Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finding the words...

Me and crafty author Pip Lincolne (pic: Clare Bowditch)
I was in my favourite cafe today, feeling a little shaken by the mixed reception to the "motherhood and creativity" subject from radio listeners yesterday and trying to recover my confidence with the help of too much caffeine.

The waitress serving me my coffee glanced at my copy of Motherhood & Creativity and asked if she could take a look.

Flicking through it she told me that, as a photographer with a three-year-old son, the book "looks like exactly what I need".

I asked how she was managing things and she said that she'd been struggling to find any balance until she got some great advice. "A woman told me to give myself the permission to go for what I want, and to be unforgiving."

Hurrah! Couldn't have said it better myself. "Permission" is such an important word for women -- one I use all the time! And the perfect thing for me to hear in that moment, too.

I have had a lot of thoughts swirling around my head since Clare, Pip and I took part in ABC774's Conversation Hour with Jon Faine yesterday.

If you listened in you'll know that the conversation went off in some pretty difficult directions. Overall, it made realise how important it is to keep validating the importance of creativity in our lives -- and that I need to find the words, and the strength, to keep doing just that.

Ever since I published The Divided Heart, I have been confronted by the number of detractors who (usually without actually reading the book) are determined to see it as a book of complaint -- privileged women indulging their hobbies and whingeing about their kids.

Not only does this attitude ignore the fact that art is the real work and livelihood of the women I have interviewed, it ignores just how central creativity is to a meaningful life for so many of us. To those who suggest this means they are not "putting their children first" -- surely kids are much better off with a mother who feels fulfilled and alive (if occasionally distracted and serving up Weetbix for dinner) than one who is profoundly frustrated and bereft!

(It was lovely it was to get the supportive text to the ABC from actor/musician Justine Clarke's husband while we were on air. What a man! Comments like those made all the difference.)

I could go on, except that the very eloquent Pip Lincolne has done it so much better in her blog post here - as have those who've responded. As she says, "Being creative or seeking fulfilment and meaning are not  ‘first world problems’. Everyone deserves to live a full life, whatever that means to them. If we’re not here to make the most of things, what the heck are we here for? Someone? Anyone? Monty Python?!"

Monty Python might have a better answer, but in the world that we live in now, I'd suggest it's consumerism that's taking the place of creativity in many people's lives, and look where that's getting us...

Overland has a wonderful piece by Alice Robinson, "The Literary Mother Load", in the current issue of the magazine.

Robinson sums up the situation beautifully with her statement that "as a stay-at-home parent by day, a writer by night, I am doing what untold numbers of people in each camp, and all those in both, are doing: two challenging but largely unpaid jobs. ... each undervalued in the remunerative sense, but fundamental in the cultural." Hear, hear.


Sam said...

There's no doubt about it, people suck. I'm yet to listen to the conversation, but I wonder if the people whinging have a creative bone in their bodies? Or perhaps they've tamped it down inside of them for so long, trying to be the perfect mother/parent that they've forgotten in there and are trapped. I can't wait to buy the book. I loved the first one. Even though your interviewees are a lot farther down the creative and parenting paths, it still resonates very loudly, and I'll be keeping my copy on the night stand. It'll be there to remind me to keep going, both as a parent and AS IMPORTANTLY a creative woman. Keep on trucking Rachel. We need you.

Kate Moore said...

I'll go and have a listen, but don't be rattled. It's OK for people have a different perspective on things. When that perspective doesn't cause harm, it's just that, perspective. It's worth contributing to a debate to help someone share and see your own perspective but it's OK if we see and share and understand things differently. It's those women, those mothers who share your perspective and want to be guided by it that you need to focus on, not those who don't share your perspective. I am really looking forward to re-reading the new edition. I share your perspective.

Nikki Fisher said...

Rachel my husband phoned me from the car to tell me the interview was on. I am so glad he did. It was great to listen to you, Clare and Pip. I thought that the three of you, and Jon Faine for that matter, did a fabulous job of responding to the at times very difficult circumstances some listeners spoke about. We all have challenges in our lives, some of us greater than others but I felt that you all spoke from the heart, with honesty and integrity. I really admired the way that Clare kept gently but firmly encouraging listeners to reach out to those around them and to find ways to get support. Asking is hard especially if, like me, you somehow see asking for help or asking for time means that you are less capable as parent/wife/writer. Don't lose heart, your book is wonderful and the radio interview sparked some great, gritty conversation that inspired me to look at what I need to do in my own life to carve out time and space.

sister outlaws said...

There is something bittersweet and compelling about the challenges of motherhood and creativity - they are perpetual star crossed lovers. However I think the radio discussion opened up some bigger issues about the expectations on motherhood. There is so much pressure on primary carers in these days of constant watchfulness, over communication and ridiculous middleclass expectations of extracurricular activity and lifestyle - and all of it seems to fall onto the shoulders of the mother. There needs to be discussions around workplace and family life balance for both parents, examination of what is necessary in terms of school communications and commitments and taking the pressure off families. For goodness sake what I would do for a bit of benign neglect and the occasional care factor zero if my kid wants to learn another instrument. It's crazy that in order to parent and have a life we need to ask other busy primary carers to share the load. That doesn't suit everybody and doesn't always work. Adds more guilt and more feelings of being beholden to each other. What are the men doing about any of this? What are workplaces and schools doing about any of this? Thanks you for opening up discussions like this and being on radio talking about them I'm sorry the discussion did go down the lines of "I've got it harder than you" etc. But I think the wider point is that we have become a society where parenting has huge expectations that simply are impossible.

Rachel Power said...

I'm with you, Sister Outlaws! I think you're exactly right. It is part of a bigger disussion, and I wish I'd found a way to express what you've said here, but radio is so fast and high-pressure! But the important thing is that we all keep talking, and pushing towards a fairer and more realistic situation for mothers everyhwere... x

Sam said...

Well,I've just had a listen and now I understand what happened. Your conversation was high jacked by another important conversation. You all handled it brilliantly but I'm so sorry it happened that way. I was looking forward to a different kind of chat.