just not what this is. Instead, we are moving forward with what support we can get, and a lot of good will. We are trying to connect directly with audiences, and are working with impact partners to make sure that the stories featured in the film will reach and support the relevant communities of parents and carers.
Please check out https://a-certain-mother.yolasite.com/ to learn more about the project and become part of our future audience!
Or visit Documentary Australia Foundation to find out more about our Impact vision for the film, or offer your support https://documentaryaustralia.com.au/project/a-certain-mother/