How do you combine motherhood and art practice?
This question gets thrown around a lot.
I guess the question is not necessarily one that just applies to Artists..it could certainly apply to any mother/father who juggles the working/parenting role (commonly known as controlled chaos!)
All I can do is speak of my own experience.
I was what you would call a stay at home mum for the first 12 years of my young families life, with 3 kids, a husband that travelled a lot for work and very little extended family to help with the kids!
It was a joyful but overwhelming time as all parents can relate to I’m sure! It was hard to decipher which part of me was connected to the original Helen, the one that wasn’t consumed with raising small children being overcome by guilt (for anything and everything in the areas for which I felt inadequate)
I longed for that ‘village’ that it took to raise a child…no village here..just a metropolis of suburban families probably feeling exactly the same as me!
Don’t get me wrong…when I became a mother, I became something bigger than my previous self, something that filled me to the brim with all sorts of wondrous feelings, and for a while there the Helen I knew evolved into a woman with a purpose and a responsibility far more important than anything I had ever experienced before.
While my children grew…I grew, my heart especially! I felt more, my eyes were opened to beauty as well as concern and worry. I appreciated the small things, like a full nights sleep, vegetables being eaten, a clean floor, a cup of tea…(oh especially one that didn’t have to be microwaved 3 times before I got to drink it!)
But there came a time when the old Helen came calling, the Helen that liked to let her hair down, the Helen that enjoyed creativity & the Helen that was hungry to learn! (Especially things unrelated to parenting!)
There was a definite point when I could feel that Helen clawing at the surface..”give me a night out with the girls” it would say, “sign up for that course” or “do something crazy” (yep that was the sky diving Helen)
From that point on I guess it was a transition into sharing and incorporating myself between my role as a parent and my obligation to fulfil my need to learn and experience individual things.
My art practice began as an idea and a tinkering while I had the time, and then when my youngest went off to school it was a head first naked dive without my goggles into the unknown (maybe thats where the skydiving experience came in)
My gosh it was so scary…I felt nervous and insecure, out of my familiar role as a parent…that didn’t count for much in this world (or so I thought!)..Now I know it counts for more than you can imagine!
I leapt …and I’m so glad I did! I cannot express how grateful I am that somehow deep inside I clung to a notion that I would land on my feet.
It wasn’t always easy…the first time I participated in a group exhibition, on the opening night I spent most of the time in the bathroom wishing I was at home reading the predictable bedtime story (one I’d been longing to get out of for weeks!)
I felt totally exposed as the wanna-be artist ‘faking it til I made it’….even though the room was filled with friends and family that were there to support me and love me no matter what!
I know now that it was more the old Helen versus the new Helen in a battle of roles…the only problem being the referee was Mr Guilt!
Thankfully these days, the Helen’s have made friends, often working alongside each other, and are even known to have a coffee together now and again to discuss balance!
I guess my point is…yes there is one!…..more often than not, taking a leap of faith is so worth the courage it takes!
For me…I feel like I’m now bringing the ‘whole’ Helen to the table, don’t get me wrong she was always there, but my young children needed only a certain part of me in the beginning and it was healthy and vital for me to be that…But now they need the whole of me, in all my colour and courage and nakedness. I need to show them how to take a leap of faith and not always have a soft landing…to strive for fulfilment & to nourish their souls with the things that make them excited about getting up in the morning!
This is the Helen that’s here now I’m proud to say. But most importantly of all…my children know it's ok for life sometimes to be messy and chaotic (obviously this doesn’t apply to their rooms!) and there are times when you need to fly by the seat of your pants when you’re chasing a dream….
Lucky for me, in return they often help me pick up the pieces during the week and are quite ok with Weetbix for dinner during exhibition times! (What?...It’s 97% wholegrain and high in Iron..says so right there on the box!)