I have set up this blog because a few readers of my book, The Divided Heart, have suggested that they'd like a way to link up with other readers and share their responses to the book, or just chat about their experience of being both artist and parent.
There are lots of great blogs out there written by creative mothers making links with other women, so another one might not really be needed. But it also does give me a chance to thank all the people (women and men) who have approached me over the past month and talked to me about what the book has meant to them. I didn't know, when I wrote this book, whether it would strike a chord out there, and it is extremely humbling and gratifying to feel that it is actually speaking to lots of readers who are also trying to work out how to keep their creative needs and desires at the forefront of their lives amid the huge (and also very worthwhile) demands of parenting.
So big thanks to all those readers who have approached me to thank me for writing the book, or to tell me about their lives. I hear so many fascinating stories--from those who have chosen to put off making art till their kids grow up; to those who have chosen not to have children for the sake of their careers; to those who are managing to make their whole lives, kids 'n' all, one big creative act.
I was on a Melbourne Writers Festival panel last weekend with my dear friend Clare Bowditch, the exquisite poet Lisa Gorton, and Catherine Deveny, who's a scream. She was really tough about this issue: "Put the writing (or other practice) first" was Catherine's message. And don't micro-manage your bloke--just point to your copy of 'Baby Love', chuck the phonebook at him, and let him work it out for himself. If there's a man (or another woman) on the scene, then you're a team. Don't make yourself the sole expert on what your baby needs.
In writing The Divided Heart, I have learned that mothers have to have extra gumption to say: "This is me; this is what I do", even if it means asking a lot of those around them--and at times feeling that they have to fight for their right to keep making art (often largely against their own temptation to admit defeat). But the ones who are managing to keep creating are the ones who are willing to give themselves permission, even if it means at times feeling overwhelming guilty about time away from their kids, or less money for their family.
There are also great benefits for the artist in becoming a parent; it gives you a big boot up the arse because you have so little time. Nothing better for helping you do away with the genius complex! No more faffing about, waiting for the muse to descend somewhere around the fifth latte--you just make use of every moment you've got, no matter how small.
The message from most of the artists in my book is: If you are conditioned to put the needs of others first, as so many women still are, then circumvent this conditioning and find a way to put your art at the forefront of your life. Carve out time for your practice (even one hour a night or early in the morning) and don't let anything get in the way of that sacred hour. It's too important! Give yourself permission to be an artist and others will just assume that's how it is. And your kids will get to grow up in a house where ideas and creativity thrive, and making and sharing is more important than consuming.