Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Girls and kids and bands

I had a revealing conversation with a friend the other night, while I was telling her my dream list of overseas artists should I ever be in a position to do an international version of Motherhood & Creativity.

I had always hoped I might one day get to interview Sonic Youth musician Kim Gordon, who has recently published her memoir, Girl in a Band.

Also on my list, predictably, was Patti Smith. Although Kim Gordon's book is repeatedly compared to Smith's Just Kids, the two women seem to have very different takes on the impact of having children on their creative lives and identities.

After Gordon's daughter Coco was born in 1994, the band toured with a porta-cot in the bus, though “dripping breast milk during a video shoot is not very rock,” she writes. (If you want the full nitty-gritty on the matter of touring with kids, you can find a great -- and very detailed -- conversation between Suzanne Vega and Kim Gordon here.)

Perhaps because she and her partner, Thurston Moore, were in the same band, Gordon could make a clear comparison between the impact of kids on her life versus his, and this appears to have played a strong part in defining her experience. As a result, she is quite open about the conflict she felt between parenting and maintaining a life of rock 'n' roll.

"...after Coco was born I realised we had never talked about what kind of parents or partners we wanted to be. I'd simply assumed Thurston was supportive of feminist issues, like equal participation in child care, equal responsibilities around the house, and so forth.

"Like most new mothers, I found that no matter how just and shared you expect the experience to be, or how equal the man thinks parenting should be, it isn't. It can’t be. Most child-raising falls on women’s shoulders. This doesn’t make men bad parents, though it can make women feel alone in what they’d hoped would be an equal division of labour."

As for Patti Smith... apparently, at a talk she did in Australia a few years back, there was a question from the floor from a woman who mentioned my book and asked Smith how she coped with putting her art aside in order to raise her children.

Obviously I can't quote her answer, but it seems the question was dismissed as irrelevant -- Smith's general argument being that there is no separation between art and life, it's all part of one big creative act, so why would there be a conflict?

Ah, to be Patti Smith...

So, knowing that, I don't suppose I'll be approaching the great punk poet laureate any time soon, though I certainly don't dismiss her sentiment outright. If anything, I'm not alone in admiring the big creative act that is Patti Smith's life, though I don't know if I could ever aspire to live that way.

In Motherhood & Creativity, actor Claudia Karvan says that she has sacrificed nothing and gained everything in becoming a mother -- and I love those words.

We all exist on a spectrum in terms of how readily we combine mothering and creativity in our lives -- and there are so many variables that support or detract from this. But like most issues of the heart, to personally find something easy is not a good reason to dismiss the experience of those who struggle.

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