The Motherload: Writing with Children at Home
'The Pram in the Hall' has always been seen as a slamming of brakes on creativity, but for those of us who choose to have children, it doesn't have to be a full stop or even a comma, in our creativity.
Now let me clarify from the outset, I am not of the opinion that a woman needs to be a mother in order to be complete. It is a choice or a circumstance that simply isn't for everyone. But here, now, I write in celebration of being a parent, a mother and a writer and artist.
Transforming practice and dispensing with rituals
I have dispensed with many of my pre-motherhood writer rituals
I am a writer (and artist) as well as a mother to three young children under five. I live in a remote place and don't have extended family to help with childcare. This means I have to be inventive and careful with my time and energy. I find that my practice has transformed. I am more effective with my time. There is less pre-amble. I have dispensed with many of my pre-motherhood writer rituals – for example, the endless cups of coffee, the preparing of space, the hours lost to ‘research’ that may in actuality have no bearing on the work. No: all of that has gone.
The lead-in to work has taken on a different form. I create in a different way. I have developed a new, effective methodology which offers me maximum output from the limited time and energy I have. My approach to research has changed. Everything I undertake has to balance with Parent/Motherhood. My time is valuable. Precious. I choose. I choose carefully. I choose carefully what I do/make/act upon.
I make work in a patch-work sort of fashion now. I ‘quilt’ work from small, finite pieces of time, energy that together offer a whole that will develop into a larger scale idea. I find the process magnifies my material. I am close up, eye to eye with it for an intense moment and then move away. A forced distance (when practical motherhood activities beckon) allows an important time to process and re-configure perspectives and ideas. When I return to the work, to the creating and making, I come with a new gaze and a new way of seeing that makes the work precise and full of rigour. I find it satisfying to work in this way.
My practice has also become more nocturnal. I often undertake ‘amritvela’ work – amritvela is in Hindu and Sikh culture, the sacred silent dawn time of day. A time where everything is pregnant with possibility. When, if I have worked long into the night, a visceral exhaustion leaves me tender and vulnerable, but at the same time offers me clear sight. A raw, spiritual type of energy that has translated into fine work.
I am a mother I am multitudes. I am a writer I am multitudes.
When you are a parent/mother you are multitudes. When you are an writer and artist you are multitudes. I give my work and practice worth and demonstrate the importance of this to my kids. I give my practice status, that it is ‘work’ and model that for my kids. So that my work is as important in their minds as something easily tangible as a teacher or fireman etc.
I give my work and practice worth and demonstrate the importance of this to my kids
Being a writer and artist makes me feel like a better person and therefore a better mother. I mean this in the sense that I am at my best when I am making work, when my creativity is active and utilised. My children benefit from seeing their Mother in her multitudes and with her creativity vital and in full flow.
I do not wish to end up at the end of a child’s childhood tremendously successful as a writer and artist but realising that I do not recognise my children – that I have no idea of who they really are. I don’t want commercial/traditional success by any means necessary. Not at the cost of my relationship with my kids. Managing to be creative at the same time as raising children is a revolutionary act. Parenthood demands sacrifice. Complete submission at times. To find a pocket of air within that for writing, creative work, dialogue or practice is an extraordinary thing. Don't fear that pram in the hall! Rest assured, it can and will be done.
Image by Laurence Winram