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Laundry is a Gas! (finding time)

So, I know that self-help is a neoliberal trap that makes the individual responsible for all things, often ignoring or disavowing the structures that profoundly constrain the choices any person can make (I’m looking at you, Rachel Hollis). BUT, I love it and consume a bunch of the stuff anyway. And, if I’m honest, sometimes there are good nuggets in there, especially if the book in question isn’t written by a total charlatan.

One author I have respect for is Laura Vanderkam, who has made a name for herself writing time studies. This past week, because I had a phone call with a newly pregnant academic friend coming up, I revisited Vanderkam’s I Know How She Does It.

The friend was anxious about how to balance work and family, which is precisely the topic of Vanderkam’s book. In it, she discusses the time studies of women with children who also have “big careers” as measured by making 100,000 or more.

What I like about the book is its feminist bent. For, in addition to showing what a bunch of other mothers are doing with each of their 168 hours a week, which pleases my nosy nature, Vanderkam is, in fact, forwarding a feminist agenda. Too often, she argues, women opt out of “big” jobs for fear they won’t have time for family. Not only do other, traditionally feminine and thus, I’d argue, lower-paying jobs like teaching take up plenty of hours, but, as Vanderkam shows, women with big jobs still see their children plenty and have some time for themselves. As the time diaries she analyzes show, motherhood and having a substantial career are not at odds.

So, what does this have to do with having a creative life in motherhood? One of the things I really admire about Vanderkam is that her focus is not so much on efficiency (“hacks for getting 15 things done in less time”)  but on quality. That is, are the women filling out the time diaries spending their time in ways that are pleasurable and give their lives meaning?

In two places she discusses time-devouring traps that don’t add significant value to women’s lives and have a nasty Sisyphean quality to them: laundry and email. She looks at the time one woman committed to “inbox zero” spent processing emails—ten of thirty-nine working hours! The problem with pushing that boulder up the hill is that that particular mofo always rolls back down. Housework, which tends to fall to women because of one of those big cultural structures self-help rarely acknowledges, is a similar boulder: especially if you are living with small children, the tidying one does is almost immediately undone. In this case it’s not so much like rolling a boulder up a steep hill, but finding that there’s a small tyrant at the top actively pushing it back down.  The tasks associated with the feeding, care, and cleaning of a family with children expands like a gas to fill whatever container you give it. Indeed, Vanderkam connects housework and tedious email clearing in a metaphor that likens the latter to the dishwasher “Constantly emptying this sort of dishwasher will keep you from ever starting dinner.” And, as she points out, email exists in a nebulous non-container, capable of infinite expansion!

If the dinner of this metaphor is a meaningful and creative life, it’s easy to see how day after day filled with relatively tedious and never truly finish-able tasks can breed resentment toward one’s children, partner, and coworkers.

The always unraveling nature of such tasks (the laundry basket that doesn’t stay empty) and the fact that the people you love may be undoing your efforts means such tasks are labor with an inherently frustrating quality.  

In addition to the frustrating quality of such ever-expanding tasks, to the extent that you are pursuing them beyond what’s required to keep your job and your colleagues relatively happy and what’s not going to make you totally bonkers in your house, as Vanderkam puts it, “There is no virtue in being productive toward ends that don’t matter.”

As opposed to creative work. This is not to say that creative work can’t ever be frustrating—indeed, it often can be. But if you consider the way you might feel at the end of a day in which you spent 30 minutes writing or painting something—even if that something is quite  bad—vs the way you feel at the end of a day in which you’ve sorted laundry for the same amount of time, it’s clear which should be filling the hours of the day.

More devastatingly, if you consider a 30-day month such as September, you see those 30 minutes could be 15 hours. Or, in a non-leap year, 182.5 hours.

When I think about how I’d like to reflect on my own life, I know that I will find meaning in the fact that I have mothered. But, I also know that this meaning has no particular connection to folding laundry, despite what social pressure might tell us. Very clean houses are one way of showing love but they aren’t the only way.  

Many of the tasks we associate with loving our children are not, in fact, identical with loving our children. Just think about someone you know who gets lots of credit for being a “good dad.” My hunch is that the title “good dad” has almost nothing to do with how clean he keeps the kitchen.

So, if the gaseous chores that grow to fill the days are not the same as loving our children, better to choke them off in favor of something that is more soul-nourishing, something that, upon reflection, looks like the more meaningful life.

