(My son at the Serpentine Pavilion, 2015)
I have two children- one is now a teenager and the other one, nearly one. For all their lives and most of mine (and there were seven pregnancies with two live births), I have worked, starting with my first lowly job as a teenager working as a receptionist for a dentist. I am now an architect, author and artist. My children have always seen me working inside and outside the home. Therefore I was surprised to view this recent broadcast on BBC Two (3rd July 2015) presented by the model and entrepreneur Lily Cole ‘to debate whether having children inhibits or enhances an artistic lifestyle’. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the people she interviewed were mostly women- only one man appeared. Gavin Turk, the artist, was also interviewed but together with his wife, Deborah Curtis, who is also an artist. The programme was based around the infamous quote by the critic Cyril Connolly, ‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’. One got the feeling that Lily Cole, who was then eight months pregnant, was exploring her own fears about whether she would continue to be creative after the birth of her child. Barbara Hepworth also featured- how did she manage to be creative despite having four children, including triplets? But the possible dilemma of her husband, Ben Nicholson, the artist, was ignored. So I wondered if Cole meant to imply that this is a woman’s problem only?
The modern creatives- Holly McNeish, the spoken word poet, and Turk and Curtis- were sanguine and funny about the whole experience- breastfeeding in a public toilet, bringing babies to art shows, and doing those other crazy things parents have to do when they don’t have childcare, either paid or unpaid. My life was like that too- I brought my sons to business meetings, construction site visits, art shows and lectures and I know of other parents who did that too. Lionel Shriver, the author, who has chosen to be childless, spoke about the socio-politics of why and how only ‘white’ people were choosing to be childless or having less children- though her theories might be debatable (she appeared to have forgotten entirely about China, for instance). This led me to think more deeply about my experience of having children. I believe my children have made my life more creative, not less. It is far more simpler not to have to think about feeding and nurturing another person, about not having to argue with a teenager about pocket money, etc- instead just concentrating on being creative. But is creativity limited to just what you produce? Or is it about how you lead your life? My life with children has really enhance how I live my entire life with creativity. And I am proud that they are also known as creative people in themselves. There will always be people, who choose not to have children (like my beloved Uncle) but those who care and nurture others (like my Uncle did with me). I have creative friends, who are childless, and they enjoy my children’s company. Creativity does not depend on whether you have children or not, it is a state of being, that continues, regardless.