Mother of The month
1. What’s your name, and your children's names and ages? Where are you based? What kind of making do you do or dream of doing?
I have Florence, aged 9, Bessie, aged 7, and Frank who is a year old.
I live in Chudleigh in South Devon.
I’m a playwright and theatre producer (who occasionally directs).
2. How do you do it?! How do you make it work?
For a long time, I’m not sure I could! I got piddly pockets of time, and would start by reviewing what I’d written the time before, so that six months on, I’d have worked my way back to the start of the script. But now my other half has changed jobs and we live nearer my sainted mother-in-law (MAY SHE ALWAYS MAINTAIN GOOD HEALTH), so I am milking things for all they’re worth. Once you get a few breaks it makes it a lot easier to justify what you are doing to the people you need to help you. This is rubbish, but a good incentive to keep trucking and getting better.
In our house, my husband has always done as much of the donkey work as I do and more sometimes. He had me at the first time he got out the hoover. He works full time which means a lot of evening and weekend working for me but we wouldn’t pay the mortgage otherwise. My second child has a learning disability which will mean lifelong care, so there is a sense that there’s no point waiting for the right moment. Like all parents, I get a weary-on when work pressure coincides with a string of broken nights. At that point, all you can do is pray or self-medicate.
3. How has your mothering impacted your making?
I had a creative job in TV before settling down but I come from a big family, and for me personally, it felt a bit hollow without my little tribe I was sharing it with. I like flitting between sado-masochistic relationships with commissioners and stodgy, predictable domesticity. Also, I’m interested in off-beat characters. Children weave you into the fabric of a community, so that you get close to people you’d never normally meet, and this sparks loads of ideas. Also I don’t think I really knew what made me angry enough to write until I’d rolled up my sleeves to look after someone. That doesn’t have to be a someone you’ve made, of course.
4. And vice versa?
I’d like to say I’m doing this out of an altruistic urge to set an empowering example to my elder daughter, but I think she’d prefer it if I was a full-time PTA mum. However, if that creative urge is in you, you may as well humour it (within reason) because it won’t go away, and you’ll be a miserable and/or bitter parent otherwise (which is worse). I think when you’re creative you can be quite abstracted; your head is always off somewhere else, and you’re often clock-watching for some solitude to try ideas out, so I feel a bit bad about that. Andrea Dunbar got round it by locking her kids in a room. Sue Townsend and Victoria Wood seemed to manage being mums and total geniuses without taking such drastic measures. Writing is very flexible so I’m there for most of the school runs, breakfasts and suppers.
5. The best thing? The hardest?
My children are quite a sensory overload, so when it’s not flowing it is horrible knowing they are running someone else ragged to basically surf Facebook. People talk about how artists need time to daydream with no objective in sight and I don’t think I ever get that. But the preciousness of time is what helps me crack on.
6. Future dreams?
I am writing my first musical, so I hope the cake rises on that one. I think it would be great if funders/funded arts organisations made allowances for the extra costs/logistics involved for carers to work in the industry. It would be good to see more part-time and flexible assistant director and director posts for people with caring responsibilities. There’s a lot of lip service about diversity but leaders don’t always walk the walk with how they organise the practicalities.
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