thoughts on being an artist and a parent via “the divided heart”
I recently read “The Divided Heart” by Rachel Power. I had to borrow it from my local library as it is no longer in print (Rachel is currently writing edition two). It gave me much food for thought, the topic being often mulled over in my head. The “divided heart” refers to the pull felt between artistic pursuits and the demands of parenting. The book is a compilation of interviews with women who are pursing creative careers and their experiences raising children alongside those careers. Many of the different experiences that were shared I could relate to and I felt a connection in some way, to each women’s story.
Whilst reading however, I was reminded how far I have come myself and of some of the things that I have learnt along the way about being a mother and an artist. I was conscious of how much better I have become at balancing the two parts of myself these days.
I have had periods in my life when I have felt anxious about my art and what the impact that choosing to have a large family would have on my work, the things that have worried me during these times, are the quality and quantity of my paintings and the limitations on my general life experience, (travel is one thing I sacrifice).
I am finding though, that as time goes on I am becoming more and more comfortable with who I am, in my work and in my ways of working. I have come to understand better how my life in the home is very complimentary to my work as an artist. I am also getting my head around the fact that my work is my work, it is what it is and I am who I am.. (big stuff I know)..
I wanted to blog about my thoughts on “The Divided Heart” straight after I read it, but It has taken me awhile to fully absorb it, to reflect properly and see what ideas have impacted me most from the book.
What has stuck with me most, relates directly to the fears of mine I mentioned previously. These were the interviews with women who are now older and who were reflecting on their artistic careers and the raising of their children. I was comforted when they talked fondly of the intensity with which you have to work when you have children to care for. That with hindsight, this was a blessing to the creative process. When you know for example, that you have two hours to create and you just have to go for it and the “no excuses” attitude you have to have, to produce work when you constantly have the pressure of a time constraint.
Well this is my life right now. With four children and one more on the way. If I want to create I have to dive in, I don’t have the luxury of second guessing my decisions. I don’t have time to doubt what I am going to do next. This immediacy I realised, is the key to my productivity at the moment (I am pretty productive). Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it and at times I feel like I could do so much more. Even if some days I dream of being able to paint all day every day, undisturbed. I wonder now if when I am older and that urgency is gone, I will just waste time. If art will no longer feel like the necessity it does to me now. If instead, when the hours roll out in front of me I will feel lost in them. When I don’t have to claw time out, I simply won’t.
So, that is what has been reinforced for me after reading “The Divided Heart”, that for me there are many personal plus’s to being an artist/mum. I thought for you all, I would list a few that came to the top of my head, here goes; My life as a mother allows me a certain kind of freedom. I can very often include my children in my creative world, which is a benefit to them in various way. My mind is often free to explore creatively, even if my hands are not. Unlike conventional employment, I don’t have to answer directly to anyone, (not really) and I can schedule in time to create. I am clearer with how I spend my time, I don’t waste it, free time is treasured and as I outlined above, the immediacy actually more often than not creates great results. Ultimately, I spend most of my free time doing something I am passionate about. Something that makes me feel alive and makes me a better mother because of that. Something that energises me more than sleep and keeps my mind fired with new ideas… blah blah blah!!
Anyhow, below are some pictures of the painting I am doing at the moment… and below them are two clips of me “working” with the kids around (slowly but surely), and a hint, a quick “go on a painting” and they are happy to go back and play… sweet! (not much I can’t fix of theirs in the early stages).
Have a wonderful week…
Have you read “The Divided Heart”?……
Listen to my parenting podcast for “The New Normal” here..