Clouds were a theme in the works I created as part of this project in 2010 and represent a range of experiences.
Prior to having A I was very busy, always rushing from one thing to the next. As a new mother, as well as being exceptionally busy (in a different way), I found time to notice things I hadn’t done before. Early on when A was only a small baby, we would lie outside on the grass and look at the sky; I noticed what she noticed; the clouds, the sky, the trees and experienced being still in the outdoors in a way I had not done before
Now that A is a toddler, there is certainly no time to lie and look at the clouds (!), but we do spend time each day outside and enjoy playing at the park and in the backyard together. I have a new appreciation for the environment and for the facilities that we have in our neighbourhood.
The clouds in the work are made from material found at home, representing the resourcefulness of new parents (you draw on what you can as a mother). The other clouds are made from information we have received throughout our journey as parents. While on one hand receiving information can be helpful and empowering, on the other it can be an illusion for real choices. For example, while there is exhaustive amounts of information about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months, we don’t have maternity leave provisions for this time, so this is not a realistic option for many mothers.
This work references a question you often get asked by other people, and a question you often ask yourself as a new mother….’what do you do?’.
Sometimes I feel there is still an under-valuing of the work mothers do, and because it is hard to ‘measure’ this work concretely, there is often an assumption that it is ‘time off’ or leisure time, not ‘real work’.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In my experience (both personally and among the other mothers I know) mothers do so much, in fact I think it is probably one of the busiest and most challenging (and rewarding) roles in our society.
In my experience what I do as a mother, is an interesting contradiction. On one hand there is the ‘drudgery of the domestic sphere’, as much of your time is taken up by housework (hence the work on chux). On the other hand, you are raising a human being, each interaction you have with your baby is part of the process of development, as one commentator puts it ‘our whole society depends on the way each mother relates to her child; this is her motherly work’.