“This is not how it was supposed to be.”
There are two conspiracies in this world that you only become aware of too late as a woman.
The first, traditionalist argument, says that motherhood is the ultimate act of femininity. That it’s natural. That nothing else is more important. That you cannot curtail it without serious consequences. And if you can’t do it easily and naturally then there must be something wrong with you.
The second, feminist stance, says that motherhood should not be a woman’s central function. That she is equal to men. And that includes in her right (some say obligation) to do paid work. And to hopefully have a fulfilling career.
Only after I found myself in the midst of the battle field, did I realise that I had one foot in both camps. I valued hands-on motherhood (parts of it came naturally, parts did not), and I valued my paid work. Equally.
But the sort of work I did, the sort of work I valued, was not the sort that society values… unless you hit the big time. To be a creative you’re on your own in terms of child care, mentoring and all that jazz.
But creativity is so much more than just a “job”. It is a calling, an urge, a fight for freedom, a path to sanity.
And it can be a very lonely, dispiriting business as a mother when you are driven by this compulsion, and those around you don’t understand it. Or think you should be doing something that pays better. Or is more reliable. Or that you should just give yourself fully to your children.
This is the life of the artist-mother. Pulled in two directions by two equal passions. Floundering to form her own identity.
This is what my book, The Rainbow Way: cultivating creativity in the midst ofmotherhood
focuses on – every aspect of this conundrum, and how to solve it in your own life (the book is out November 2013 – to get a taster, sign up to my mailing list for an abridged ebook version).
This is what a very special film, which has just been released, also focuses on. Lost in Living
is a documentary film by Mary Trunk, filmed over 8 years, which follows the lives of four creative mothers: an author, visual artist, painter and film maker, as they navigate and reflect on the challenges of making art as they mother.
As one of the mothers featured shares:
“It’s easier to work my ass off than be a mum. When you have little children it’s hard to find time to concentrate. My work saved me.”
It is heart rending. It is enlightening. And it will make you cry.
Big, snotty, body wrenching sobs of identification with the four protagonists. It works so well because it tells the truth and breaks down a taboo – the taboo that we are not enough, that we are not good enough, and that we are alone. It is painful watching at times as relationships are tested to breaking by these twin urges of motherhood and creativity. And as finances force decisions that might not otherwise be taken. It also shines a light on the unspoken – the elements of depression that all four creative mothers grapple with, which both fuels, and retards their creativity.
“There are less and less people to see you as you really are [when you’re a mother] and so I feel compelled to witness myself.”
“Making art fixes [my life] it puts a sheen back on everything,”
Lost in Living lifts the lid on the reality of creative motherhood
, and every creative mother who watches it will see her soul writ large on the screen. I thoroughly recommend you check out the trailer and the various clips from the film on the Lost in Living
“Motherhood and art… they’re both about hope.”