Do women still confront the attitude that they have to choose between following their creative dreams and having children? In Motherhood and Creativity, some of Australia’s most respected actors, writers, artists, and musicians speak frankly about the wrench between motherhood and their creative lives.
In these compelling, honest and insightful interviews, twenty-two women open up about the various challenges and pleasures they’ve faced when combining motherhood with an undiminished passion for their creative work.
Fellow arty mums: THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING!!!
My two biggest dreams have always been to have a baby and publish a book. But I never imagined I’d end up doing both at the same time. Cue conflicting feelings of excitement and terror when I emerged from the nauseating haze of morning sickness to discover that, while I’d been prone on the couch with my head in a bucket, my agent had landed a publishing deal for my debut YA novel Neverland.
Jump ahead six months and I was chipping away at the Neverland copy edit while feeding my three-week-old daughter, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed but also bursting with a whole new kind of love and a renewed passion for my work. There was also guilt—I didn’t want to miss a second with my daughter, but I also wanted to shut myself in a quiet room with my laptop. I wanted to get back to working on my next manuscript—I need to if I want to make a career of this novelling business—but there’s no guarantee it will get published, so can I justify taking the time and the risk when I’ve got this tiny person depending on me? Is it setting a good example for her to go chasing dreams, or just selfish? And if it is selfish, is that okay? Is that allowed anymore? And, oh my god, where did all that washing and those dirty dishes come from??!!
A few days later, I caught up with my best friend, an artist and mama of two under three, and was just like: ‘My heart has been wrenched in two. HOW DO YOU MAKE IT WORK??!! HOOOWWWW??!!!’ In response, she lent me Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart (Affirm Press, 2015).
The book is a series of interviews with Aussie women juggling creative careers and motherhood. I love it because each woman’s story is completely different. Some find that motherhood enhances their creativity, while others admit that they find it incredibly difficult to manage both roles. All admit that some degree of compromise is necessary and that that compromise takes an emotional toll.
It’s refreshing to hear other mums admit that, yes, the Sisyphean loads of washing, nappy changes and late night feeds are mind-numbing and that they itched to get back to their creative work. Some speak about their experiences with postnatal depression and the sense of feeling trapped, overwhelmed, resentful, unprepared or all of the above, and I appreciated their candour and honesty.
There are frank discussions about the guilt women feel about making time for the ‘dreaming’ necessary to produce creative work. After all, it’s one thing to get someone else to look after your kid so you can meet a deadline, but many felt it was harder to arrange for childcare so that they could do the moodling that needs to happen before they sit down at their laptop or pick up their paintbrush. Many also talk about the guilt they feel over taking time for creative work that may not sell, but also the necessity of this if they wish to keep working in their chosen field.
But the women share their joy and humour too. Many felt that a creative career helped prepare them for motherhood, while others found that being a mum heightened their creativity and improved their work. Almost all agreed that motherhood sharpened their focus: when you find time to work, you make the most of every second.
The common thread through all the stories is that everyone is muddling through. Also: screw the housework. I’m still figuring out what being both a mum and a writer will look like for me but found it reassuring not only to hear from women who are managing to make it work, but also that even the most successful among them find it challenging.
P.S. Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart is a follow up to Power’s earlier book, The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood (Red Dog Books, 2008), and several interviews appear in both).