Writing

The Relentlessness of Morning

The Relentlessness of Morning

 

About

Minna Dubin is a writer, performer, and educator in Berkeley, California. She is the founder of #MomLists, a literary public art project, which she is working on turning into a book. Her writing has been featured in Parents Magazine, Huffington Post, MUTHA Magazine, The Forward, and various literary magazines and anthologies. When not chasing her children in circles around the dining room table, she is eating chocolate in the bathroom while texting. You can follow her lists about motherhood here:

Instagram: @momlists

Facebook: facebook.com/momlists

Tumblr: momlists.tumblr.com

 

The Relentlessness of Morning was first posted on a bulletin board at a San Francisco grocery store called Falletti Foods @fallettifoods.
 MomLists’ was then published on social media (Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) on October 4th, 2016.
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Writing

What am I to you?

Laura trying to swop the lil one for a Jorge Manilla brooch
Laura trying to swop the lil one for a Jorge Manilla brooch

By Laura Bradshaw-Heap

 

I visited Munich Jewellery Week last year with a friend and colleague. We both brought our babies and were excited to introduce our ‘schmuckbabies’ to our jewellery world. I have had an exhibition of one sort or another at this fringe-style festival all but one year since 2011 and was happy to be able to visit as a tourist and not have to constantly promote an exhibition. While I knew that we would be viewed differently as a result of our procreation (the year before we had both attended sporting swollen bellies) the majority of our experiences were positive. However one conversation still haunts me. Greatly paraphrasing, it went something like this:

 

Exhibitor: so what do you do?

Me: oh, hum… now that is a good question… well… where do I start …

Exhibitor: … well I am sure you are busy being a mom!

Me: ….. ummm…..

 

Now, anyone who knows me will understand why I paused at being asked what I do. I am a jeweller with an anthropology Masters; a maker who rarely makes objects but rather focuses on social experiences; I have curated, written, exhibited and have a strong interest in collaborative, co-created projects. And yes, I now add “mother” to this list of roles – but this addition does not cancel the others out.

This woman’s assumption grated on me, irritated me and offended me. I had made it all the way out to her not so easy to find obscure exhibition, somewhat off the beaten track, which was part of a largely hidden jewellery event in a country over 1200 km from my home.

With a nine month old baby.

On my own.

That’s a lot of effort for someone “just” busy being mom.

For this last year I have kicked myself that I did not contest her assumption and defend my professionalism. Why had I not stood up for myself – my professional self – more strongly? But it also reminded me how in the past, pre-motherhood, when parents, often mothers, had come to visit the exhibitions I ran I too had not even considered to ask them if they were professionals in my field. I saw the children and nothing else. These little creatures are as effective as Harry Potter’s invisibility clock; the parents (and let’s be honest, more often the mothers) behind them seem to melt away and cease to exist beyond this one singular role.

This year as Munich Jewellery Week rapidly approaches I know that this will not be an issue this time.  I, in my usual manner, reacted against this sense of invisibility and, seeking to make myself visible, agreed to run, be in and organise three exhibitions. This is the most I have worked on at any one time to date. And all while looking after my toddler. Am I insane? A little I think – yes. Can I do it, hell yes. I am mother, I am maker and I am here.

 

Writing

So now you want me to write a business plan?

26906385_564872160531531_1635415565_oBy Laurie Schram.

 

Being a single mother is quite radical. It’s a sprint that turns into a marathon and then at the finish line you get beaten with a stick because accepting a bad relationship is “graceful” and leaving is “sin/stigma”. 

My child is now 15 months old and no longer has reflux but she is still a high needs baby who refuses to sleep alone or for more than 2 hours without nursing. She has the most powerful hearing and could easily work for the CIA as a living device for eavesdropping. The things that wake her up most regularly are eating, scratching my head and clicking or double clicking my laptop, forget about turning a page, if I so much as touch paper she will wake instantly. As I still live in a studio apartment (with a view on better accommodation I hope to move to though not for another 6 years’ or so) I have to work around this.   Since setting up Mother Makers a lot has happened. We have launched a range of merchandise, we did a crowd funding campaign and raised money to exhibit in Munich. We have also started publishing “Leading Voices”. For better or for worse, people know who we are and what we are doing. Those are humble but real accomplishments. 

Things change as a baby gets older, some things get better (no more puking) and others worse (intense public tantrums). What does not change is that a child needs constant care. I have managed to complete one piece of work with the help of my colleague who is blessed with childcare and a partner. I have also contributed significantly to Mother Makers but cannot keep up with my colleague who dedicates much larger chunks of time. There is guilt, much guilt and no support.  

        Three hours of childcare  

I now have 3 hours of childcare a week and I want to use them to write a business plan, make work and be in the world participating but what I actually need is to rest, to take a shower, eat a nutritious meal and recover from all the other hours piled on top of each other. Putting my personal needs to the side I sit at the computer and try anyway. 

I don’t succeed and try again at nap time. Getting the focus back is murder and every time I finally get a sentence going I click too hard and I’m stuck nursing her back to sleep for 20 minutes. If, for I have a roughly 50% chance of escaping after that, I manage to Ninja my way back to the computer I get to it sleepy and confused instead of focused and fired up. I’m losing the motivation because within 400 words I have already had to get back into it 3 times with a massive hit of sleep hormones sucking the life out of me. I am a badly blown up balloon doing the job a hacksaw is supposed to do while rapidly deflating. But I am a deflated balloon with a mission to create meaningful employment so that my child will not have her mother’s depression for breakfast every day. It’s not a healthy diet, I know this from experience.  

