Listen to Your Mother is a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother's Day. Each show is produced, directed and performed by local communities, for local communities. Founder Ann Imig shares the story of Listen to Your Mother with us.

By Ann Imig

Moms celebrating moms

Mother's Day carries a legacy of moms making the day for other moms, ideally with some loving assistance from partners and children. I remember a photo taken decades ago on Mother's Day: my mom, my sister and I walking among the lilacs in the arboretum, following a Champagne brunch. My mom, the guest of honor, likely planned the day herself for her mom, our Granny, the other guest of honor.

When I became a mom, Mother's Day meant treasured handmade gifts imagined by preschool teachers (also moms themselves), my boys' handprints tenderly placed in plaster of Paris, a tissue paper flower or a poem:

My mom is as pretty as a rainbow
She is as sweet as Sprees
She is as smart as a calculator
But most of all, she is as special as electronics

Listen to your Mother cast collage
Photo credits: Carlton Wade, Rob Krueger Photography

Listen to Your Mother is a gift

This Mother's Day, 60 mothers and daughters across the country will give a gift to other moms and families in their community — a gift that has taken many emails, deep breaths and many, many hours. In the coming weeks, 24 cities will host their own local Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) shows, Giving Mother's Day A Microphone nationwide. Since their city's selection this past fall, these mostly first-time local directors and producers have found venues, held auditions and rehearsals, and put together a live staged-reading event of local people reading their own stories about motherhood before an audience of their friends and neighbors. These electric community events celebrate the art and the work of motherhood: the beauty, the beast and the barely rested.

Listen to your mother cast collage
Photo credits: Jennifer Lee Photography, Funky Monkey Photography

Filling a void

I wondered if Mother's Day could mean something beyond the celebration of the individual matriarch — something bringing mothers together, recognizing the commonality among us all...

LTYM began when I looked at our national Mother's Day holiday and suddenly found it sorely lacking. I felt that motherhood deserved something more than a frittata once a year — something less retail-related and more community-focused. I wondered if Mother's Day could mean something beyond the celebration of the individual matriarch — something bringing mothers together, recognizing the commonality among us all — moms and non-moms alike. As a blogger and part of an emerging cultural revolution in mothering and self-expression, I wanted my real life community to get a taste of the vitality of the dynamic women drawing inspiration and support from one another online.

So in 2010, as I picked Lego arms out of our shag rug, it dawned on me that I could create a space in my town to gather and celebrate motherhood, simply by giving a voice to some of the powerful stories among us. In less than eight weeks, I found a venue, held auditions and a rehearsal. I found a sponsor, had posters designed and wrote my first press release. Nearly 300 people showed up for the first Listen To Your Mother at The Barrymore. We made the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal. People took notice.

Listen to your mother Spokane cast
Photo credit: Kristina Mattson
Some of these mothers, daughters, sons and fathers had never even written a personal essay until they saw an LTYM audition notice and felt compelled to set free a story within them.

I put the whole show online and the requests poured in from bloggers who watched it and saw a piece of themselves — other mothers and daughters wanting to bring this show home and share it with their town for Mother's Day. And so it began — from one show, to five, to 10 to 24. This 2013 season, women across our nation — many of whom have never shared their writing, never spoken into a microphone — will take the stage. Some of these mothers, daughters, sons and fathers had never even written a personal essay until they saw an LTYM audition notice and felt compelled to set free a story within them.

For me, now, Mother's Day means giving a voice to stories of mothering that both bring us together and expand perspectives. It means sharing these stories locally with live audiences and globally via our YouTube channel. It means supporting women and families in need with a portion of our ticket sales and through fundraising and awareness building.

Mother's Day remains a holiday by and for mothers, yes, but now LTYM puts motherhood at the head of the table, receiving everyone mothered and all of us mothering as guests of honor.

Listen to your mother collage

A Stay-at-home humorist, Ann began inflicting herself upon your internet with her blog Ann’s Rants in 2008. Her writing appears on numerous sites including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and College Humor. Babble named her a Top 100 Mom Blogger in 2012 and their 2011 funniest Top 50 Twitter Mom, BlogHer named her a 2010-2012 Voice Of The Year, and her 6 and 9 year old boys deemed her The Most Annoying Boss of Everything. Ann also serves on the Board of Directors for Violence Unsilenced.

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