The response is never nonchalant when I tell people I have three boys under five years old. It might be a sympathetic sigh, a knowing grin, a shocked cringe or a mocking chuckle. “You have your hands full,” can be said in a host of tones, and I think I’ve heard them all. It can even be accusatory… a ”how-could-you-let-this-happen?” lurking behind the spoken phrase. More positive versions marvel at the work that we are able to do in this time (both my husband and I are working artists). The truth is that we live in a constant struggle against complete chaos, and we’re always working. Always. Working. It’s a piecemeal, half-distracted sort of work, unless we pay someone in order to allow us to focus, or organize each other into longer stints of solo child care. The other side of the coin is that we’re always playing. Always. Playing. Since that’s the work demanded of you as a mother or father, and also the best part of the work of being an artist.
Today I read that one of my enduring favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois, also had/has three sons (image above found here). I was pretty excited until I also discovered that she didn’t really start producing as an artist until after she’d raised them. I’ve always loved that she has stayed fresh and active for so so long, though, so she remains a role model. And I think there’s something to be said of the emotional complexity that comes from raising kids– not superior, of course, but different. I tend to run out of time and energy before material. It pours out of the cracks. I cup my hands to grab a little before it disappears. In reality, this means grabbing a pencil or the corner of this blog, in between the Sisyphus-like exertion of dishes and laundry, board games, playgrounds and toilet disasters.
One of the only and best releases of the tension that we live under is laughter. If I forget to laugh, I’m in bad shape. So are my sons, of course. Luckily, they are often catalysts, and remind me to lighten up. So the tension shivers apart as we get a glimpse at exactly how absurd this set of jobs can be…
(The shape of this space, this blog, is often under my own scrutiny for how public and private intersect, how my professional life and domestic life converge and diverge. One lodestar that I use to determine content is whether it would be useful to anyone else. In addition to just getting some news out about shows and whatnot, it has long served me, and hopefully others, as a place to think out loud about the joys and challenges of the balancing act that is my life. So I think about other parents and other artists, how I’ve totally been buoyed by reading about someone else’s experience along the way. Hopefully it can meet someone else in this way.)