It is wet and it is damp. The rain outside is perpetual. A greyness hangs in the air. The high winds prevented my sister visiting yesterday. The days slip one into another punctuated by too many mince pies, pudding and cake. I feel slow and sluggish. I am fat with the weight of christmas.
Sydney has crept back into my bed . At night with both boys shifting positions in their sleep I am struggling to find any space for myself.
I recently dreamt that I was boarding the octopod from a small door located within a golf caddy shop. These dreams are hardly those of escapist fantasy.
My head is fuzzed through guzzling home made damson wine, who knows its real strength but it makes me smile.
I’m sitting on the sofa in the front room writing on the lap top, sipping tea. The cat is watching the cars passing and the rain falling. The christmas tree stands proud. Decorated by the children it is haphazard and uneven, dripping with wonky tinsel and branches ending in double baubles.
I am wearing a fluffy white sheep one-sey with hood and ears. A gift from my parents, it is basically an oversized baby grow which poses difficulties when one wants to go to the toilet. One-sey’s have to be the ultimate in austerity fashion, an in-built body heating system. I’d love to make a four-sey to fit all my family in, then film of us all stumbling about in it.
I am eating white buttered toast made from cheap sliced bread. I slipped down here to read some of my new book Mamaphonic Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts by Lee lavender and Maia Rossini. The front cover has a picture of a trapeze artist balancing on a swing in a sequinned leotard.
Like the rain, the swing of mothering is perpetual. At the parenting course that I diligently attended throughout last term I proudly announced at the last session that I had come to the conclusion that mothering knows no balance, that it is perhaps unhelpful to even think of it as a juggling act, a see saw, a neat set of weighing scales. As to creative thoughts and actions the only way that they surface, exist or happen is through embedding them within the mush of domesticity and by making the children into creative collaborators.
Before I sat down to write I tucked up the children in bed, closed the blind in the hope that the pervading darkness would keep them sleeping for a little longer. I folded up a pile of clothes and piled them up on a chair, I placed some more to dry on the radiator, I washed up and put away some cups from the draining board.
Just enough mothering, just enough domesticity to get away with it.
The art takes place because I reject the acts of cleanliness, control and order. I am neglectful of house work. I get away with what I can. The spiders have taken over they weave their webs throughout the house. The laundry pile is a monster once more and the cellar is pregnant with recycling to sort. In time it will get done.
This neglect of the small rituals that punctuate everyday life hardly feels like a rebellion.
You have to be bad to make art.
I MUST TRY HARDER TO BE A BAD MOTHER.
I MUST TRY HARDER TO BE BRAVE
That will be my new years resolution.
Because to work outside the dominant discourse you need to be both bad and brave.
I have been thinking about the relationship between arts practice, mothering, nurture and ambivalence, I enjoy what Monica Buck writes here in the essay Don’t forget the lunches;
Since more or less simultaneously becoming a mother and full-time professor of art, my most recent creative work has developed as a way of talking about motherhood and childhood in a climate that all but denies their relevance. Early in my tenure process, and with the example of other mothering artists in academia, I began to realise that the complexities of family life would not easily be recognised as pertinent to my ambitions for my work. But what I am largely consumed and fascinated by are the challenges my two small children present to my adult reality and to the institutional cultures that make no place for them.
So it became imperative to make art with and about my children, in order to make our reality known, but also to stay close to them even though half the time it’s the work that preempts my actually being with them. It’s an indirect kind of nurturing that can feel a lot like preoccupied neglect, as I struggle with my need for discipline when I’d rather go play, and my guilt when I’d rather not go play. Total absorption in the process of raising children (which would make me a good mother) is something I have never been able to choose. I keep choosing this kind of complex and conflicted nurturing with reflection upon nurturing, this kind of looking and public revelation of my looking, even at what may be considered un-motherly to look at (which makes me a bad mother).
Mamaphonic Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts, Edited by Bee, Lavender and Maia Rossini: Monica Bock & Zofia BurrDon’t forget the lunches…
THE CHILDREN WAKE UP……..I hear their feet on the stairs. Their faces are bright from sleep. Sydney is stuffing a piece of Naoise toblorone greedily into his mouth, yet another chocolate breakfast and he is giddy on it. The peace of writing ends abruptly. After toast and milk. Sydney’s guitar practice, the whole room an amplifier.
Patrick rises grumpily from his sleep and reluctantly assists me with documenting the beginning of the day, me on the sofa with the kids and a brussel sprout tree. I wanted to capture us as we are a family waking around the calamity of christmas. That is two adults with six day hangovers struggling to keep up with entertaining two boys. Sobriety will come with the reality of the new year.