What modern motherhood really looks like: Photos from “Momma Love”

We’ve heard a lot about the work-life balancing act lately, but seeing it is a different story. Twelve years ago, photographer Ali Smith, decided to capture real moms in their daily lives. Not the power-suited mom of ’80s movies or the happy homemaker of ’50s advertising, but real women with real parenting challenges. One botched book deal, forty moms, and $35,000 in donations later, Smith has self-published Momma Love, a pictorial homage to the tightrope walk of motherhood.

The original goal, says Smith, was to “present an honest portrayal of it to counter the copious amounts of slanted B.S.” She recruited both friends and total strangers to serve as muses. Then, halfway through her project, she saw her savings drained when the company planning to publish her book was shuttered. “Emotionally, it was devastating,” Smith tells Yahoo Shine. “I cared about the women and the subject too much to let it drop.” Enter the fundraising site Kickstarter, where Smith found a groundswell of support (and was able to meet her $35,000 goal to self-publish in time for Mother’s Day.) In the process, Smith gained a new perspective on the pressures of work-life balance.

“It’s easy to make yourself feel guilty about not being with your child when you have to work, or neglecting your life’s passions when you’re with your child,” says Smith, who lives in New York with her husband and three-year-old son, Harper. “From making this book, I learned I’ll probably be okay as a parent, and that my kid will likely be okay too.”