        I have no hope in hell 

I am not complaining, we are quite happy in our tiny abode because it is cute and full of love, music, dancing and fun. We make the best of it but there are unexpected consequences to raising a child in a studio apartment. Your parenting choices are not all really yours. Crying it out, Aware parenting, Attachment Parenting, Continuum parenting, not your choice to make: your space decides for you that you are an attachment parent and being a single parent decides for you that it is running you into the ground. Attachment Parenting on your own is like running a busy restaurant without staff and doing the cry it out method without a bedroom is like stabbing your own eyes out. These are facts but that doesn’t matter because everyone has opinions about how your kid should be able to sleep through the night (until they get one that doesn’t themselves).  

Being this tired is a really boring non-story but the incredible lack of support and respite single mothers face is not talked about enough. Combining motherhood with an arts practice is really hard in itself. Doing it as a single mother is something of a miracle. I am an advocate for mothers with arts practices though unsure if my own can survive. Am I a hero or a sinking ship? This question depresses me on hard days but I do believe that even the sinking must be documented. I don’t want to disappear. Many women before me have disappeared without being heard, some into the river. It’s really time we lose the stigma and start rewarding this marathon.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing

POSTPARTUM ART

SO NOW YOU WANT ME TO MAKE ART!?

BY : LAURIE SCHRAM

First published on Mothers in Arts, March 26th, 2017

coverimage

With the impending birth of my first child I asked all my colleagues “How does one practice art as a mother?” I received a lot of answers but in summary the answer was mostly that one doesn’t. The mothers among them all the more vehement in their persistence that one simply does not.

For me insisting on an art practice has always meant relative poverty, compromises in health and lifestyle, travel and endurance, great practice for parenthood. I have not only had a baby, I have also had to move away from my network in London to a sleepy ambition-free zone in The Netherlands. While pregnant I dutifully paid for a studio I never used except to teach in. There is no choice in what kind of pregnancy or baby you get, mine was 9 months of illness, then a horrific birth experience and now a child that refuses to sleep unless she is on top of me, breastfeeds every hour and has reflux. If mummy brain or “pregnancy dementia” as they more accurately call it in The Netherlands doesn’t wipe out your tiny brain cel allowance after becoming a mother, fatigue surely does… I live alone with my baby, efectively I am a single mother in a studio flat. I feel lucky on the days I can both shower and brush my teeth. Covered in baby vomit I receive the pizza delivery guy with one breast hanging out. He looks at me the way people look at victims of war on television, a combination of pity and relief, relief at being a 16 year old boy and not in these trenches…such a female war, so far from reality unless you are right in there with your muddy boots.

SO NOW YOU WANT ME TO MAKE ART!?

Forgetting the practical impossibility of it there is another more important issue. My ego has been exploded into a million pieces. Nothing will ever be the same. I will never make art the way I used to ever again because that person no longer exists.

AND THAT IS A GOOD THING…

Without going on a yoga retreat, mindfulness training or following a guru I was given a spiritual growth spurt free of charge as part of the motherhood experience. Should I ever come out of the bodily fluids phase of parenting and still want to make art, this will be a key factor in it’s content. It’s exciting to think how much better an arts practice could be without the juvenile narcissism we often think of as necessary to being an artist.

Having a child has changed the way I experience the world. I no longer see individuals but one big interconnected world. We are all each other, nothing exists in the vacuum of individualism. It was all a myth. Suddenly I am not just fascinated by epigenetics, I am living it. I feel connected to all the generations that have gone before me and all the generations that will come after me. Centre stage is not in the middle, nor where I am, centre stage doesn’t exist. There is just a thin line traveling through time, a line that will always exist and has nothing to do with status.

The tone of this article might have changed a little, that’s because between paragraphs I have fed another human being with my body and cleaned miniature genitals so many times that everything has turned a little fragmented. A CAT-scan of my brain would show a kaleidoscopic image of many thoughts started and very few ended instead of perfect slices of cerebral matter.

I miss my intellect but being a more emotive and simple creature is quite a wonderful experience also. With my current mental ability I would only be able to do projects requiring a short attention span and a minimal amount of time. I’m not sure if the work of a sentimental amnesiac would be of any interest even to myself let alone an audience.

So far creativity has been a considerable part of parenting and pregnancy for me. I have knitted endles blankets, made toys, sung home-made songs, solved safety issues, fitted an entire life plus one into a 25m flat like an interior design Ninja, sewn bibs, nappies, monsters etc. each item a labour of love and creativity, but not art as I define it. Hoever, in doing things with my hands I keep contact.

The need for this contact is overwhelming and at times feels like a long abstract training schedule for a far away project, Karate Kid mopping floors to become a master. Perhaps there is a small slither of hope that these domestic crafts will guide me towards a real project. Wether or not this will lead to producing pieces worthy of being hung in a museum or a gallery again is not the issue just yet. The point of gravity in my person has shifted. An enormous personal metamorphosis, to give birth in this sense is also to be re-born. It’s a personal and open ended process.

My little human is only 5 months old. We don’t need conclusions yet… We need a few hours sleep and for the world not to shut us out. We need to be invited to the conversation and be taken seriously, and that might mean changing the format to fit us in. The insights of parents are valuable. We have seen the edge of things. We have been turned inside out body and mind and have managed to put little teeny tiny arms into little teeny tiny sleeves while being kicked in the stitches. We are veterans.

The participation of women in art requires modification to the art world and to our idea of what great art is about. Allowing women to participate in serious education is patronising if having babies renders them irrelevant. One does not complete a master at the Royal College of Art in order make pom pom’s for toddlers. So if art wants to continue patting itself on the back for intelligently talking about the human condition it needs to acknowledge that having children is the human condition.