Mum's the word

By Cheng Yuezhu | China Daily
Updated: June 15, 2019
The festival "Mom Restart" aims to put stay-at-home mothers in the spotlight.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Unique festival aims to empower stay-at-home mothers

The day before this year's Mother's Day, a group of mothers, with a herbal tea or cocktail in hand and handmade corsages on their wrists, watched two plays in the Shunyifornia Theater.

The first play quickly unveils the anxiety hidden underneath the tranquil facade. With self-deprecating language, five stay-at-home moms in the play talk of their insecurities about their bodies, their lack of communication with adults and their fear of being left out by society.

The play is part of an annual cultural celebration with a special focus on the women of the households, the recurring sections of which include a theater production, an art exhibition and a forum.

This year's events, themed "Mom Restart", put stay-at-home mothers in the spotlight, and sought ways to help them find their vocations and achieve self-actualization besides providing 24/7 service for their families.

The first play, Full-time Housewives Live 9,000 Years, is written by stay-at-home mom and part-time columnist Tao Tai.

An art exhibition of drawings by stay-at-home mothers.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Tao Tai, which is the author's pseudonym, says the title expresses support for the group and also the wish of mothers to live long and see their children lead happy lives.

In the play, the stay-at-home moms at first complain about their own lives, but when one of the women's families encounters a calamity, they come together to help her weather the storm.

According to Tao, the play hints at her own mental journey.

The author, who graduated from Fudan University and resigned her job for the sake of her family, says she once felt herself becoming obsolete.

She adds that she later wrote a parenting column at an educational magazine for six years, allowing her to reconcile herself to her situation and offering inspiration to other stay-at-home moms who shared her predicament.

With the play, she encourages stay-at-home moms to find purpose in their lives.

The play Full-time Housewives Live 9,000 Years.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"Mom Restart" does not necessarily mean to help moms to go back to work, but simply to find their own causes, to live a full and contented life."

"We hope more people will notice this social group, and understand that full-time mothers have their rights and abilities to express themselves," Tao adds.

The second play at the festival is The Singles, written and directed by Estella Tsang, who is originally from Hong Kong and is now a stay-at-home mom in Beijing.

The play targets women who choose to stay single and presents multiple possibilities for them.

"There are many different paths of life for women," says Tsang.

"I have transformed from a single career woman to a full-time mom, but I am still exploring other interest.

"I am still changing. Being a full-time mom doesn't mean my life has been freeze-framed."

Both plays feature non-professional actors, many of whom are stay-at-home mothers, who rehearsed for the plays for a month.

Corsage-making at the festival.[Photo by Cheng Yuezhu/China Daily]

The founder of the festival, Vida Fargis, says that the mothers are actively involved in the plays: "We would rehearse two or three times a week before the festival. The actors are very devoted and would find the time to rehearse. It's a very good atmosphere."

Fargis, a Chinese-American woman and mother of two, founded the festival in 2017, hoping to empower women and support them in life.

Speaking about the festival, she says: "With this event, I would like to share lifestyles and content, offering women a platform to participate in discussion and draw inspiration."

For the past two years, the festival has addressed the lack of paternal participation in children's lives and the challenges of raising and educating adolescents.

According to Fargis, this year's theme comes from her observation that many stay-at-home mothers would like to rediscover their careers or develop interest that can prove beneficial for their families and the broader community, particularly when their children grow up and leave for college.

This year's festival introduces a new section, inviting mothers who have already "restarted" their lives or successful businesswomen to give a two-minute speech about establishing their startups or finding their own causes.

Most of these women are now participating in socially responsible businesses and can hence provide professional support to stay-at-home mothers.