Creative motherhood offers a vast array of obstacles. Like everything else, cultural and societal expectations complicate an already difficult balance, while double standards abound. I do not guarantee my that my thoughts on this topic will be coherent, well-considered, or even complete.
Caveat to everything I say here: I have not even been at this motherhood thing four months yet. (Anyone at it longer will likely shake theirs heads at my naiveté and think, “Oh, just wait until she gets older, or you have another.”) Also, I occupy a position of extreme privilege. I have an amazing husband, an awesome and extensive network of friends and family, we’re all healthy (*knock on wood*), and financially we’re in a position where I can work only part time at the day job (or not at all, for a finite period of time).
Amanda Palmer wrote an article a couple years back about the reactions she received after announcing her pregnancy. People judged her for it. They withdrew their Patreon support because they didn’t want to fund her baby, only her music.
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the root of the matter remains: these people assumed that motherhood and artistry cannot coexist.
As ridiculous as that, it’s at least partly an issue of representation. I tend to see depictions of female artists who never have children as tragically sacrificing their reproductive capacity for their art. Successful female artists with children, I often see cast as successful despite their motherhood. Children become a footnote otherwise ignored, or else brought into view in order to question their mother’s parenting.
Manage to maneuver around these expectations and preconceptions, and run up against the assumption that you will make no significant progress for at least the first two years of a child’s life, or run the risk of being a Bad Mother (while writer dads often have to deal with feeling like they are somehow lesser if their output decreases after becoming a father).
This is all bullshit. Intellectually, we know it’s bullshit. But the knowing does little to mitigate that pervasive sense of failure. Yes, becoming a parent changes the creative process, but these two things are not mutually exclusive.
Getting things done while they’re small can be exceptionally difficult, but not necessarily impossible. You’re not a bad mom if you manage to write; you’re not a bad writer if the baby doesn’t let you produce any writing of significance for a while.
I am typing this as my daughter falls asleep. She is a champion sleep/eater. She generally sleeps a predictably significant amount, so I sometimes can stay up an hour or so after I put her down for the night and get more writing done. I am unbelievably lucky that way because I require too much sleep to be able to do that otherwise and still function.
Creative motherhood is not an oxymoron. Creative motherhood is different for everyone, and I bet that the forms it takes differ from child to child, too.
Shameless plug: I’m exploring these facets of my life and how they interact over on my personal blog. I’m having a whole lot of fun with it, too! So please come check it out!