Shortly after I gave birth to my daughter, 7 years ago now, I went to buy a book that everyone kept talking about. It was called Baby Love by Robin Barker and it seemed to be the thing to have. Sure enough, it's been very useful over the years, and it was only recently that I handed on my much thumbed copy. It was, however, the other book purchased that day, which has been far more influential on my experience of motherhood. Also in the Baby section, it's black cover and unusual title intrigued me. When I read the blurb, I felt as if someone had written a book just for me and my situation. I was a little giddy with anticipation and immediately possessive of the book. I had been feeling all alone - in the way that first time mothers so often do - but here was evidence that others were experiencing the same conflicting emotions. I bought the book, took it home and devoured it. I have read it several times since, dipping in and out, rediscovering particularly relevant parts and, as my experiences have evolved, shifting my focus onto other aspects of the book. The book is The Divided Heart by Rachel Powers, and I think it would be fair to say that it has a cult following among creative mums.
Back when I first discovered it, I was barely 28 and living in Darwin, far away from my friends and family. A year before, I had been living in central London and working for a big publishing company. I felt isolated and vulnerable in a way I had never previously done. To be honest, I think I'd imagined having a baby would mean plenty of time to write and read. I'd pictured myself, floating about the house, cooking and making things and reading and writing, and occasionally picking up the baby for a cuddle. I was pretty clueless about babies and the reality of motherhood - I have always been hugely idealistic. I loved being a mum - it was and remains, the most amazing thing that I have ever done - but there was this other part of me, which I had been neglecting, and I knew that it was a very bad idea to do so. When I was growing up, my mum would sometimes say to me: "you're not doing anything creative and it worries me". I always thought this was quite funny, but now I realise that she could see something about me that I could not: that creativity was very important to my well-being and to my sense of identity.
Rachel's book gave me hope - it made me feel connected to other women who were trying to be artists and mothers, and it also gave me some practical ideas and clues as to how this was possible. Most of all it offered me an insight into how a creative life and a family life might look. I have given my copy to so many friends with the words: "you must read this, seriously." Copies are scarce and it has been out of print for a while, but this month a second edition is being published, under the slightly altered name of Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart. It features conversations with some of Australia's most
prominent writers, artists and musicians about how they combine the twin
passions of art and motherhood. If you are a creative parent or a creative person that one day plans to be a parent, or just someone who is interested in how other people live, I urge you to read it!
Here are some relevant links of interest:
Rachel Power's blog
Interview with Rachel at Daily Review
Introduction from the book on ArtsHubs
Pip Lincolne's insights on a radio interview about the book