Knowing that, whether it happens once a week, every other day, or every day, the house will get picked up—or better yet, that someone else might pick it up!–, better to declare and protect some hours for building the creative life you want.  And this might mean having a frank conversation with the other people in your family to do so.

Here’s what it looks like in my house. I am good at writing in the morning. Less so at other times in the day. Unfortunately, small people wake up early and have lots of needs. After a spate of mornings that left me furious, but the people fed, the breakfast dishes put away, and so on, my husband and I had an explicit conversation about how to get some of these important creative mornings back even during this moment of having young children. Our solution is simple, we alternate. Since the babies tend to default to wanting me to help early in the morning, every other morning I get up early and leave, riding my bike off as the sun comes up to exercise and put in at least an hour of writing. This shift is important for two reasons: it means I’m getting that am writing time for at least half of my days, and, importantly for me and all the other people in the house, it evidences that mom is not necessary for people to make it to school fed and dressed in the morning.

Vanderkam called her series of time studies with high-achieving mothers “The Mosaic Project,” a title which reflects the way in which the women moved hours of their day like tiles to create a harmonious picture. While this can seem a bit idealized, the name also implies constraint, that there are choices to arrange, but there is a limited number of slots to place each tile. Given this, why wouldn’t we fill the image with the tiles that make life most meaningful?  

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Postpartum Aesthetic Depression

Our Totoro Fan Art

I don’t like cartoons.

When people tell me that I have to see The Incredibles or Toy Story or Inside Out, I have to reveal my Grinch nature. I don’t like animated films, I’ll tell them. Oh, but this one is really good, they’ll say. Good good or good for a cartoon? I ask. Oh, good good. Inevitably, it turns out they are lying.

Before children, I always joked that when we had kids, my husband would take them to see whatever farting donkey movie was out and I’d be at the grown-up movie next door.

I am, to be sure, a snob. When I was a kid myself, I was an aspiring snob: I always liked the idea of being older and more sophisticated. And then I made a job for myself consuming, teaching and writing about film and literature.  

You could say that this has ruined lots of “fun” culture for me. For example, while I love a good thriller, I read A.J. Finn’s  The Woman in the Window charged with great resentment. And there are certain first-person narrated novels that I can’t wade in past the first chapter. Reading and teaching truly fabulous novels day in and day out has spoiled certain mediocre books for me. It’s hard to be really engaged by a shitty unreliable narrator after spending time with Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, and lazy writing true crime writing is made all the shabbier when held against Truman Capote’s gorgeous and terrifying In Cold Blood. The late Michelle McNamara’s I’ll be Gone in the Dark holds up—really chilling and with the same eye for scene setting that made Capote’s book sing.And others not. To be fair, part of what I hated about Finn’s novel was how pretentious and cynical it was. He signaled his consumption of classic thrillers through the very cheapest of references to Hitchcock, all the while writing a pretty terrible novel with a real cheater of a twist at the end.

But if you said this, that I’ve been ruined for fun by my training, you’d be wrong. As someone who spends much of her time immersed in art, I get to read and watch “TRUE CLASSICS” (whatever that means) and genuinely like them, and I also find value in lots of other works that might traditionally be snubbed. Indeed, a guiding principle for me as a teacher and scholar is to expand our sense of what we can call a classic.

And, when consuming very poppy pop culture, like the fizzy new horror film Ready or Not, for example, it’s fun to have a palette of reference for what it is up to. I liked thinking about this film as kindred in some ways to the Katharine Hepburn film Holiday (Cukor 1938)in the way it looks at the bizarre behavior of the very wealthy and is only lightly attached to any particular romantic arrangement.

In other words, for me, having expertise in an area of art actually means opening up worlds of pleasure. When I read novels or go to the movies, I can find joy in the “art film” or “literary fiction” as well as genre flicks and mass market novels. But, I am somewhat sensitive to the bad, the pandering, and the lazy. I suspect this is also true for dancers, for musicians, for chefs, for visual artists, as well as the critics and scholars who have devoted themselves to the study of these arts.

Which is why I have often said “I don’t like cartoons.” Very often, kid culture, rather than just meeting children where they are, panders to them. This is the farting donkey variety of kid culture. Or, god help me, chipmunksmusic. If you think Baby Shark”is annoying, just know that you can find (as my daughter has) the Alvin, Simon, and Theodor performing “Party Rock Anthem.”

It’s a bit dramatic, perhaps, but I think bad kid culture can give parents something like aesthetic depression or anxiety. And it comes on fast, so maybe we can call it postpartum aesthetic depression. Suddenly, a parent, who has spent a life time thinking about and enjoying good art finds herself thrust into a frankly hideous new sensory world.

