Monday morning again. In the children’s bedroom. Dark apart from the lighted laptop. Here we go, another week, another blog. Last week I wrote about being a mother, the challenges of bearing that identity, alongside bearing a child, and my concerns around how to relate to and include non-mothers (both the dads and other men and women) in this quiet revolution. But what about the ‘who make’ part of the title? What about the art? What about being an artist? ‘Artist’: an even more problematic identity or label to discuss than ‘mother.’ But we have only 9 days to go of our Mothers Who Make crowdfunding campaign and £7.5K still to raise. Time to stop avoiding the issue and talk about the art.
There is a deliberate avoidance, or at least a side-stepping of the art in using the word ‘Make’ as part of out title. Yes, it alliterates with ‘Mother’ but it is also a wide open word, that can indicate many kinds of creativity. Last week my son told me he wants to be an artist when he grows up. When I checked what that meant, he said, “I’m going to paint stuff of course!” Despite the fact that he is growing up in a household in which both his parents define themselves as artists but neither of them are the kind that stand in front of an easel with a paintbrush in hand, that is still his received understanding of what an artist does. Mothers Who Make is cross artform, open to anyone engaged in any form of creative practice. At meetings I have met not only painters, performers, writers, dancers, musicians, but also architects, costume-makers, producers, set designers, photographers and more.
However, the ‘artist equals painter’ is probably the easiest part of the label to challenge and navigate. The harder part is a question of legitimacy, something with which I watch myself and many other mothers struggle. Being an artist: beyond the paint, it sounds grand in a difficult kind of way, involving the burden of being a creative genius. For years I swung between eschewing the ‘arist’ label for fear of being pretentious and longing to claim it but not feeling I could because I did not know if I was good enough to make it into the club, the imaginary cultural club that still has many more men in it than women. There are three main reasons I have heard mothers use as to why they can’t possibly claim membership to this elite artists’ club: they are not spending enough time doing their art; they are not earning money from their art; they doubt their ability. These are quietly brilliant, highly creative women mostly rendered invisible already by virtue of being women, with the extra enormous challenge of being mothers. The dominant culture does not welcome us or make it easy for us to be our full selves.
Here is the radical thing about Mothers Who Make. There is a rule about who can come to meetings but I have never had to state it in four years because it is this: if you feel the need to be there you are welcome. That’s it. No CVs. No publications, presentations, performances or exhibitions required. If you ‘get it,’ if you understand why such a thing as Mothers Who Make might exist and you are keen to join it, then we need you in the room, in the network. I am proud of the alternative culture this goes some way towards growing– women of hugely diverse ages, experiences and practices connecting and valuing their creative output, whatever it is, AND valuing their mothering. At the start of meetings I ask everyone to name what they make or dream of making, because especially in the intensity of the early years of motherhood dreaming may be all they can do. At one meeting there was a mother who declared, “At the moment I make soup!” Yes! Hooray for the creative output that is soup.
I’ll write more on this tomorrow but for now I have a peanut butter sandwich to make – I am running late and need to go downstairs to finish the packed lunches. If you get it, if you understand why the making of soup and sandwiches needs valuing, as well as the dreams of the soup-maker about the novel she is going to write one day, then please go here to support us. We have only 9 days left: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/mothers-who-make