I’m currently in the last week of rehearsals for my musical Mother, Wife & the Complicated Life, which opens in Adelaide this Friday, so life is pretty hectic at the moment.
When I got to rehearsal yesterday it was at the end of a long day, with a six-year-old home with a cold, a toddler with a broken leg and heaps of work to get through. I felt more like hitting the couch than going off to another job, but by the time I left hours later I was reminded of why all the effort is worth it.
Performing and rehearsing is uninterrupted creativity. When I’m working like that I’m not thinking about who’s hungry, tired or needs their nappy changed. I’m not giving, but filling myself back up. For those hours I’m not Mum, I’m Amity. Free to own all my own thoughts and to express them however I like.
When I got home, exhausted but exhilarated, I turned on the TV to watch The Voice, which I’d recorded. Yes, I’m as addicted to The Voice as the rest of Australia is. And I watched Mahalia Barnes and Prinnie Stevens, both mums, sing their respective arses off.
It was an inspiring performance, their passion and power jumping off the TV and into my lounge room. I imagined how they must have felt in that moment, with their creative expression shining for all Australia to see. They may have been up with sick kids or packing lunches the night before, but in that moment it was all about them.
I’ve been thinking lately about how creativity and motherhood are often incompatible. Both require your undivided attention and focus, an impossible equation.
I’ve started reading the book The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood by Rachel Power. The author interviewed female writers, painters, musicians and performers to question how they balance their conflicting passions of creative expression and motherhood. As she prefaces,
'Art demands what a mother’s routine does not permit: a concentration of self, the liberty to make use of the artistic impulse when it arrives.'
Oh, how those words speak to me! I’ve had many a moment where inspiration for a song or blog post has sparked within me, making me long for hours of uninterrupted time to properly explore it. Yet typically those moments will involve me trying to play the piano with a child on my lap, or accompanying me noisily on his drum kit, or both of them screaming at me while I plead, “MUMMY NEEDS ONE MORE MINUTE!”
I’m sure many writers out there can relate to that too. In a way being a writer is a great job for us mums, as we can work from home, around our children’s needs and schedules. But it’s working around their schedule that’s also the hard part. Creativity and inspiration can’t be turned on and off like a tap – when it’s there, you have to grab it with both hands, to tune out the rest of the world and completely immerse yourself in the moment. Which, for mums, is usually an elusive dream.
But aside from those conflicts, I’ve found that motherhood has impacted my creativity in so many positive ways, too. As Ms Power writes:
'It was strangely liberating to have my children’s needs overtake my own. My ego shrank back to its near invisible place in the cosmos and with that came an unexpected relief, a sense I could die knowing I had done all I needed to do.'
I can totally relate to these words. Motherhood does come with a distinct loss of ego. There’s no room for two divas, and no-one can out-diva a newborn! But in a way, that loss of ego gives you the freedom to be unafraid, to tap into that inner strength motherhood brings, and to express yourself more powerfully and fearlessly than you ever have before. Because as long as your kids are okay, nothing else can ever matter that much.
Ultimately, that’s what I love about The Voice. We’re watching people put their ego on the line and give it their all, singers who’ve worked for years in a tough industry, searching for one more chance. Fathers who’ve put their dreams aside so they can provide for their families, reclaiming their passion and making their kids proud. And mothers, singing like their lives depend on it, and shining in their own light. All the while knowing that, win or lose, they already have everything they need, and will always be winners to those who count.
Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life – The Musical is playing in Adelaide throughout May. For dates and tickets go to www.motherwifemusical.com.
Do you watch The Voice? Do you have a creative job or passion and how do you balance it with motherhood?