Art and motherhood
Robert Genn
August 20, 2010

Dear Rodney,Yesterday, Cedar Lee of Ellicott City, MD, wrote, "I have a 10-month-old son. 
Before I had this child I never realized the level of freedom and time that I had. 
The demands are so all-consuming that they leave me with little if anything left 
to give to my work. I'm depressed about my career--at full speed a year ago, it's 
now barely squeaking along. Do you have any advice for how to keep my creative 
flames burning, how to keep my professional image from slipping, and how to be 
productive during this time? What are the creative, financial, political, and 
practical dilemmas facing female artists with young children."

Thanks, Cedar. Big order. Before I start in with my stuff about being more 
efficient, making time, getting help, etc., I need to ask you mothers to give me a 
hand with Cedar's questions. Your best advice will be included in the next 
clickback. Live comments are welcome as well. FYI, we've put a short video of 
Cedar's studio at the top of the current clickback.

Also, I want to mention the extreme expectations that current parents have for 
their children. Children have taken on a god-like role and have become the focus 
for everything from prepping for stellar futures to daily parental companionship. 
Parents sacrifice their own lives for the potential brilliance of kids. For better 
or for worse, raising kids well is the new religion.

Further, I wanted to say that letters like Cedar's come in here like leaves from a 
shaken maple. I'm conscious that many artists, both male and female, use the 
advent of parenthood as a scapegoat for failing careers. Artists in this 
predicament need to examine their true motivation for this popular complaint.

It's been my experience that dedicated artists will always find a way. I'm also 
happy to report that selfishness need not prevail, nor need the baby lie unchanged 
in its crib. The creative mind is always working, even during the application of 
nappies. Household workstations can be set up and work can continue between 
feedings and other downtimes. The intermittent business may actually benefit the 
art--for many of us, contemplation is a much needed ingredient to our progress. 

Cedar, exhausted though you may be, there is always recourse to the DMWH 
(Daily Manic Working Hour). This can be programmed any time, perhaps early morning 
or late at night. When performed as regularly as baby-feeding, you might amaze 
yourself with how much you can get done when you focus hard for one lovely little 

Best regards,


PS: "You have no obligation other than to discover your real needs, to fulfill 
them, and to rejoice in doing so." (Francois Rabelais)

Esoterica: There is an excellent book on the subject. The Divided Heart: Art and 
Motherhood by Rachel Power. It's well researched with lots of references and 
historical evidence. An excerpt is here. 
There's value in partnership. "To create art once you have children requires the 
commitment of more than one person," she writes. "As novelist Eleanor Dark wrote, 
'The balance is elusive; the support crucial.'"