Monday, June 7, 2010

Reconciling the creative and maternal 'selves'

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.


little red hen said...

Great post. (Both of them actually!) I took myself off and enrolled in a painting workshop which starts next week...but I've already got the paints out again and done some painting before I even attended the class. Thank you for reminding me- there is a way!

Jetta's Nest said...

For a while I'll admit I felt kind of depressed about this creative 'monster' inside me that seemed so selfish and needy, always wanting more time, always more of me when I was already spread so thin between the kids and life stuff. I thought that life would be better and easier for both me and especially my kids if I didn't have this side of me but I've realised that life without it wouldn't be ideal, it would be kind of dull. I've made my kids part of what I do and I've definately had to make some compromises but they love seeing what I've painted or drawn or made and I've relaxed about things so that now, I can find creative contentment from crocheting a beanie!

There definately is a way!