Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Innocence and experience
Thank you for those lovely comments on my last post.
I agree with composer Christine McCombe that sweeping statements about art and motherhood are dangerous. I wanted to avoid the term 'artist-mother' in The Divided Heart for this reason, but inevitably it was used just for the sake of convenience. That said, whether or not mothering has a direct impact on the themes of your work, there could be few more life-changing experiences, both in a material and emotional sense--and it is hard to imagine this not affecting your work, or at least your process, in some way.
As Christine writes on her great blog, she feels like she's now embarking on her 'Creative Life, version 2', post-baby. It is such an interesting transition when that often liberating permission to retreat from art/work after becoming a mother slowly gives way to a new creative urgency. "I find that I am approaching things in a different way, partly because of the imperative of time and partly because of a shift in the way I think about what I am doing and why I am doing it," she says. That about sums it up, doesn't it?!
As for the language we use around art and motherhood, it's fraught. I certainly had two women refuse to be in the book because they didn't want to highlight the fact of being a woman in the eyes of the public, let alone being a mother.
More broadly, on that matter of how we talk about mothering to those who aren't parents, I have two old friends who are pregnant for the first time at the moment, and I really have to watch myself--to just take a step back and let them have their own experience without imposing my 'worldy' own. And to just listen to them talk about their expectations without being smug (something I remember hating other mothers do before I had my own babies). It's amazing how hard this can be: to find the right balance between offering advice and not being a know-it-all.
When I was pregnant and ran into parents I knew on the street, they tended to talk in extremes: either telling me it's the most wonderful thing you'll ever do; or prepare for your life to be fucked--no sleep, no time for yourself etc. Now I know that it's both these things--and everything in between--and it probably just depended which day I caught them on as to which feeling was dominating.
Ha ha--just now I've opened to a page in my notebook and found my 7-year-old son has started a list called: "People who are as smart as me." It's a very short list, I can tell you. And my name's certainly not on it. Ah well, I must be doing something right, 'cause he certainly doesn't lack confidence, does he?