It’s not something I’ve seen described in any What to Expect manual, but I’ve occasionally felt its toll when my daughter embraces something wildly ugly—a Madagascar movie, Troll anything, chipmunk songs, or the super sexist Minnie and Daisy duck characters, who, in addition to being terrible role models, are wearing incredibly ugly pumps. Or when it’s been a long day of assault by the sounds, colors, terrible lyrics and so on that characterize the worst of three-year-old culture.

But here’s the thing, it’s not totally my daughter’s fault. Nor is it totally mine, snob though I am. We’re at very different places in relationship to culture. Whereas I have been in the world for 38 years, slowly developing my taste for some things and distaste for others, she is beginning this journey and just starting to make her own judgments. And she does have some. For example, despite the power of the Disney princess culture, which she is way into, she finds Frozen a bit boring. On the other hand, she is very committed to The Wizard of Oz. She likes the sound of women singing, men less so (chipmunks excluded).

As parent and child, we’re having to find a way to move between our two cultures. Sometimes that means bringing her along into mine when appropriate. We have board books about Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe and go together to the art museum on the free day. As well, I tend to insist on grown up music, but have focused on kid-pleasing musicals and female signer songwriters—Eloise has pretty much memorized the songs on Jasmin Kaset’s  Hell and Half of Jordan and requests “Oh What a Day” by name.

As well, in navigating kid culture, I’m determined to find a way that works for both of us. On the one hand, we both have to be allowed our own things (in quiet time, she looks at her books, and I mine). But, on the other, just because I have a kid doesn’t mean that I have to embrace the very worst of cultural objects for the under-five set. As with adult culture, hers is populated by better and worse artworks. For example, last weekend, our local megaplex was playing My Neighbor Totoro. If you and your kids haven’t seen it yet, man. are you missing out. Although a film so widely beloved doesn’t need my endorsement, I’ll just note that as a cartoon hater, it works for me.  It scratches both adult and kid itches. There’s plenty that’s cute and kooky for my daughter in the film—she’s particularly obsessed by the cat bus and we’ve made our first fan art as a result—and for me, there’s much more beautiful animation and a poignant story about the central family.   

Perhaps it’s possible that spending time with kids’ cultural objects doesn’t have to be aesthetically painful? Maybe it can even be a little inspiring.

Because I am a person who thinks art matters, it turns out that I have to think kid art matters. Even cartoons. Perhaps this always should have been clear, but it has taken having my own little culture consumers to really notice. Because my daughters will go forward to, if not make, at least consume art and culture, then even the cartoons and board books they consume as very little kiddos are part of the readers and audience members they will grow up to be. They will eventually be the people whose demands shape the cultural objects that populate our world. This means that as a mom I’m interested in pursuing two goals a bit tricky to keep in balance: I want them to enjoy the arts and I want them to stretch a bit, for their own sakes and for my sanity.

As always, if you are a mother (interpret how you like) who works professionally in a creative field (interpret how you like), please reach out to be featured on the blog.

Featured

“Some people meditate. Others do sport. I need to make.” Featured Artist: Fiona Reid

This week I am so pleased to share our first profile. Fiona Reid is a ceramicist and mother working in Edinburgh.

For people who don’t know your medium well, could you explain what your art is like?
I make functional ceramics for use in the home. I’m inspired by the colours of our coastline and geology and things I find on beaches. 

What’s the context of your life as mother?
I have 3 kids. James 11, Isobel 8 and Thomas aged 5

 How has the your art-making changed since motherhood?
I’m much more motivated and full of ideas than I was before children. I have less time in my studio but it’s more productive when I get it because that time is precious. With age I have learnt to let go of the finished product and focus more on the process of making and my love for that.

I throw and make all day Mondays in a studio my husband helped me build in half of what used to be a garage. Just after kids where born I set up in a green house but it was a very difficult environment in winter! I still work 3 days a week for the National Health Service as a skin cancer specialist so ceramics comes after kids and work. I make time for it because it balances and resets me. I use evenings and snatched time here and there sometime early mornings to finish and glaze my pots.

What has been most challenging about sustaining a creative life in motherhood?
Time

What’s been the best surprise about having a creative life in motherhood?
How much it inspires my daughter to create

What are the particular issues that come up for you as an artist in your field with children?

My rate of progression and development is slower but a varied life is a wonderful one and you make compromises to have that. 

