In September my son started school. Well, not ‘proper’ school – a Steiner Kindergarten for three mornings a week but as far as he is concerned it’s school. There are many aspects of this transition I had anticipated – lots of fretting ahead of time! -but I want to tell you of one experience I hadn’t expected.
Day one. I got up at 6am to lay out his clothes and to make his packed lunch. Standing alone in the kitchen, dark still outside, laying a slice of cheddar cheese onto a piece of bread for his sandwiches I suddenly felt like a proper mum. It was a powerful feeling but even in the moment the absurdity of it made me smile. Of all the things I have done for my son since he was born – the breastfeeding into his toddlerhood, the distances I have carried him, the upsets I have soothed, the messes I have cleaned up, the rages I have navigated, the crazy games I have played, the nights I have missed sleep – it was this, the making of a cheese sandwich early in the morning, that finally prompted an imaginary badge of honour to descend from above and pin itself to my shirt, on which was written the word: “Mum.”
It made me think about the strength of the images we receive and internalise that impact profoundly on our sense of legitimacy and our confidence. More than once since starting Mothers Who Make, a mother has contacted me to ask whether she would be allowed to come to a meeting since she isn’t really being a ‘proper’ artist at present. Others come but talk about feeling like a fraud. Yes, you can come! No, you are not a fraud!
But here’s my question: What are the images you carry, the yardsticks against which you measure yourself? What, to you, is a ‘proper artist’? Or a ‘proper mum’? What do proper artists and proper mothers do? For me, apparently (and I did not know this till last month) proper mothers make early morning cheese sandwiches. And you?