I am no mother, I am no bride, I am king
I have written in a previous edition about motherhood as a catalyst for creativity but this issue I'm exploring the push and pull; the sacrifice, the fear of the sacrifice, the realities of it and the ambivalence that can surround deciding to become a parent and do creative work.
Let's get stuck in.
I never knew my killer would be coming from within
This edition's subject line is taken from Florence + The Machine's new track, King. In it, Florence Welch explores the price of making art as a woman, writing in the opening lines:
We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children / About the world ending and the scale of my ambition / And how much is art really worth
In a statement that accompanied the release, Welch has spoken about grappling with the realisation that she is going to have to make decisions that many of her "male idols" did not:
“As an artist, I never actually thought about my gender that much, I just got on with it. I was as good as the men and I just went out there and matched them every time. But now, thinking about being a woman in my 30s and the future, I suddenly feel this tearing of my identity and my desires. That to be a performer, but also to want a family might not be as simple for me as it is for my male counterparts"
The song continues:
But a woman is a changeling/ Always shifting shape/ Just when you think you have it figured out/ Something new begins to take
Writing for Nylon, Steffanee Wang interprets the line "strange claws… scratching at my skin" as representing Welch's foreign desire of suddenly wanting a family:
“I never knew my killer would be coming from within,” she sings, characterizing her own bubbling desires as a force that could potentially kill her career.
In an interview with NPR, Welch describes her feelings:
For me, it definitely felt like I would have to choose, depending on how I wanted to use my body for the next couple of years. And the rage was so acute. It was frustration as well. Just the frustration, which I think is the scream at the end of it. I think a reading of this song would be to oversimplify it, to be like she's against these things. I am not a mother, I'm not a bride. And the rage is not that I'm against them, it's the rage that actually, I feel completely split. I feel like I'm being torn in two.
You can watch the video for the track here and read the whole interview here.
How to do both
For a glimpse of the realities of being a rockstar and a mum, I turned to Pink: All I Know So Far, a fly-on-the-wall documentary which explores Pink's 2018-2019 Beautiful Trauma world tour.
With over 156 shows performed across 18 countries, it was the second highest-grossing tour of all time by a female solo artist after Madonna’s 2008-2009 Sweet & Sticky tour (2008-2009).
Directed by The Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey, the doc received some criticism for not being as raw or confessional as perhaps was promised ("The film spends far more of its time telling than showing," wrote one reviewer ). However, I was still riveted by watching Pink navigate both worlds – the magic and the mundane of both touring and parenting.
Some choice cuts:
There are many reasons why moms don’t do this. I know that it’s a lot easier for men, just primally, to just walk out the door and not look back.
On why we see so few female rock and pop stars touring as they become parents:
For a lot of moms, when they become moms they stop touring - because you can’t imagine being able to do both.
On deciding to bring the family on tour, and the pressures of doing both well
The only way I can justify dragging my family all over the world is that we’re making memories together. I want it to be worth it. I want the tour to be perfect for every single person that walks through those doors with a ticket in their hand. But I also want to to be perfect in my kids’ minds. And I’ll kill myself to do both.
On the challenges of being always on, in both worlds:
Some people walk out the door and they go to work and they leave what’s at home, at home and they go and do their job. I don’t walk out of a door, ever. Everything is melded into to one. That is both beautiful and incredibly overwhelming.
Stream the doc here (Prime Video).
A few more musical reads
Gemma Hayes, a long time musical love of mine, on how she needs to "step out of being a mother" in order to create.
"At a time when the joy of bringing a child into the world has too often been overshadowed by one geopolitical crisis after another, her unbridled feminine power was nothing short of life-affirming."
This Spotify series profiles musicians sharing their hard-won insights on navigating their careers while raising children.
An olide but a goodie – 18 musical moms talk motherhood to Paste.
That’s it for this edition. If you have any feedback, article recommendations or just want to say hi, I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading, and see you soon*,
(*How 'soon' exactly? The honest answer is I'm not sure. On the one hand, my inner Seth Godin-inspired voice tells reminds me of the importance of consistently shipping creative work, but my inner perfectionists hates the thought of hitting 'send' just to stay on track while my outer mother/freelance struggles to make the time I need to create. I adore the rabbit holes I run down while creating this newsletter, and hope that you enjoy them too, even if they don't come quite as frequently as I either of us might like them to.)