When you are parenting a very small being, you spend much more time at home than ever before. People do all sorts of things with this time — gaze at their small one, call their parents for advice, take up knitting, etc. I decided to spend inordinate amounts of time watching documentaries about artists. Beauty feeds the soul, and being stuck inside changing diapers all day with a mammal strapped to my chest, I needed inspiring stories of creation all the time.
One of my favorites that I came across was called Who Does She Think She Is? It’s a doc about artists who are also mothers — the challenges and benefits of trying to do both. It was fascinating on many levels, and the women who were profiled were so real and honest about their experiences. One mom and artist, Janis Wunderlich, who has 5 children used the 1 hour she had per day when her youngest napped and the others were at school to make gorgeous and provocative sculptures about feeling like an animal with children hanging off every arm. Whimsical with a dark underbelly, I was drawn to this mother exploring the shadow side of parenthood with her few moments of rest.
Another interesting fact about the documentary was that many of the women spoke about their decision to do art leading directly to divorce. The breaking apart of a relationship is a complicated thing — there is rarely one reason that you can point to and say “There”. But the artists were clear that their partners were not supportive of their art once it became a bigger part of their lives — more than a “hobby”, an all-consuming passion that was second only to the love of their children.
Oh, how DO we balance it all? Who DO we think we are, trying to have family, love, career, spirituality, friendships, AND creative outlets? To have the audacity to try to do everything you feel called to do, however shitty some of it turns out sometimes, is a brave act, and it doesn’t make for a neat and simple life. What was intriguing to me is that many of the ways the women found to do this was through community. One started a theater center for children, another created a whole retreat center in Hawaii with a farm and workshops (I want to go to there).
Can someone do everything? Not all at the same time, and not by yourself. But with community, we can achieve so much more, in such a more meaningful way. I’m not sure how to go about this. I feel that I am doing it, in fits and starts, but I need more — more community, more times for art, more SPACE for combining parenting with creative pursuits. See the documentary (available through Netflix, but not on streaming) and let me know your thoughts.