A couple of weekends ago, my husband took my daughter to see her cousins. They were away for two nights, a big thing considering I had never been away from her for more than a couple of hours.
Of course I made a long list of chores and tasks to get done, cleaning out closets, catching up on laundry, that sort of thing. I think I felt that if I did them I would feel less guilty about the time I was spending alone. In the end I thankfully did away with the list and instead knitted, listened to podcasts and painted.
I wanted to paint a portrait of my daughter. It's remarkable how much her appearance has changed since she was born, it's like watching a cloud move across the sky. I am astounded and a little dismayed to note that while I see these photos of her as a baby and know that it's her, I have very little memory of her face. Painting her portrait was my attempt to force my memory to go deeper and pull out some time that would help me picture what she was like back then. I wasn't successful.
Through the weekend I did the things I love, but I missed my family terribly. I found this reassuring and realized that I have stopped fighting my role as a mother. Rather than seeing the birth of my child as curtailing my creativity and productivity, the opposite has become true. Motherhood has become my inspiration and my family my muse. The practicalities of having a family and being creative are always a challenge to be sure, but I do think we as a society have compartmentalized our roles to such a degree that life isn't a fabric of threads such as family, work etc. intertwining, but are seen as conflicting demands.
I have written before about the way motherhood is seen as a prison by some, and I do understand why this is a common opinion - we are tired, our resources are spread thin, time slips away as we deal with the needs of our offspring. However I think there is something else going on here. We have lived in such a male - dominated culture for so long that we have internalized a patriarchal judgement that parenting is neither interesting nor valuable. We see few occasions where children are the subject of works of art, and while there are some artists out there exploring what it means to be parent in their work, I sometimes feel we have to be apologetic if we celebrate this.
Motherhood is a profound experience that is multi-faceted. We all have a mother and a father, or have had at some point. There are infinite lists of studies that show that the way we are treated by our parents, the absence of parents, etc. affect is myriad ways. We need to explore that in art more.
|Woman in a Red Bodice and Her Child by Mary Cassatt|