Posted on August 14 2019
In my first year with Harry (now two and a half) I craved reading about how creatives dealt with motherhood. Mainly how others dealt with the incredibly structured and organised day to day (a stark contrast to how I’d built my former life) and how to remain passionately curious while giving almost all of your energy to your child. Although my work is predominantly joyous, I am driven by emotional exploration (the dark and the light) and rebellion (mostly found in the titles of my work)- two things that can be destructive to indulge in with young family life. I now have a 5 month old as well and I have settled into the calm of life with young children. It may seem strange writing that, as having a young family is often seen as chaotic, and sure the energy is generally pretty high in our house but the routine and safeness of family life is reassuring and calming for me. I want to explore emotional situations vicariously without upsetting the stability of my own life- insert MOVIES.
So this blog post is what I’ve observed of motherhood so far. Strap yourselves in, and maybe grab a tea, it’s likely to be LONG and completely disconnected because who has time for making sense anymore. I should also mention that while describing the challenges of motherhood, at no time have I regret it or my love for my children ever been questioned. That love is always present regardless of the bullshit I find myself in. I see it as the love for my children over here, then me and all the changes and struggles over there. They’re separate and the kid love is barleys’d. I have an extremely supportive and proactive partner who believes in equal parenting (as much is possible) and never laments anything. And I have an amazing mum nearby who helps with my kids plus I have cleaners because housework has never been a passion of mine. I also have incredibly honest and courageous friends who are open with their own struggles and never put on a front. Some of this is luck and some of it is how I have decided I want to structure my life during this time. I know what my priorities are and I focus on those.
I found the first year with Harry the hardest which I guess is pretty common. At first the adjustment to not being able to do whatever the hell I liked, whenever I wanted, and also getting used to not being productive. Then came the identity crisis of now being a woman behind a pram. There’s a certain level of invisibility that comes with that which I dealt with by wearing ridiculously bright clothes. For me this was also a way of feeling creatively satisfied every day regardless of whether I got to paint. It has subsequently meant that I have spent more on clothes in the last 2 and a half years than I have in the 34 years prior. Mums and online shopping.
Then came the unbridled rage and indignation that even in our modern society, as a woman you are expected to give up 80% of your career to look after children. This one lasted a LONG time. I saw a psych (which I honestly think everyone should do. The government gives you 10 subsidised sessions per calendar year. Read more about it here.) and I can’t even really remember what happened but the rage started to give way to acceptance. That was also around the time I got pregnant again so I was really just struggling with the energy to stand up, let alone rage at anything. Plus I was preparing for what I felt was likely to be the hardest time in my life so far. Good news is that it’s been great! Honestly I think the struggle in my late 20’s and early 30’s about who I really was and what I really wanted in life was harder.
Being mostly introverted during the day (my introversion/ extroversion is clock related BTW- alone during the day, socialise at night) I’m quite happy pottering around with small children at home. I can see how hard it must be for women who are used to working in a group environment and thriving off that energy during the day to then be at home, alone with a small blob that gives you very little for the first year or so. And as a result of that isolation people tend to believe that everyone else is coping just fine and that you’re the only one feeling all of these things. I like to take the view that everyone is just holding on by a thread. EVERYONE. Everyone is having ups and downs, it’s just that people tend to post on the ups so we have a warped view of everyone's lives. But if you think that no one has it sorted- because no one does all the time then that feeling of isolation slowly dissolves.
In the beginning I struggled HARD with the lack of stimulation and the inability to get anything done. I’m very connected to productivity so hanging out with a baby that can’t walk or talk, I found frustrating as hell. And the thing that annoyed me further was when I’d express this and people would say “Saviour this time, they grow up so fast.” I felt like punching everyone who said that. I just couldn't hear that in the first year because it felt like a lifetime. And really that perspective is only gained retrospectively anyway. But I have to say- now having two- I do understand that (punch me). Six months has almost gone by and I felt like I was pregnant yesterday. (I passionately disliked being pregnant BTW. No goddesses in sight here). Life is busier therefore is feels faster. Which I prefer to be honest. I thrive off momentum and am terrible at leisure so bring on the busy!
So now I have a 5 month old and Harry is 3 in December. He goes elsewhere for 4 days a week and I have Luella full time. I’m managing to get bits of work done here and there and I oscillate between feeling incredibly motivated and wanting to plan and paint a million things to enjoying the lack of pressure I'm experiencing by not committing to anything. Sometimes it's frustrating but I guess this far in I’ve learnt to surrender and not expect so much of myself. I had 5 years of full time work before having children to build my practice and business to a point where I could step away and not feel financial pressure so I’m very thankful for that. I also felt like I dealt with a lot of identity stuff in my early thirties and I was ready to have children when I did so there’s zero FOMO going on here. I think there’s a lot of circumstantial stuff that comes along with having babies- what kind of personality you are, the timing of children, what your work is and how connected you are to it and how you feel fulfilled outside of your children.
I’m not sure if it’s knowing that I never have to be pregnant again or that our little family is complete but I’ve felt a swelling of joy since Luella was born. She is the sweetest and easiest baby, plus Harry is gaining more independence and is saying some crazy things which is super enjoyable. I feel more motivated to do murals and workshops (perhaps a craving to be out in the world again) so that will probably be the plan for the end of this year.
A lot of people ask if having children has changed my creative process or subject matter. I think the forced break from my practice has allowed much more evolution than before. My extreme discipline (read: obsession) meant I would continue to paint even when I was exhausted and needed to step away and subsequently I rarely gained perspective and recharged enough to take on new experimentation and subject matter. Now I’m possibly too far the other way and need to exercise more discipline in following through ideas rather than jumping from one thing to the next, which I think is a result of the stop-start nature of a part time practice. But it’s a constantly evolving thing and I’m now starting to understand/ remember what it’s like to have a part time practice and what tools and parameters need to be put in place to ensure I actually get something done in the allocated times I have. I THRIVE off that kind of pragmatism.
Ok I think that’s me up to date. I have grand plans for online classes and more workshops but a week of work for me is now executed in 4 weeks so expect to hear more on those in 2028!
I should also add that this post was written on a good day during a time when the balance in my life felt just right. But as we all know this changes constantly and had it been written during any other time, it would have sounded completely different. Thus is the day-by-day nature of parenting.