Awake in the night 4am-5am. Awake awake just before 7am.

Me and Syd are tired and slow out of bed. I coax him up with the breakfast he bought yesterday, sugary cereal and sugary french biscuit spread for toast.

He comes downstairs in the new trousers that I bought him for school.

Me: They look a bit tight Syd 

Syd: They are skinny fit mum, they are a perfect size 

The trousers are clearly far too small. I will have to take them back when he is not looking. He is a size 14 at least. Syd is growing as fast as the courgette plants. His feet are now measuring size 9H now. H fitting so so wide. He is going to be a tall broad wide footed man.


I get Naoise up, lift him into the shower. He shows me various poses that depict dinosaurs. He requests dinosaur names I can only come up with a few I am brain dead, brontosaurus, diplodocus, tyrannosaurus rex. His poses remind me of yoga positions. He has amazing balance and agility. I look at his tiny bone structure and the curve of his back. He is small but strong. Naoise is much more compliant. The mornings are calmer now his dad is away at work There are some blessings with all this extra work. He no longer fights me to school. He is calm. I am calm. We are happy slowly getting up and being pleased to get to school without the anxiety. Too many parents upset the apple cart. I am happier parenting alone. No contradictions. No disagreements. No lecturing.


Naoise is horrified by a large spider crawling along the edge of the bed. It is a big house spider. I don’t want to pick it up with my hand, instead I scoop it into one of Naoise play test tubes so we can both have a good look at the giant. Naoise calls it a grandad spider. The spider is missing one leg. Naoise lies on the bed watching the insect battling to free itself from perspex.

We go down stairs with the spider. Naoise happily eats his way through two wheetabix, clearly approving of his brothers cereal choice. I am glad of his appetite. I am glad to see him eat, for usually he eats like a nat. I hate to send him to school on an empty stomach.

He arrives happy to school, and I leave him looking after his friend who is not sure that he wants to leave the security of his mum’s legs.

In the studio. Thinking what needs to be done. Need to write a presentation about this project for The Motherhood and Creative Practice conference. I have been feeling ambivalent about these words. These words have been interrupting the creativity rather than aiding it. These words have become monster. What keeps me doing it ? Resilience, a responsibility to myself, to persevere even when doubt creeps in. Words that must be put down. Recording for the sake of it. Trying not to analyse. Not worrying if this is just one long conversation with myself.

Feelings of paranoia have crept in. Worry about ideas. Artists have ideas, but they don’t always share them. Perhaps I give away too much, share too much, the all giving mother/artist. If you give it all away what is left? I am empty. I am an empty. I am tired. I am awake with worry, listening to the dawn chorus. I have not been reading. Reading strengthens the words. The clarity. I am slipping into verbal diahorhea. More words are not better. Less is more, but there is no time for editing, just a river of thoughts full of spelling errors and slips and stumbles of thoughts.  Between the mess and the clutter there maybe something. I need to lift the stones, sort through. Pick out. Find focus. How to move forward ?

Words. This is an emerging practice. These words lie. Some days I have had to work backwards remember what happened. I have gone to bed without writing this. I have not been truthful. I should have left a gap. Been honest. I have not been able to write everyday. I have not. I confess.

I struggle at the weekends. I struggle now Patrick is working longer hours. I seem to have lost the flow, the continuity. I have become repetitive. Patrick see’s this project as a threat. I remind him that it is about me and my journey, but I understand I have walked a precipice. I should not mention his name, he does not want to read about himself here. Should I apologise? Should I censor? Have I done damage? Have I forgotten the ethics of this ? You can become lost in an art work. Art work tends to have a life of its own. A way of making itself.

I thought about the pram film again. I need to make this pram film. A pram falling, collapsing, disintegrating, tumbling down a cobbled path.

In the school yard, my friend was carrying a plastic bag full of nappies to give back. I remember us both, caring for our babies together, our boys in fluffy bottomed reusable nappies. Time flies. I hold one of her nappies from the plastic bag in my hand, turn it around and over and over. Touching its fluffiness, remembering, a time before, a time gone, a time never to be repeated. Endless nappy changing and washing and hanging out on the line. I liked the reusable nappies there was pleasure to be had in knowing  that  I wasn’t wasting the worlds resources. Pleasure in lines full of cotton nappies soft and clean. Folding them carefully back into a draw. Pride in simple things. So many nappies to put on and take off and clean. Again and again.I also remember the back ache from repetitive tasks of care. Nostalgia is a great thing, I am looking back at this time with affection, I know it was not always so fluffy. I know that there was always thoughts of ambivalence of drudgery of numbness and always a longing to be alone, to have a break, to get washed uninterrupted, to be able to manage to complete the washing up.

What is it that I said that I would talk about? Something to do with failure and maintenance.

Found the abstract, I will try and structure the presentation around these questions this will be a start….you have to start somewhere, but my head is a numb mess and I am no good at editing…..try not to worry, try just to act, the process will sort through the clutter….tidy up the thoughts…spring clean it.

Where is it that I am failing? In what ways do I feel that this artwork fails, where does it break down, what gets in the way of creative production, what aspects of mothering feed the creative process and what aspects of mothering and domestic work get in its way? Failure perhaps is a positive strategy for making, when I fail, I acknowledge that I am not super mum. Perhaps it is impossible to combine the role of a mother with that of an artist, are there too many unrealistic expectations of each? How do I manage these duel identities and accompanying workload of (being) mother and artist.

Helen Sargeant, Failure and Maternal Imperfection.


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