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Motherhood and the Creative Life

 

Traditional wisdom requires an artist to put her art, whether it is writing, performing or making, at the forefront and center of her life. This is challenging and often impossible for a mother.  Because of this traditional assumption, the artist-mother can end up feeling that her life is fragmented, and that her art is compromised. Both Motherhood and the creative life can feel shortchanged, with one working against the other.

This dilemma is particularly charged for the artist-mother as compared to a mother who has another, perhaps more “traditional” career.  This is because creativity accesses and depends upon a space, a capacity, a kind of self that is also a key ingredient required for loving children… I call it the mediated self.  This kind of self allows something other than “self” in the traditional male sense to speak for it. Mothers accept children as such, and routinely hold back urgent self needs.  Artists use their art to express their deepest places, often being otherwise inarticulate about these spaces.

Perhaps there is more than one way to be an artist. Our assumptions about what makes for a true artist have not been informed by the voices and real life experiences of artist-mothers. My work with artists of all callings, and my own journey as a poet and singer, has led to some different conclusions about the requirements of art and the reality of the creative life.

I believe that the fragmentation of an artist-mother is the deepest inspiration for her art, when she is supported to hold and sustain it.  Rather than see herself shortchanged by the seeming contradictions between her calling as an artist and her life as a mother, her art is enormously nurtured when she immerses herself into this place within her. It is the core reality of her daily existence.  The work lies in integrating these “contradictions”  rather than splitting from them. Mining her reality, nurturing it, and then expressing it, can lead to a radical transformation of her life as a mother and her calling as an artist.

When held in this way, all of life becomes an art.