What’s been the your most important inspiration to continue having a creative life as a mother?
Time spent making rebalances me and makes me a better mother. Some people meditate. Others do sport. I need to make.

You can learn more about Fiona and her work by visiting:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/FionaReidCeramics
www.fionareidceramics.wordpress.com Instagram: @fionamason77

As always, if you know mothers who work in a creative field, please recommend them for future features. If you’re one such mother, nominate yourself!

“So much of motherhood is seen through the lenses of filtered photos.” Featured Artist: Rachel Rickman

This week we are featuring new mom and writer Rachel Rickman. Rachel is an English Professor and freelance writer born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and living on a little island in Mexico called Isla Mujeres. She received her BA, MA, and MFA from Northern Michigan University where she taught English for nine years. Rachel lives on Isla with her husband, musician Ryan Rickman, and their one-year old son, Callan, as well as their two rambunctious pups. She’s currently working as a freelance writer and is published in The Northwestern Review, marquettemagazine.com, globalliving.com, and writes about life between Michigan and Mexico on her website: jezebelstable.com.

For people who don’t know your medium well, could you explain what your art is like?

I’m a writer of lyric creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction is a relatively new and emerging genre. In it, I find a wonderful fluidity to play with form and content to come as close to my “truth” as possible via the written word. I like my writing to evoke moments to pause and space for thought. For it to inspire thought, as well as tell a story. I deeply admire writers in the genre such as Robin Wall Kimmerer, Barbara Kingsolver, Gretel Ehrlich, Annie Dillard, Diana Abu-Jabber, and more.

What are important motherhood contexts people should know about you?

Until I was 32, I lived my entire life in rural Upper Michigan. I believed I would always live there and some day raise my children there. In December 2015 I moved to Mexico and within two weeks met the man who is now my husband. I went from being comfortable with never having children to making the decision to remove my IUD and see what happened. It only took three months for me to get pregnant.

While deeply happy and excited, especially because I’d been unsure whether I could have children, I was also frustrated by the growing lack of freedom pregnancy brought. I was also struggling with being away from my family and in a country in which, while learning, I had yet to master the language.

I had strictly planned for an all-natural birth, and Ryan and I spent the summer putting aside savings to afford a natural birth in a nice hospital.

I’d planned my birth, I’m fit and strong with big wide hips and my doctor assured me a natural birth was possible. Two days past my due date, my doctor scheduled an early morning appointment for a possible induction. I talked it over with Ryan and we decided we’d make the appointment a checkup, but as I was only two days over, there was no reason to be induced. When I entered the hospital I was immediately taken for a “special” ultrasound with an “expert” as well as my regular doctor. They said a natural birth would endanger the baby’s life, and the c-section was completely necessary. And they were going to do it right then.

My husband and I felt something wasn’t right and that we were being forced into a situation without knowing all the answers, but before we could argue, they were prepping me for surgery. The hospital had a translator, but he was in and out of the room, and my mind was racing too fast to ask the right questions anyway. I was crying and begging the nurses who were trying to poke me with needles for IVs and stuff me into scrubs, to go away so I could have a moment to think. I was able to call my mom, who calmed me a little by saying, “You have to do what the doctors think is best for the baby. You can do this.”

I felt like I blinked and I was in surgery, the epidural driving deep into my spine with a pain I didn’t know was possible. Lights dimming and fading. Blue scrubs. Ryan’s worried eyes over a surgical mask. A cutting. A tug and pull. The sound of my baby crying. Bring him to me. Bring him to me. They were supposed to put him on my chest. Skin to skin. All the plans, gone.

Finally, finally, I was wheeled into the hospital room and Ryan and the baby arrived. He was perfectly healthy and beautiful in every way. But my body was cut in half and I immediately began throwing up from the medicines. I tried to hold Callan to my breast, while holding a garbage bag to throw up in with the other hand. I had to pee, and when I stood, blood rushed out of me. The nurses assured me it was “normal”, but I hadn’t read anything about this, and it was terrifying. I gloried in my beautiful baby, while also mourning what I felt was a failure of my body.

Many women are perfectly happy with their c-sections, but during post-partum, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had somehow failed. That my body had failed. It’s taken almost a year, but I’m slowly healing from the trauma of the unexpected c-section.

How has the practice of your artmaking changed since motherhood?

