My art life sits squashed around my regular life as a mum. The kids come first and then the dog, gym, house, shopping, errands etc all fall about and take up the bulk of my time. Husband may get a look in from time to time, what can I say, I’m a busy lady. Essentially my entire day is mum/house stuff and then if I have enough energy after the kids go down or at some point on the weekend, I will work. My art sits like beanbag balls poured into the gaps around my already ridiculously busy life. It’s a crazy frustrating time of my life because I want to work and I want to raise my kids. Apparently life will not let you do this very easily and so I join the masses of women (I am sure there are men out there who fall into this category, but for sure, its mainly women) who juggle the insane work-mum-life.
Some do it very well, everyone thinks they do it badly, even if they don’t. Everyone has the guilt and everyone has the struggle. Some have help, others do not. Some heroes out there are doing it single handedly (serious props to you folk), some have a raft of help they can hire in to help take pressure off all the other tasks. There are lots of ways of doing it and most of the time it runs smoothly but now and again, things go wrong. The wheels come off and you find yourself scrabbling about like an actual crazy person, while your professional facade lies in a heap under a pile of dirty nappies and toys.
Our circumstances are that we have no family in Northern Ireland and so grandparent / sibling emergency call outs are not an option. It’s me and the husband. This makes the potential for things to go wrong, very likely indeed.
Recently I found myself with a superb opportunity to show people my work and gain some local exposure. It would involve me shlepping a bunch of framed prints and originals, plus easels and other equipment as well as organising some sort of childcare once pre-school was out. In the end I asked the husband to collect Megster and bring her to the event after school, where for an hour, I figured I could entertain her with the magic of movies on an iPad. The Wee Man would be more difficult. Exchusted and actually sick with something that was making my face and neck swell on one side (I KNOW!) I got the event underway. After a couple of hours, husband turns up with meg, dropping her and her stuff right at my stall, announcing he had a migraine and would be going home to sleep for a while.
There were a few moments over the following hour I wondered why I had even agreed to do this as how did I think it would be? As I watched my one year old crawl about shouting at my customers, eating the quality street sweets (with the foil still on I might add) and soiling himself I did think to myself “If Amal Clooney has an event and no childcare, does George just drop the kids at her event and announce he has a migraine and cant help”? Maybe he does. Maybe Amal wants to chuck stuff and stuff her face with the Quality Street sweets she put out for her clients.
So my real life came crashing through into my work life and I was only able to keep my head above water and rhys’ face out of the quality streets. After an hour, I was able to pack up (with the help of my friend who I dread to think, if she hadn’t been there, what or who I might have forgotten to pack into the car that day). Walking out to the car with two easels balanced across Rhys’ pushchair, another easel over my shoulder, a bag of stuff over my other shoulder, handbag full of nappies and snacks over the back of the pushchair and Megster asking if she could have a drink, I almost burst into tears. Laughter or frustration, I still don’t know. probably a bit of both it was so ridiculous. It was quite a picture (a picture I couldn’t take because I had no hands free).
People say ‘Oh but I wouldn’t change it for the world!’ Sorry folks, but I actually would change it if I could. I wouldn’t change my kids, I wouldn’t change my life so much, I’d get help and farm a few things out etc but what I would change would be the attitude towards working mums.