“I would have been either 100 per cent mother or 100 per cent artist. I am not flaky and I don’t compromise…There are good artists that have children… they are called men.” These are the recent comments of English artist, Tracey Emin, who thinks that having children could be the difference between being a good artist or a great artist – as in, you can’t be a great artist if you have kids.
Anyone else’s hackles raised in feminist indignation? Luckily not just mine – as evident by a comeback article by artist, Venus Backfire. She says: “As both a female artist, represented by a respected London gallery, and a mother, I don’t know what I find more offensive; that I can no longer be “good,” that I am perceived as “flaky,” or that I am apparently unable to commit fully to either my child or career.” And doesn’t she make a good point?
Childbirth is not the end. In fact, it might just be the beginning! Putting your time and your body to the noble cause of bearing and raising a child does not mean the end of all intelligence of talent – it’s not like these leave your body along with the baby.
Sure, this might not be exactly what Emin meant. Perhaps she was referring to the fact that an artist is more limited as a professional – perhaps no maternity leave to make use of, a harder time of maintaining their space in a gallery and being taken seriously as an artist. But if this is the case, I can’t help but feel sorry for her. Statements like hers too often seem to result in a lonely life and personal regrets. You could be the most successful artist in the world but what does it matter with no one to share it with?
“There are good artists that have children…they are called men.” This quite gets to me. Yes, a woman does the bulk of the work in bearing a child. But surely in this day and age, if she had to go back to work, some arrangement could be sorted? Stay-at-home dads are not uncommon these days. A professional artist, even without children, surely has some flexibility in their hours (how else to be creative?). And as for being “flaky” – which in Emin’s definition of the word just means both being a parent and a professional – couldn’t that be seen as extra hardworking?
Venus makes an excellent point – creativity is not stilted by childbirth, but rather rejuvenated by a new, exciting and challenging phase of life. What could be better for your career, really?!
What do you think? Can a creative, flexible career work with raising children?