Motherhood and art

03 May 2017

03 May 2017

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about motherhood, and writing, and in general being creative as a mom and wife. I'm sure any of you who have a side hustle, or a passion for writing, or a "lowly mom blog" have gone through this introspection too. This article about writing about motherhood someone shared the other day on Facebook (I can't remember who, sorry if it was you!) spurred my latest round of thinking -- too late at night when I should be trying to sleep instead.

I'm going to wait for you to go and click over to read it, because the author makes a really compelling argument about motherhood and writing I've thought subconsciously since having kids, and she articulates it thoroughly in a way I haven't seen before. Here's a good quote, if you need motivation to actually click and read - it's not long I promise:
"Patriarchal culture has reduced motherhood to an exercise no serious artist would tackle as a subject. The result is not only the marginalization of motherhood as a literary topic but the real-life marginalization of mothers, obscuring the difficulties of childcare, the intensity of birth, the complexities of working and writing as a mother, and the profound ways having a baby changes a woman’s life, body and mind."
I'm a writer. Or at least, I self-identify as if I'm a writer. (How long until I feel confident writing that? Do published authors ever get used to saying that they're writers?) I wrote a lot in high school and college, and I write when the stars align now that I'm in the period of small children and babies. Lots of times this writing is devoted to just small family updates on the blog, writing about the ins and outs of my experience as a mom, trying to capture the details of these two beautiful girlies I'm blessed with on a day-to-day basis. Occasionally I'll write little bits of fiction, or journal by hand, but those times are few and far between. 

Often times in the last {almost} 3 years of motherhood I've started to write something fiction, and I've stopped myself because what I wanted to write about was being a mom...but my brain retorted with "who reads about mom stuff? Write about something serious." But at the same time I believe motherhood has been the defining act of my life, and I am more proud of my role as a mom than any other aspect of my life. What gives? 

I've failed to consider that heck, I love reading about other moms and their rites of motherhood. That's mostly why I read other blogs, let's be honest. I want to know how moms do it - how they're feeling, what they're learning, how to grow as a mother myself. I've failed to treat my own experiences with dignity. I've internalized the idea that being a mom is somehow a lesser role, something not to be proud of, something not to celebrate, something to be shifted away in pursuit of a higher art.

And I agree with the author of the article, that in degrading art centered around motherhood, we end up degrading mothers themselves. I know far too many women who have to sacrifice parts of their roles as mothers in pursuit of their passion, and likewise those who sacrifice their passion because they think they can't handle motherhood at the same time. 

I'm no longer going to treat being a mom this way, especially in my writing. I am capable of being a great mom and pursuing whatever I choose at the same time. And I can write about motherhood and babies without feeling like less of an artist. Sure there are plenty of subjects out there to write about - I hope someday I'll have enough energy to write about all the ones I want to explore. But in this season of changing diapers and having tiny faces look up at me in awe, I want to write about whatever I'm inspired by, and not belittle my own existence because it's not widely considered "art." I see an enormous amount of beauty and pain in motherhood that should be explored by art, writing, what have you - the ache you feel when a child suffers and you can't fix it, the joy of a cheek-splitting grin when your baby catches sight of you, the self-sacrifice required to wipe a messy face time and time again. 

Motherhood is hard, and beautiful, and sanctifying, and I want to embrace it all in pursuit of my art. 
HG

Photo courtesy Unsplash: Dakota Corbin.

4 comments

  1. Yes, to all of this! Have you read Kate Wicker's book? Called 'Getting Past Perfect.' Such a good read for Mom's and she touches on this subject, too.

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  2. "But at the same time I believe motherhood has been the defining act of my life, and I am more proud of my role as a mom than any other aspect of my life." <--- Yes! Great reflection, Hannah!

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  3. Interesting thoughts!

    You don't have to have sold a single sweater or won an award at a county fair to call yourself a "knitter." You just have to enjoy knitting. Why isn't it the same with writing? I'd never call myself a writer...but maybe I'll have to start saying "I self-identify as a writer." Maybe that's the first step in being able embrace the reality without qualifiers.

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