Tiffany Shlain on her new film, ‘Motherhood Remixed’
Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, mother, and filmmaker, has launched a new series on AOL called The Future Starts Here. One of the films in the series is called Motherhood Remixed, and it’s about the changing roles of mothers over the past century. Recently I sat down with Tiffany, who is also a good friend, for a conversation about the film and how the changing roles of mothers are affecting the shape of the 21st-century family.
RLH: How have the roles of mothers changed in our generation, and what to what do you attribute these changes?
TS: My friends are having kids a good ten years later which is huge because most people have their careers established and they cherish motherhood. My mother said it was a blur. We now have participatory parents and people are using more experimental means to procreate such as IVF or sperm donors. I also think that the Internet was the tool that the feminist movement always needed because we can work from anywhere and we can be creative when we work whether it is before the kids wake up or after they go to bed. But that’s only if you don’t let the technology own you. You have to be careful not to let it consume all your time.
RLH: Beyond the traditional nuclear family, how do you see roles changing? I like to call the new combinations Open Source Family. What does that say to you?
TS:I love that because we now get to create an environment where roles aren’t pre-assigned. Open Source to me is that we’re all adding to and evolving something that already exists. Nothing replaces that children need attention and parents want to be fulfilled. We need to make money and buy food. The way we think about how we approach that is evolving to include everything from gay mothers to women who are single mothers by choice.
RLH: Talk about this image you have in the film that represents these changing roles.
TS: It’s like a slider showing how the roles have changed. The roles used to be defined by what mothers did and what father did. Fathers are now much more engaged. It used to be that kids were seen and not heard, and the father came home late. I had an involved father but he was working all the time. So that slider was a visual showing how it’s being redefined in my family with my husband Ken.
RLH: As a single mom, I now joke that I’ve become an extremely emotionally evolved 1950s man. I work all week to win the bread while my Au Pair wife takes care of the baby, does the shopping and sometimes cooks us meals. There have even been those stressful days that I’ve wished she would make me a martini when I get home. Technology has given me the flexibility to work in an office some days and at home others, and because I run my own business as a writer and editor, I can own my own time, which has made it a lot easier to toggle between all my roles. My life has become a post-modern version of Father Knows Best, in which I play both mother with the baby pulling at my apron strings and father in the form of a woman in a suit and power heels.
TS: Ha! Right now you’re all in one. I love what you did. You took the courageous step of having a child by choice. I know it’s hard, but that you have a child is incredible.
RLH: Choosing to be a single mom now doesn’t mean I’m choosing to raise my son alone forever. I’m just waiting for the right person to come along and we’ll start redefining the role of father together. I wonder what it will look like for our kids…any predictions?
TS: I think the benefits of men being participatory fathers will be in full swing and women will expect that. Since I had so many fertility challenges having my second child because I was older, I may tell my daughters to start earlier. But then again fertility technology is going to advance so who knows where we’ll be.