Dear Amanda Palmer (An Open Letter from a Fellow Artist-Mom)

Me at 38 weeks pregnant

Me at 38 weeks pregnant

Dear Amanda,

I read your post on Medium today and it punched me in the gut and lit my brain on fire. I too am an artist who for years resisted motherhood, for a lot of reasons, a big one being that I was terrified it would mean an end to my (other) creative life. In fact, in my 20s, I reached out to writer Keri Smith (do you know her?) when she became a mom, to share my fears, and she wrote this response: truthful things about being an artist and mother (for amanda). I share it here in case you find anything she says helpful. Years later, after I had in fact become a mom (much to my continued surprise  I think I was in shock for a good year after giving birth, if not longer), I was again on Keri’s site when I found a link to a film by Mary Trunk called Lost in Living, about mother-artists. You must watch this film. It made me feel so much less alone. And you must follow Mary on social media, because she is so good at sharing things from the subterranean culture of artist-mothers.

Why must we be subterranean?? I was so struck by what you wrote:

Where I grew up, there weren’t really any Mom Artists in my field of vision. There were nice housewives and welfare moms and bad-ass career women who worked in tall buildings in the city, but no artists in sight with babies. I simply did not equate ‘mother’ with ‘artist’. Artists were another breed of being entirely…

So no small wonder that as I approached my mid-thirties I entered a conflicted baby conundrum. If I had kids, would I turn into a boring, irrelevant, ignorable artist? Would I suddenly start writing songs about balance and shit? Would I have a sudden, terrifying, interest in the LUTE?

Would I become that annoying person who is so enthralled with their child that it’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation with them about art because they’d rather show you iPhone photos of their kid drooling out a spoonful of mashed carrots? This all made me really afraid…” – Amanda Palmer

Oh, Amanda. You should read the things I wrote when I was pregnant. So much fear about becoming “one of those people.” I think it’s interesting, because I think that fear isn’t actually just about not wanting to be an asshole, it’s about wanting to remain connected, versus isolated. Art is all about connection, of course, inward and outward, and that feeling of connection is our first, precious baby; how can we possibly take action that might put that baby at risk?

But you and I both know that holding on tightly isn’t as powerful as letting go. Improvisation is brave, and we are brave people. Curious people. I’m being presumptuous, assuming a “we,” but fuck it, I feel connected to you (there’s that word again) after reading your post, and some of the other things you’ve shared recently.

I want to say to you, as someone on the other side of giving birth (my daughter, Alison, is now 3 years old), that for me, it did get logistically harder to make art, but spiritually, it feels expansive. I have more creative impulses now, or am more aware of them (of course, if you have any more creative impulses, you might explode!). The challenge is a boring but very real one, of finding time — though for me, that challenge stems from needing to be a parent on top of making art on top of making money (since currently, my income and creative expression are not aligned… but don’t worry, I’m working on that).

So you’re already ahead of the curve on that one. You aren’t going to need to try to toggle between too many different parts of your life since — and here I’m making some assumptions, but based on what you share, they feel like safe assumptions — your life is already pretty profoundly integrated. (As you say, “If you are a touring indie musician, your life is NOT compartmentalized into neat little financial sections” — and I agree with you, money to support an artist should go to anything that artist needs to make her work.) I think you will find beautiful and probably untested ways of integrating your baby into the flow of your existence. It won’t be without difficulty but, what is.

(On the subject of integrating motherhood into your identity and life — I self-published a book on that topic. I swear to you I didn’t write this post just to promote my book to you; as I hope is abundantly clear, this letter truly comes from the heart. It wasn’t until after I wrote the first draft and was editing it that I thought, “You know, Amanda, your book is kind of relevant here.” Here it is, if you’re interested.)

For all the intellectual reasons not to have a child and all the very real logistical, financial and emotional challenges of parenthood, there is this on the other side of the scales: Love. I agree with you, there are other paths to love and fulfillment, but you’ve chosen to explore this path, and I wish you all the excitement and depth and, yes, CONNECTION, that motherhood has brought into my world…and I cannot wait to see what you share once your child arrives.

Wishing you all the best, with love –
Another Amanda

P.S. I am following what you’re doing with Patreon with keen interest. I have nowhere near your following but philosophically really believe in what you’re doing, and as I take steps to align the way I make money with my creative expression, I am definitely considering some unconventional approaches. Please wish me luck.

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