Thank you to those who responded to my “How do you do it?” post.
You’d think writing The Divided Heart would have quelled my curiosity about this — but I am just as fascinated as ever to hear about how people organise their lives, especially when it comes to parenthood and creativity.
I know that everyone’s lives are different — some of us work, some don’t, we have babies or grown-up kids, we have supportive partners or no partner at all…
But these are some of the possible strategies I took (and will hold on to) from what you wrote:
- When the kids are asleep that's your time. Don't do chores at night.
- Ask your parent/s to stay for a week and give you some time.
- Routine is the key; see it as work, sit down and work, work, work.
- Sequester a number of hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings when you refuse all other engagements and commitments.
- Continuity; two or three times a week, go off early in the morning to a local cafe for an hour, forsaking a shower for writing.
- Prioritise and work to a study-like timetable; like budgeting, but with time.
- Act as you would if self-employed: go to the computer and ignore the dishes/laundry etc, the same way you have to if you go out to an office with a boss.
- Catch public transport as consistent time for yourself.
- Set the kids up with their own craft cupboard so they can help themselves to what they need.
- Think about changing the medium you work in so it can be left safely about.
- Teach them to use the toaster and butter bread.
- Ignore the housework for as long as possible.
- “Gift” yourself a regular art class or course when overwhelmed by the day-to-day work and “should do's”; then you’ve paid for it and it is timetabled.
I loved the image of Emma standing inside her pined-for studio, inhaling the aroma of leather and saying, “Hello studio, I miss you”.
But as she says, her “lil girl deserves a whole lotta cuddles from her Mum while she's so small”.
Perhaps this is what Frances is getting at with her question to me: “What did your mother fight for, Rachel?”
And her statement: “I suspect that the answer lies in Alix Kates Shulman: what mothers won't tell their daughters is that they will fall in love with their children.”
Frances (and Shulman) is right — no-one can explain to you how much you will love your own children. That is exactly why I struggle so much to reconcile my creative and maternal selves (which of course are not totally separate but do have competing urges at times).
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I will not be giving my kids the kind of “ideal” childhood of my fantasies.
They deal with a lot of chaos, and maybe at times they pick up on my stress and frustrations. But I love them to death, and they know it.
If I had to pin down what my mum fought for, as a woman and activist of the 70s, it would be this: that I get the chance to make the most of my choices — including, but not only, the choice to be a mother.
I struggle with the limitations imposed by motherhood — that is true. That does not take away from how much I love my children.
What did my mother fight for? A situation in which women can love their children, and enjoy being mothers, without it having to mean a total negation of the self, as it too often required in the past.