Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart by Rachel Power is a candid expression of women who are making their creative careers work, while still meeting the demands of being a mother. I picked up this book at first because it came up as a recommendation on my Instagram feed. As my seven-month-old daughter happened to be sitting on my knee, howling during a time I thought I would be able to use for my writing, I thought I’d give it a go.
I’m so glad that I did. There was so much in this book that I loved and could really resonate with, and it made me so determined to keep going, and find a balance between my creative life and my life as a mother. The women in this book all had such different, authentic viewpoints, and it really made me consider my own creative life in the context of having a family.
The overall question of this book seems to be ‘How do you make a creative career work as a mother?’. One of the main concerns regarding this definitely seems to be about time. From my own experience, I know that when I’m working on a piece, daydreaming is a very big part of my creative process. It doesn’t look like I’m actually doing a hell of a lot, but before I start writing anything I need to get it mapped out in my head before I can put fingertips to keyboard. It’s a bit hard to daydream when an almighty shriek breaks through your imaginings, and you’ve got to turn your attention back to picking up a toy that’s been dropped on the ground, only to have it dropped again two seconds later, with the same shriek. Rinse, repeat.
A lot of the mothers in this book talk about this struggle of finding time which, as Rachel Power says, is ‘in short supply when raising children’. There is a constant dilemma between which world should take priority, and whether it’s okay to use the baby’s nap time as a chance to get something on the page or canvas, or if it should be used to tackle the ever-growing pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room. If you’ve made the decision to use your precious moments to sit down at your desk or easel, then what happens if the work doesn’t turn out how you want it to? What happens if you’re left with a blank page, or a piece that doesn’t sell? These are all questions that these mothers answer with humour, intelligence and candour.
One of the interviews that particularly stood out for me in this book was with Lily Mae Martin, an artist who also blogs at Berlin Domestic. Lily mentions that her blog was started after her daughter was born, as a way to connect at a time when she felt isolated and ‘utterly alone’, a feeling most other mothers in this book identify with. She uses her blog to continue practicing her art, as well as sharing stories about her life and her daughter Anja. When she became a mother, she felt like she’d lost all sense of control. At one stage, Lily explains they weren’t sure if Anja would survive, and she ‘immediately regretted worrying about other people for so long and wasting time on things that didn’t matter.’ It seems that the women interviewed in Motherhood and Creativity find that the experience of motherhood causes them to be a lot more focused, whether that focus is directed at their creative lives or just making the most of the time when their child is down for a nap.
Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart is a raw, honest and funny book, full of accounts of what it means to be a mother and a creative.
‘I remember reading a parenting book by Sheila Kitzinger when my daughter was a baby and she recommended baking a loaf of bread each day, because if everything else turned to crap at least the house would smell wonderful and you’d have something to eat at the day’s end.’
– From Pip Lincolne