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Mother Who Makes

May 1, 2018

Juggling two babies under two, alongside a move back to the UK, after some 7-months in the US, is a job in and of itself. And yet, since my daughter was born, I’ve found myself desperately clawing at life beyond motherhood. I wouldn’t describe myself as ambitious, in the superficial sense of the word, and before having my own family, had possessively kept my creative practice within a tight circle of peers. Yet, more recently, I’ve felt hungry to make something of myself,specifically, to create and share my artwork.

In February 2017, in the US, I wrote something to do with identity and belonging, inspired by events around the ‘Muslim Ban’. I organised two informal events, where I shared my work with invited audiences in October and November 2017. I was eight months pregnant with my second, as I sat on a high stool to read my text and sing Middle Eastern folk songs. The response was overwhelmingly encouraging. Since then, I rushed a 10-minute reading at AWAN festival 2018, recorded my first audiotape with Audible (involved a whole day at the studio), improvised live music for London Playback Theatre, and attempted (but failed) to hand in a funding application for 1st May. Oh, yes, and had a baby. Such processes would have been relatively minor blips in my life before babies, whereas now, a measly 10 minutes at a festival involved many hours of planning, coordinating and begging, mainly around childcare, which (frustratingly) didn’t include more than one informal rehearsal with the accompanying musician.

At the festival, I was not satisfied with what I shared, even when audience members came to share how the extract I shared resonated with them. I know I could have done better, and I know I rushed, and spent disproportionate amounts of energy on the stuff around the performance. Am also frustrated that I couldn’t attend anyone else’s talk/ play/ gig (major factor of my wanting to do the fest in the first place!), as I needed to rush home to my toddler- my infant came along, where he was attended to on site by two generous friends- so is the effort worth the end result?

I’m propelled, frustrated and curious as to where this ambition has come from; why am I pushing myself?

Limited free time often means I need to choose between a shower, food or working on text/ song/ funding app etc. This of course comes after my home work, as in homemaking work. That work doesn’t end, nor has any financial gain. Neither does my creative work, which makes it (logically) even more redundant. Funding would allow me to hire a studio, to arrange proper childcare, to physically leave the home, shelf my role of mum (as any working mother does) to invest in something that has deep meaning for me, as well as occasionally yielding some profit. Instead, I steal and dodge and tiptoe my way to editing a piece of writing, and fantasise about doing bodywork and perhaps reconnecting to the disembodied lump of meat I currently inhabit postpartum. In short, an indulgence. A guilty pleasure.

‘Why don’t you just pull out?’ a friend asked a few days before the festival. Not helpful. ‘You know you don’t have to do any of this, right?’ Again, this is not supportive.

My partner reminds me that I insisted on being a ‘full-time mother’, which is true. Though the idealistic person I was then, before actually having looked after little humans 24/7, is not the person I am today.

I partly chase my creative work in an attempt to work through, and integrate the major role of motherhood into my ‘self’, rather than allow it to become all that I am. The sum of the whole is greater than its parts, and all that jazz. Partly also, to escape the often isolating job of being mum. Isolating, and frankly, thankless. Being mum is an honour. Being a homemaker, I find, less so. At least for someone who is not naturally consistent, does not thrive on daily routines, and is absent minded (even before Baby Brains). Besides, the job of keeping a home are largely menial, unappreciated, and when down well, unnoticed.

So, even if I just manage an hour working on my laptop- usually in a cafe a few minutes from home- I take a moment, take some space, I might go into flow, I come back, physically more tired, but emotionally refreshed. Then, bath time becomes a delightful event, even breastfeeding, a welcome respite, and cooking, something I rarely enjoy these days, a little more of the hobby I once relished.

In short, I need it. I need my creative, artist self, otherwise, my life feels like a constant drain. I fail to see how much I have to be grateful for, when it intensely, and overwhelmingly encompasses each and every moment of my day (and interrupted nights).

Besides, I sincerely believe I am a better mother, when I am in touch with the creator in me.  The maker. And I believe I’m doing something that one day will make my children proud.

***

I borrowed the title for this post from from Mothers who Make; a UK-based network aimed at supporting mothers who are artists, working in any discipline and at any stage of their careers.

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