'Haven't you heard of a wonderful thing called boarding school?'

Baroness Schraeder (the most misunderstood mother of all)

I recently came across a blog called The Mothership Project. httpss://themothershipproject.wordpress.com/

It was run by a group of Irish artists who came together to share their experiences of being a mothers and artists. A couple of year ago, this sort of blog would have me snorting derisively. Everyone makes sacrifices, deal with it. You can be a great artist or a great mother. Only the extremely fortunate get to be both.

Of course now that I’m a mum, I see things differently; I look for loopholes so that I can have it all. Time is the overarching issue that all mummy-artists bemoan. Not having enough of it, especially when there are multiple children or very young babies involved. I was lucky. From the beginning, my mum-in-law watched my crotch goblin two days a week so I had time to be creative. Not that it helped. Post pregnancy hormonal fluctuations, sleepless nights and stress from not knowing what the hell I was doing took its toll. Every day I woke up thinking ‘Why-is-there-a-crying-baby-in-the-house-I-hope-someone-picks-it-up-soon-oh-dear-god-its-my-baby.’ For six months, I couldn’t write, paint, sculpt or do anything creative. For instance, look at what I made in my post-pregnancy fug. Yes, they are creepy trees and I used Chinese dried white fungus for the foliage because what’s wrong with that? To date, I still haven’t finished it although I have just ordered some Cabochon clear glass buttons to make creepy eyes.

This story has a happy ending. Once the sleeps ironed out and I started going back to the gym, some semblance of creative order came back. I now have a routine where I work in my home studio two days a week while my generous mum-in-law does babysitting duties. My crotch goblin crashes most nights around 7pm so I also get a couple of hours each evening at my desk. In the past few months, I’ve managed to get a short story picked up by a publisher and finished up a picture book that I’ve been working on for the longest time (this one here httpss://www.kickstarter.com/projects/965099239/the-stolen-button ). On reflection, here are some of the behaviours I adopted that worked for me as a mummy-artist.

  1. Don’t read mummy blogs.
  2. Time box. I give myself a set amount of time for any given activity and I stick with it. This is particularly useful as I’m the sort of person who likes to figure things out on my own. The other day I was cursing Thor because I couldn’t change my profile picture on my Youtube channel. The old me could have spent hours trying to work it out. The new me just put the task away and then calmly asked my husband to fix it after work that night. (which he did in two seconds. It was cached – duh.)
  3. I work on my creative work like someone is really going to die if I don’t get it done. This helps grow a ‘just get on with it’ attitude.
  4. Strip away all the ancillary stuff – extra-curricular cleaning (I still shower, that’s not what I mean by extra-curricular), facebooking, don’t finish books that are bad just because I’ve already started reading it, don’t take on projects that I’m half-hearted about.

After reading the Mothership Project, I also found this interesting article in the Guardian by writer Zadie Smith.


She debunks the attitude held by author Lauren Sandler that great artists should have no children or (as a concession) only one child. Smith has two children and sarcastically notes, that with the exception of the legend Susan Sontag, ‘how do the rest of us mortals negotiate the balance between selfhood and motherhood?’ Smith argues that it is not one child or ten children that stifle a woman’s creativity; it is the structures society has put in place that curtails her freedom. This can be fixed with decent public day care services, partners and family who do their share and a supportive community of friends and family.

I can’t help but think that at the end of the day, it comes back to the same point. Financial insecurity will force most mummy-artists back into the workforce – probably into a job unrelated to their arts practice leaving them little time to improve their artistic skills. This is why a lot of my artist friends put off the big decision, hoping to set up financially, so that they have time to nurture two very different babies.

I don’t know how to end this blog post so I’m giving a shout out to all the great mums I know who are also great artists. This gig is much harder than I thought.

Andi Spark httpss://www.facebook.com/sparklarkle/?fref=mentions

Leila Honari https://www.sufiartgroup.com/about-us

Debbie Terranova httpss://terranovapublications.com/

Briony Wainman – no website but a fantastic mum and artist.

Feel free to tag mums who are great artists to this post.