Why do we have to rationalize our very human need to express ourselves?
Why are we expected to give so much when we get little to nothing in return?
So, that’s it, huh? You’re just a mom now. At least that’s what you tell yourself. That’s what they tell you. No more having fun. Friends? What are thooooose? “Cash Money Records taking over for the 99 and 2000” used to be your anthem at girls night out, now you’d almost (just almost) rather die than to sing along to “Baby shark do do do do do do”, again. Where you used to have silence and the ability to cozy up to a good book or watch a murder doc, uninterrupted, you now hear siblings fighting constantly over anything and everything. You probably can’t remember the last time you painted something, even though painting is the only thing you’ve ever been passionate about. You happen to be damn good at it too, but does anybody know that? Does anybody care? You used to do your nails in vibrant colors with impressive designs and you always wanted to go to school to learn the art professionally but then you had a child. And then, you had another child and next thing you knew, there was just no time. You figured, why bother? You’re 5”2in frame had that “cute face, slim waist, thick legs, in shape”, then, you lost it all. Those breasts that used to sit so perky, the ones that never needed a bra, now point downwards. That flat tummy you used to love to show off, no longer sees the light of day. You’ll never admit it but that, dare I say, waterfall that used to cascade down your legs at the slightest touch of arousal is now drier than a bone. Being a mom took it all from you. I get it, sis. You’ve sacrificed everything; all in the name of attempting to raise a decent human being, ‘cause let’s face it, are we really doing that good of a job so far? But, “it’s worth it”, right? That’s what you tell yourself. That’s what all of the other moms say to justify the often shitty reality of what exactly it takes to be a mother. To say otherwise warrants the noses of moms everywhere to be turned up at you. Or worst, the side eye! And, let’s not forget the utter Mean Girls attitude carried out on those Facebook mom groups, where judgemental women form cliques to isolate those who disagree with them or do things differently. Never having to know you in real life or see that you cried tears at their words, thinking you must be the worst mom ever. We’re not here to do that, not anymore. As moms, we don’t have to follow every complaint, shortcoming, difficulty, or down right rage with “But, I love my kid(s), I wouldn’t change them for the world! I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!” Why do we have to rationalize our very human need to express ourselves? Why are we expected to give so much when we get little to nothing in return?
We can’t even put Mom on our resumes
Not only is this unacceptable, it’s absurd! It’s impossible! Do you know what is lost by a woman who is unable to and discouraged from expressing herself? Everything! I read something along the lines of, “Mothers are expected to work as if they don’t have a family and raise a family as if they don’t work”. How, Sway? Again, how is it that we are expected to give so much when we get little to nothing in return? We can’t even put Mom on our resumes, even though we perfect the positions of human resources manager, maid, chef, scheduling coordinator, private driver, carpenter, mechanic, even referee! Not only do we perfect them, we could do it with our eyes half closed from sleep deprivation and yesterday’s dried, peanut butter hand print still on the ass of our unwashed jeans! Instead of allowing us to stand in our power as mothers and claim that title professionally, we’re made to use creative and slightly dishonest catchphrases that allow us to even be considered for the role. If we are lucky enough to get an interview, they want to ask us which role we would choose, job or mom? That is if we feel safe enough to disclose that we have children.
If you can do it in a way that makes another mother, another human feel more connected to themselves, to their core, that’s a W!
To be a mother and an artist, whether you are a paid artist or not, is to be the ultimate creator. You have created life and a legacy that will manifest itself a hundred times over. That’s what art does, especially and specifically if you create art that illuminates motherhood in an honest light and allows other mothers to own their experiences. There is no simple “thank you” that can honor that. Being an artist is frustrating and fulfilling all in one. You have your process and you know that at the end of it, you will have produced such a spectacular body of work that you wonder how you ever doubted yourself. The flip side of that is occasionally, you go through your process and what comes out on the other side is something you detest. You scrap it and start again. The important point here isn’t the result but rather the journey it takes to get there. My first blog post for Motherhood Observation had upwards of six drafts before it was finished. More than once, I asked myself, “Why do you even bother? Who do you think you are? Through art, I can use my words to answer my own questions. I bother because I know what it feels like to have no one who relates to me. On my best days, I think I’m a damn queen, and I’m learning to think the same on my lesser days. That’s what it means to be an artist. You are constantly (re)defining who you are and who you want to be. If you can do it in a way that makes another mother, another human feel more connected to themselves, to their core, that’s a W(in).
Now, practicing art on top of being a mom, is absolutely exhausting. Sometimes, at the end of the night when my kids go to bed, I am tired and I literally just want to lay down, watch Netflix and not think about anything. Then, I realize that I can’t walk on my path, I can’t get the bag, if I’m distracting myself every time I have a moment’s peace. I have to put in the work to get to where I need to go. I try very, very hard to do things to centre myself in addition to putting the pen to paper or my fingers to the keyboard. That shit is not always easy. Sometimes the words flow effortlessly but I still have to push myself. Still, I believe that ever so often, you do have to lay down and watch Netflix. You’ll know the days when you have to take a break from the art and that’s okay too.
Marie Condo, from “Tidying Up” on Netflix, challenges us to ask ourselves, “Does this spark joy?” I want to keep that in mind as I navigate the rest of my year. Don’t keep things in your life that don’t spark joy in your soul whether it be in your environment, house, or family. Whatever word you have to put at the end of that sentence, don’t settle! Don’t settle for what’s mediocre. You truly deserve to have the best of everything this life has to offer, despite and because of the fact that you are raising another human so what are you waiting for? Go get it!
Don’t get me wrong, I still lose sight of joy and feel miserable at times. The whirlwind that is my life can get so overwhelming that I feel like more of a bystander than a creator. In those moments, I try to sit back, be still and look at my life then I realize that I’m so fucking grateful because I was not supposed to make it to this place in my life. I’m not supposed to be a published author. I was not supposed to be a mother, the way that my life was unfolding. I probably shouldn’t even be a “free” person given all of the immoral and illegal things I used to do. I very well could have got caught up and went to jail or worse. As a former foster child and a Crown Ward, I wasn’t supposed to have a good head on my shoulders or be navigating my trauma in healthier ways. I’m not supposed to be who I turned out to be. It wasn’t in the cards for me. But, life had other plans for me. The universe had other plans for me. My ancestors had other plans for me. Ultimately, I took accountability for my life and learned to have plans for myself. I’m so grateful to be where I am. Despite everything, I refuse to settle. I’ve been through so much, but in my soul, I always have hope that the ability to create phenomenally is mine. And, that’s my goal.
Self-care + practice tips for Art Mamas
1. Be consistent: Typically, moms have a routine with their babies from wake up to bed time. Incorporate your art practice into your routine. With twin life, my art practice usually looks like writing during the day while the babies are at daycare and at night after they’ve gone to bed. When I try to write in between those times, when my children are awake and full of energy, it leads to less than satisfactory work and a cranky mama. Neither benefit you! The sooner you find ways to create, the sooner you will produce a body of work, whether it’s for your eyes only, your friends/partner, or the public.What’s that old saying? We are what we repeatedly do. Do the art, mama!
2. Take breaks: Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimised by burnout. As mothers, we all experience it at some point. We need breaks! Most times, life will not give you breaks, you have to take them. How will you create art if you’re burnt out? How will you (re)define who you are when you refuse to take a break? From something as nerve wracking as creating a custom piece of art with a tight deadline to something as seemingly small as being touched out (it’s not a small thing), you must take a break when you need it. Take breaks from your art. I promise, your art will come out better and stronger than if you didn’t. Ensure that your littles are safe and take breaks from them, even if that means shutting yourself into a room so that you can breathe again. They will survive, I swear.
3. Purge first, edit later: This one is mostly for my fellow writers. When I write, I get it all out without correcting my grammar or punctuation; that way I don’t lose my train of thought. If you make a mistake, put one single line through it, as opposed to scratching it out until it’s illegible. You may want to use that line later or in another stanza. If you’re using a pen or pencil, avoid the need to make your writing super neat. The time you take to write perfectly, takes away from the time you have to clearly articulate your thoughts. Rewrite it five times if you have to but do that once you finish.
4. Create, destroy and repeat: A good friend of mine, who’s also an artist, once told me to never get too attached to the idea of what a piece of art should be. Instead, understand and accept that the end result turned out how it was supposed to be. Ideally, it will be what we imagined in our heads but sometimes it isn’t and that’s okay too. It’s like at a Sip ‘N Paint class; the painting that you’re trying to emulate, painted by seven artists will produce seven, separate paintings. If you’re not completely satisfied with your work, tweak it. Paint over it. Add more colors. Crumple it up, if you wish. Again, the key here is not just the end result, but the journey it takes to get there. In the process, you may even learn something new about yourself and your ability to create.
5. Share and collab: One of my favorite things about art is its ability to connect people of like minds and open the minds of those who aren’t quite there yet. There is a level of humanity that is unmatched amongst communities of artists whose determination and need for vulnerability goes into their work. When we share our art, we quietly give other artists permission to do the same. It was only within the last three years that I began to confidently call myself an artist. This proclamation is largely due to the creators I’d began to surround myself with, from poets to rappers to digital media artists. In addition to the community aspect, sharing benefits your spirit, contributing to your healing. I’ve always written my thoughts in diaries and journals but it’s when I started to share my work publicly that I gained an acceptance of myself that I never knew I needed. Validation when acquired for healing is necessary and liberating. When you share, you set yourself free. That’s a gift nobody can give you. So, what’s better than one artist? Two. To explore that further, sometimes you need another brain or two to share your ideas with and hear their feedback. Write it down. Paint it out. Host a panel ’cause dialogue is art too. To fuse the two of your visions together can be a masterpiece in the making. I love talking to people about things I’m passionate about and seeing the fire equally lit in their eyes as they tell me about their experiences and aspirations. Whether the topic is joy or pain, mundane things or extraordinary circumstances, there is nothing like someone who keeps your same energy. Bonus points if it can be done in person ‘cause we all know how isolating motherhood can be!