I haven’t left this side of town for what seems like an a-g-e. Yesterday, this changed. M, Small Z and I drove into Northcote in the morning, and were gratified to discover that it took exactly an hour. An HOUR! An hour to civilisation, trams, coffee, chai made with leaves and hot milk, and…our actual destination. The first Sleepers Publishing CryBaby Salon.
I was glad to have had M there acting as my Manny, as I doubt Small Z would have stayed in the toddlers room for the entire session on her own. As it was, I was practically the only person in the room without an incy-wincy baby draped over me or crawling at my feet. Lawrie Steed interviewed Rachel Power, author of The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood – a book I would have bought except for a cash deficit. Am now going to request it for birthday.
There was much discussion over the guilt involved with trying to pursue your artistic endeavours while still feeling like a worthwhile mother. A few times it was suggested that you have to try hard to just down tools, put your partner in charge, shove the expressed breastmilk in the fridge and JUST LEAVE. Something I have whole-heartedly aspired to, but am really really not good at doing. In question time I wanted to ask…but what about those mothers who have babies that don’t sleep without being breastfed and who won’t take a bottle? The sleep deprivation and the sheer brain deadening fatigue?! What do they do?!!
I think the response would have been ‘do whatever you can’. If you can grab 30 minutes a day to write or dance or paint, just do it. It’s good enough. It’s better than nothing. And it’s no crime that if, when those 30 minutes are there for the taking, all you can do is slump with a few chocolate biscuits and a cup of tea. Things will always improve.
I wondered also about the levels of difficulty – if you have come up with a non-fiction topic that you can focus on and research – is that easier or harder than writing fiction? Does the time you lack for contemplation weigh equally heavily on the fiction writer and the painter and the dancer? I suppose it all depends on the person, and what you allow yourself to do. Time to immerse yourself in your chosen artform shouldn’t feel like an indulgence, and shouldn’t feel like you are doing it at the expense of something else…the washing, the dinner… It’s this hardwired, burnt-chop mother thing that I think a lot of people identified with yesterday – the ongoing struggle to separate yourself as artist and mother.
And as Rachel Power said – the triumvirate of art, motherhood and WORK is the real killer. She spoke about the harmony that can come of the motherhood and art combination. When work is thrown into the mix, that’s the thing that sends it all off key. Just thinking about this makes me want to go and buy a Powerball ticket…
After visiting the nasally impaired, but mending Dr of Grass, we took the scenic route to Carlton via Coburg as Small Z slumbered in the back. And then moseyed on down to the front of the State Library for the Save Live Australian Music protest rally, where we met LIBRARYMAN (aka Mr H in work attire) and marched from there, through the city, and up Bourke Street to Parliament House. It was fabuloso!!
At the end, after a rousing rendition of ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top if you want to ROCK & ROLL’, there was a little too much speechifying – a great deal of which was generally indistinct to those further back in the crowd. I think they should have got people up to make a few pithy statements, got ’em off, and had a few more songs. But, whatever… We took our leave with the hungry small one, and headed home after a stop for lemon lime and bitters, some spuds and some pesto bread.
Note Small Z on M’s shoulders to left of banner…