I’ve struggled a great deal finding time to write. Callan is a sweet, wonderful, imaginative, inquisitive, and ACTIVE baby, and my ideas of blissfully parenting and freelancing have been replaced by the realities of feeding, cleaning up after, and chasing around this active little man.  I’ve struggled with what this means for me—for my identity—if my mother side has taken over some of these other aspects that are so important for my ideas of myself.

I repeat to myself: these times are temporary. Mothering is a constant fluid activity. There will be time to write in the near future, and you’re stockpiling material. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes I feel lost, but I’m starting to regain a semblance of balance.

What has been most challenging about sustaining a creative life in motherhood?

Time and energy. I carry around notebooks and write down ideas for essays but never have time to write the essay itself. Breastfeeding at night seems to be a fruitful time for my brain to produce thoughtful ideas and whole paragraphs of narrative that seem to evaporate in daylight. Motherhood has meant giving so much of myself to my son and my husband. I think there’s a biological shift there too, that my independent self often chafes against because at the end of the day, there’s no more energy left. I miss being the single woman alone at a table in the bar with a large drink, writing or reading.

What’s been the best surprise about having a creative life in motherhood?

Perhaps not a surprise, but I’m happy for the experience and perspective motherhood has afforded me, and like many artists, I’ve gained much material that I think is and will be useful to myself and others. I’ve found a voice as a mother that other mothers/parents seem to relate to, which brings me much joy. I think in the world of social media, so much of motherhood is seen through the lenses of filtered photos, and based off the popularity of shows like “The Letdown” and “Workin Moms” people are looking for honest voices.

What are the particular issues that come as an artist in your field with children?

Time and energy. My husband works two jobs and we have a growing restaurant. We have two high maintenance dogs. We live far from family in a foreign country. It’s hard to find reliable child care. I miss my family for a million reasons, but not having my mother, father, and sister around to help take care of baby so that I can write is one of the biggest things I struggle with.

After staying up all night with a fussy baby, dealing with the household day to day, etc. I have no energy left to write. I always tell myself, “After the baby goes to bed.” But by that point I’m lucky if I can keep my eyes open.

Who are other artist mothers in your field that inspire you?

My own mother has been a significant inspiration. She went to U of M and started her degree in puppetry and costume making, but changed to the more lucrative elementary education. She worked so hard every day to instill in my sister and I a sense of wonder, imagination, and empowerment. I have other people I admire as artist mothers, but other than my own mother and close peers, I don’t feel that I’ve had an artist-mentor-mother figure, which has been difficult.

What’s been the your most important mantra to continue having a creative life as a mother?

I’ve developed a theory that for myriad reasons, mothers give so much of ourselves to our children and our partners that we can easily lose important pieces of our identity.

Every day I tell myself to:

Take deep breaths wherever possible. Rocking a baby is a great opportunity for squats if you’re in the mood—might as well. Hormones are a real thing—give them their due but don’t let them take over. Be a little selfish. Take time for yourself. Sometimes that doesn’t mean being creative in the moment, but relaxing for a bit so that you can eventually get to that creative space. Everything is temporary and changing. This phase isn’t forever.

You can see more of Rachel’s work here:

 http://globallivingmagazine.com/juxtapositions/

http://www.jezebelstable.com

and follow her on Instagram @jezebels_table

As always, if you know a mother who works creatively for her
profession, please recommend her to be featured here.

The Retreat to Cuteness

Kiddo with bad-but-cute cake

It is a painful but not surprising irony that mothers spend their days surrounded by art supplies  while making little if any art. Instead, as the great god of guilt and inspiration Pinterest documents, middle-class U.S. mothers are masters of crafts for their families.

I have never liked “crafts” of this kind. Some of this is likely to do with internalized misogyny: men make art, women make craft.

But part of it, too, has to do with a sense that greater aspirations are sublimated into the tamed register of the popsicle stick and adhesive googly eye.

I get it, though. I really do.

I’ve had two experiences recently and two thoughts about those experiences that have me thinking about my overall distaste for crafts and the overwhelming likelihood that I’ll spend the foreseeable future making them.

First, crafts are our children’s beginning exploration of art and to the degree that we are supporting our children, we too return to the beginning of our encounters with arts. On the one hand, there’s something lovely about this. Returning to the tactile pleasure of paint, for example, with a finger-painting toddler. On the other hand, as I resentfully noted to a friend, children’s homework quickly becomes a parent’s homework, which, in heterosexual couples, can often mean the woman’s homework.

