I’m inspired, yet again, by Matilda Leyser wonderful ability to connect with people. In her recent blog about our 12 minutes on Women’s Hour last week, she sets the record straight in an articulate and clear way. There’s almost no reason for me to say any more – almost. Please, if you haven’t read it yet, head over to her blog and read All The Things I Wish I’d Said on Women’s Hour
Following her lead, I feel it necessary to add a few of my own responses, especially an addition to what I said about earning a living.
- “You didn’t have a creative job at the time, why did you go [to a Mothers Who Make meeting]?”
Most importantly, I don’t think you need to have a job in the arts to consider yourself a maker or to benefit networking with other mothers who consider themselves “makers”.
Personally, I’ve always considered myself an actor and dancer, and when I was a teenager, a painter. I’ve trained at three separate drama schools. Working in the arts, is both a lottery and a luxury. I honestly believe that only a few people actually earn a living from their art and that ALL people have the capacity to be “makers”. Some people know nothing else and have only worked in the arts. Most work regular jobs and try to fit in their making in their spare time. Having children makes this doubly difficult. “Mothers Who Make” welcomes all makers, from someone who might just dream of doing something creative, to someone who has had a career for 20 years in the arts.
I went to the Mothers Who Make meeting with two goals in mind: I felt very strongly after the birth of my son (and when my partner went back to work) that I our current cultural model for raising a small child isn’t functional and that groups of women should be gathering together – not to eat cake and complain about their lack of sleep, but to support each other to grow – to create – or even just tidy up and send an email. Whatever it is that individual mother wanted to do, I felt that I needed a community. I went to Mothers Who Make in hope of meeting other creative mums who also wanted to support each other in this way.
The other reason was that even though I wasn’t working in the arts, I have never let go of hope that one day I would. I thought that other maker mums might help to inspire me to take the leap… which they did! Jannah and Kim have mostly only worked in theatre and music and their experience and confidence in it being a viable career choice, offered me just the support I needed to take the leap. My situation is maybe slightly less common in that I didn’t have a creative job before having a child and now I do. It’s not a choice I think everyone should make, but it was a non-option to me. It’s something I wanted to do for my son. My mother always told me to do what I love, but didn’t follow her own advice for herself. This mixed message has left me conflicted for far too long. This conflict is not something I want to pass on to my son and given we were already broke after my maternity pay ran out, I saw an opportunity to take a bold step and took it!
2. Jenni Murray asked me what I’ve been working on as a result.
Baba’s Song uses the languages of physical theatre, storytelling, voice, and restricted use of space (only 1 meter square for two women together) to explore themes of new motherhood – struggling to cope with identity shift, postnatal depression, feelings of isolation, pressure from social media and loss (loss of her own mother, loss of sleep, loss of her ‘voice’ as a woman, confident in what she does). The journey of the show parallels the old Russian folktale, Vasilisa the Brave (Baba Yaga).
Although the themes are quite dark, we’re saying them in a really fascinating way, with dark humour and a beautiful score. Skilfully performed, good quality piece of work.
We are hoping by sharing it, we will give people a voice who don’t already have one, so that it becomes more of a conversation.
I’m ALSO setting up a drama teaching company called The Cloud Factory with another woman, Ixchel Rubio, who I met at a separate Mothers Who Make meeting.
3. “Are any of you actually making a living doing this?”
In addition to stating that all three of us in In Our Hands theatre need to earn an income as our families cannot survive on one income, I want to reiterate that being an artist, expressing oneself creatively, being crafty or wanting to be crafty has nothing to do with making a living at it. It’s wonderful if we can earn an income from our art, but we should not give up living an extraordinary and creative life if we, like most of the world, need to take a non-artistic job in order to make a living. If I find that it becomes necessary to take on additional non-theatre work in order to support my family financially, I will do it, without regret or defeat! I’m in a moment in my life where I can justify taking a small financial risk and see if it’s possible to earn an income from theatre based work. However, this moment will pass and I will be happy that I took the chance while I could. What’s most important is that I am happy and thus create a happy home for my partner and son. Happiness is possible without earning a living in the arts!
Thank you again to Matilda Leyser and Lizzy Humber for all of their encouragement and for making Mothers Who Make a nation wide conversation and nest for mothers to tap in to a growing network of mothers who say, “I am a maker, regardless of what my occupation is, regardless if I haven’t made in a long time, regardless of what anyone else thinks!”
Listen to the full interview here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bfx5lb