It’s a process, I say over and over to myself. Motherhood fractures time. Those luxurious moments of creation that used go on for hours, for days, weeks, months even, are now fragments of themselves. In almost six years of making and raising babies, I have learned how to gather the scattered seconds and the lost minutes found in, around, under, and between my daily mothering labors. I nourish my mothering artist self with these loose pieces of opportunity. If I did not know how to do this, if I did not know it was possible to construct a new relationship with time, my soul would hunger for itself. There would be no reconciliation between all my selves. Like so many mothers I know, motherhood, more than anything else, would seem to be the biggest obstruction to my expansion as an artist.
Still, I am coming into greater appreciation for the slower evolution of my magic making with each year. Because I am mashing together bits of time, the progression of an essay, a story, a dance might stretch, drag, lull, swell, quiver, and then sag again before recovering its momentum. Sometimes I am growing so slowly through a process that it almost feels like nothing is happening. But even the subtlest of motions is movement in some direction. It’s a process, I remind myself.
The process doesn’t have to be linear, scheduled, rhythmic, or predictable. It moves as I move. Ultimately, I am the creator of all my time. This is not a reality mothers are encouraged to explore. From the moment we are pregnant, we are inundated with fear narratives about how we won’t be able to “get anything done with a baby,” and so even before our little humans are born we are hardwiring ourselves, steeling our nerves for the never-ending battle to have time to ourselves. There is an overemphasis on adhering to a set schedule, on protecting our ephemeral solitude, and very little attention given to emotional cues, intuition, and a mother’s need for a peaceful, supported postpartum in community with other mothers.
The artificial acceleration, the pressure to go, go, go—and alone at that—no matter the cost to body, sanity, or wallet, soon becomes a rigid norm that is scripted for survival. This is how so many mothers, despite their most diligent efforts to sustain their creativity, lose the war. Tethering themselves and their time to a system where they are just as invisible as their labors, their once vibrant artist selves become dry, brittle remnants, shadowy memories from a time before birthing and babies. In a society addicted to going faster and faster, mothers wallowing too long in the rubble of dreams deferred are then made to feel shame for their failure to thrive at this manufactured speed. So many brilliant, amazing mother-artists succumb to the bullying to just let go of their fragmented, creative sparks, to surrender their art and just fall in line with the script.
But true creativity can never be completely suppressed. Everywhere on this earth there are bright bits of our potential flickering and beckoning to the mothers who can still feel something of a creative pulse. It is by way of these lasting strains of light that we mothering artists are able to find each other, and begin the labors of restoration and re/connection to our creativity and our passions.
It has taken many cycles of practicing, stumbling, recovering, and reimagining to realize that despite all the directives to accelerate, I am actually more fulfilled moving at a pace that is natural to my reality as a mothering artist, and one who is homeschooling three munchkins and running a family business. I have fresh, mother-centered eyes now. I see the development of a text, of a song, of a movement sequence amidst the lovely chaos of life with my little people. While chopping potatoes for breakfast I am singing loudly, composing a song for a new performance piece. While scraping poop off of a cloth diaper I am hearing the opening lines of a character’s dialogue, the way her hair falls over her face as she laughs coming into focus in my mind. While setting up a water and temperature experiment, the music is blasting and I am dancing back and forth from the cabinet to the table, arranging our supplies and giving my children some movements to play with as they run circles around me.
I wish I had come more gently into this understanding about how the interplay of time and creativity would be radically re/discovered in motherhood. Instead, it has been a turbulent, heartbreaking, exhausting, and at times bitterly discouraging, journey toward awareness. It was only after the birth of my third child that I finally, graciously, identified and embraced this language around slow mothering and saw its vital application in how I engage with my artistry.
Now I am breathing through my process, celebrating the access to the unexplored depths of my creativity that working slowly fosters. I rarely experience creative blockages and slumps as I am always engaged in some aspect of my creative process. My children, having splintered every sense of what is time and what is mine, have helped me embody more tangible and transferrable realities of what I can do with every second of the day and the many ways I can create as a mothering artist. I am so grateful for our evolving collaboration, and that I can see the beauty in our gradual progress. The world around us continues to move swiftly right along, but this snail’s pace is deeply generative in its own magical way.