Our daughters, who are 7 months and 3 years old, recently had the “assignment” of making an “all about me” board. Eloise, the three-year-old, put every sticker in the house on hers and dictated some favorite things to be written on the board. I then printed photos to add to the collection. The 7-month-old, however, has no real interest besides milk, smiling faces, and putting the dog’s tail in her mouth.  I wrote this list on the board, added some cutout magazine pictures that resemble the family canine, and stuck some photos on for good measure.

Our pretty shit craft homework

To be honest, the kids’ boards look pretty shit. I’m a feminist who resents second shift work and I’ve decided I’m (mostly) okay with our children having the worst boards at daycare. But whether they are better or worse versions, the boards remind me that much of a mom’s encounter with the materials of the visual arts is on behalf of the family.

And not just when we’re doing our children’s homework.

Recently, for my birthday, I took an art class. I loved it and I’m also a bit ashamed of what I made. Not because it was bad, but because, knowing it would be bad, I made it for my kid instead of myself.

There are at least two root causes for this behavior that I can think of.

First, the selfless mother is such a trope that it seems almost embarrassing to talk about…but there she is, shaping the way we live. If our societal idea of creative people includes a vision of  people who are obsessive, committed to their process and their art at the expense of all else, well, we couldn’t get much further from the societal vision of the mother, who sacrifices herself  on behalf of the family, the home, the good of the society to which she contributes. The one burns everything else on behalf of the art, the other nourishes everyone else through her selflessness. Craft (of the clothespins and glitter glue variety), then, allows a mother to create on behalf of someone else. She can handle an artist’s tools without fear of being seen as selfish. The time spent on creating is still time spent on behalf of the family.

Second, and I think this is more me, crafting vs. artmaking insulates the ego against failure. I’m honestly not a very skilled visual artist. Writing is the form of creation I’m more comfortable with, but I still like working in paint and other visual arts forms. I’m just not great on it. And so, as I did in the art class I took the other day, I retreat into the idea that I am making “crafts,” not art. In other words, I retreat into the cute instead of the beautiful or the interesting.

The class I took the other day focused on embroidery, which is a traditional woman’s form. However, there are many women artists who have leaned into this feminized form to make gorgeous works. Check out the stunners by Ana Teresa Barboza, for example.

Cute Unicorn Embroidery for the Kiddo

Now, as a beginner, I have no right to expect to make such art, and I don’t, but I also have this sick thought pattern: I know that the art I make will be bad, so I won’t make that art because making bad art will be proof that I don’t deserve to make art. In other words, if I make bad art, it’s material evidence that I’m being both self-indulgent and self-deceived. How embarrassing. Better to make a cute craft for my daughter and shield myself from criticism, whether external and internal.

And, at least for me, that’s the story of how I use the cute to forestall attempts at the beautiful. It’s also the story I’m hoping to rewrite, in your company, in this space, every Wednesday.

In future weeks, I’m hoping to talk less about myself and showcase the work of other women. If you know a mother (or you are one such woman) who works professionally in a creative field (visual art, theater, music, cooking, writing, dance, film, etc.) and who might like to be featured here, please drop me a line with recommendations.

With love and gratitude,

Katherine

A Blog on Mothers Creating

This blog has its origins in love and resentment. In other words, mom feelings.

When I was young, I knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind. I wrote stories and poems, acted, drew costumes for characters in favorite novels. This drive to create lasted longer for me than it does for many; I studied creative writing and theater in college before going on to the more “practical” path of studying literature in an English PhD program. Like many, as I grew up, I slowly put away artistic ambitions.

The sense that creativity is something to be packed up and put away as a rite of adulthood has only increased as I’ve become a mother to two little girls. As I’ve written elsewhere, making art is often seen as narcissistic or selfish, traits we find particularly monstrous in moms.

Even as a little girl, I think I had a nervous hunch about what motherhood might mean for creativity. It always bothered me that my mother, being loving, would say to my sister and me that we were the best thing she had ever done. What if I wanted to do something else really cool, I wondered.

Too, I remember telling my high school art teacher Ms. Eliot that I never wanted to have children–this was one of my many intentionally provocative statements at the time. An artist, and, if I remember right, a mom herself, she said something along the lines of “that would be too bad, you’re a person with curiosity.” At the time I wasn’t sure what it would mean to mother this way. Sometimes I still don’t.

Like so many mothers I know, parenthood for me has come with a feeling of loss. The loss of a sense of self, the loss of time to create, the loss of one identity to another that society and the children themselves insist should dominate.

This blog is my attempt to think through the problem of creativity and motherhood. For myself. For anyone else who finds it helpful. Hi there.