Modern Motherhood: Claiborne Swanson Frank’s Mother and Child Book

A celebration of the fiercest love of all from Claiborne Swanson Frank's book, Mother and Child.
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Fashion Designer, photographed
in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
“My time is more limited, and so I am more
careful about how I use it. That has forced me to cut
through a lot of the nonsense in my life.”

As the lenswoman behind Young Hollywood and American Beauty, photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank is a master at capturing women, their beauty and the zeitgeist. Her 2018 coffee table tome, Mother and Child, is a tribute to mothers who make juggling careers and child-rearing effortless, and a nod to today’s empowered women. Mother and Child is simply a celebration of the fiercest love of all—that of a mother for her child. As Carolina Herrera wrote in the foreword to Frank’s book, “The beauty not only lies in the images themselves, but in what they represent: the unbreakable bond between a mother and a child, and the beauty that is motherhood.” It is subtly revealing not just in a visual sense, but is an insightful, inspirational read, exploring parenting advice, guidelines and the philosophical revelations of becoming a mother. As Frank notes, “Children invite an element of chaos into your life that transforms us…I realized that in the chaos in the constantly imperfect world of motherhood there was great beauty, that the gift of unconditional love was much bigger and more powerful than any sort of idea I had worshipped before.” Here, a glimpse at the architects of modern motherhood, from California to the Hamptons. —Cristina Cuomo

Claiborne Swanson Frank
Creative Director, House of Fragrances,
photographed in Maine
“Keep it simple. Be thankful and positive everyday. Look at yourself in the mirror before
you go out.” Manners are very important.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Model and photographer,
photographed in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I have learned that you have to love yourself first in
order to love those around you. I believe that taking care of you
is key. Do things that nurture your soul.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Creative Director of Estée Lauder, photographed in Wainscott, N.Y.
“Always follow your dreams and passions. And whatever you do, do it well.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Model and actress, photographed in
Central Park, New York City
“My family’s core values are gentleness, love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Actress and model, photographed
in Beverly Hills, Calif.
“[My kids] Julian and Rowan teach me the importance of the
moment. If I don’t slow down I may miss something precious.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Model, photographed in Northern California
“Making your child your world doesn’t
do any good. A self-efficient, self-loving parent
who truly enjoys life is the best role model a
child can have.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Contributing editor, Vogue and author of
Gatherings, photographed in Maine
“I learned I had to say no to some projects and events that
took me away from them. I had to, and still have to better
organize and prioritize.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Former designer assistant, photographed in Southampton, N.Y.
“Be happy now and live in the present.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Model, photographed in Wainscott, N.Y.
“My son and I spend a lot of time in nature, which is
truly our church. We speak a lot about the energy of the
universe and living in sync with the world and all of the
species that inhabit it.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Lingerie designer and co-founder of TyLynn Nguyen,
photographed in Los Angeles
“The single most important thing my mother taught me was I am
not a victim. Throughout my life and with all the things that have
happened to me, I have never looked at myself as a victim. I have only
looked at my circumstances as opportunities to become better.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Vogue contributing editor and co-founder of online
Moda Operandi, photographed in Southampton, N.Y.
“In everything I do, I have no regrets. I accept my shortcomings
and never judge myself too harshly.”
Claiborne Swanson Frank
Portrait photographer and stylist,
photographed in Napa Valley, Calif.

CRISTINA CUOMO: A theme that you explore in your new book Mother and Child is the idea of beautiful imperfection. How do you suggest mothers address this idea of imperfection with their children?

CLAIBORNE SWANSON FRANK: Our children teach us that the reality of life is a state of constant imperfection. The more we let go of our desire for perfection the more we are able to see beauty and feel joy. As we love our children unconditionally, they, too, learn to love themselves in that same way. Love is the greatest teacher of all.

CC: Having children changes your life in many beautiful yet challenging ways. Did the birth of your children alter your fitness regimen in any way? How do you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle now?

CSF: I had a lot more time to take care of my body before I had my babies. I now give myself an hour a day, four or five days a week, to work out—that’s all the time that I feel I can give to this part of my life. So I try to get the most out of that time. I love to mix it up with long nature walks, exhale barre classes and yoga. I make self-care a priority. I am a better mom when I am taking care of myself.

CC: Can you share some ways you indulge yourself once your kids are sleeping safe and sound—and why that is important to do sometimes?

CSF: At the end of the day, I love having a glass of wine with my husband and our friends. I also enjoy going out for cozy dinners. Before bed, I watch movies or read books. Checking out at night and decompressing is very important.

CC: How do you blow off steam to prevent too much stress? Do you have ways that help you remain mentally present while juggling motherhood and a professional life?

CSF: I exercise, I journal, I pray, I try to eat healthy foods and drink green juice and lots of water. It’s a constant daily struggle to remain present—every day is different.

CC: In what ways have you grown in your relationship with your husband as your family expanded?

CSF: My husband became my family after we had our children. Before we had kids he was my husband and with that love we created a family and became each other’s family. Parenting forces you to grow up, and I feel that these past years we have spent our time growing our family and at the same time growing up as adults.

CC: You sleep fewer than six hours a night. Does that make it difficult to balance all the facets of your life?

CSF: I miss the days when I got eight or nine hours of sleep! I am lucky if I sleep more than five straight hours…. I run on a lot of green tea and coffee. Trying to find the balance between work and family is a practice. I love my family above all, and I love my career so I make it work, but in reality I rarely feel balanced.

CC: You speak with Lesley M. M. Blume [in Mother and Child] about unconditional love. What are some other ways mothers can express their unconditional love to their children, beyond the daily care?

CSF: Physical affection, verbal affirmation, focused attention, enjoying the experience of life together.

CC: Are there any beauty secrets your mother passed on to you?

CSF: Wear sunscreen, and don’t drink a lot of alcohol, or smoke.

CC: Did your beauty regimen change after becoming a mother? What are some of your favorite products now?

CSF: I changed my beauty routine to be more focused on anti-aging. I love Clé de Peau Beauté products, especially their night cream, La Crème. The revitalizing masks and lip serum are a few of my favorites.

CC: What is a mommy mantra all mothers should live by?

CSF: Be here now. Breathe these moments in. Stay in gratitude for all the love and beauty in your life.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLAIBORNE SWANSON FRANK from her new book, MOTHER AND CHILD, published by Assouline,