Friday 5 December 2008

Motherhood and Creativity

Booker Prize-winning author Anne Enright was writing a column in the Review section of the Guardian on the topic of children and creativity. Where does this myth come from that children will spell the end of creativity she asked us. Enright had started writing before marriage and children, and decided to take the risk of becoming a mother. To her relief she found that her children did not only not hinder her creativity but in fact enhance it.

I have thought about this topic a lot. I gave up my academic career to be with my children. In my case I would not have been able to combine motherhood and life in academia. Before I had the children I was not aware how protective I would feel about them, convinced that nobody but my husband or I would be able to give them enough cuddles and love. Apart from that I am a perfectionist who is not happy when I have not got the time to do things to the standard I want. To make matters worse I am a contemplative person who needs time for reflection, time on her own, time for just sitting in silence and prayer. With three young children it was difficult enough to fit these hours in even without working outside the home.

However, as the children grew older and I watched them grow and develop, becoming their own persons, I gained confidence from that. Confidence that I could grow and change too, do what I always wanted to do; write. By encouraging my children to be who they are, to follow their dreams, I was simultaneously encouraging myself to acknowledge my own gifts.

In the working class family where I grew up writing was not considered a worthwhile use of your time. It was a hobby like my mother’s painting. It wasn’t until I had children and became a mother that I had the courage to say, ‘I want to be a writer.’

It helped that I was not forced to earn money. My husband was happy to support us financially, and was able to do so. Many women struggle to fit the children into their lives when they are working, let alone the creative activities. My advice to them is: trust in life and work only as much as you need for the essentials. My children wore second hand clothes, they made do with one pair of shoes. We took holidays to my family in Austria.

I have spoken to other female writers and artists about their own experiences and found that I am not alone in thinking that motherhood is an excellent fertiliser for creativity. Many creative women agree that when they had all the time in the world, before marriage and children, they had neither the discipline nor the depth to give birth to worthwhile work. Their best time came after the children. They are not all successful in earning money with their art. I don’t believe that commercial success is an indication of worth. Your work is worthwhile if you are satisfied with it, if you know that it expresses your deepest being, your heart. Children have a way of making you aware of that heart.

No comments: