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carrying the mental load

The term mental load has been made popular recently by French Comic Artist Emma.  The cartoon describes the experience of many mothers as being the household project officer who not only (often) does the bulk of the household work but also manages everything from grocery lists to children’s immunisations. Due to this management responsibility it is estimated that women do 75% of the household work even when their partner does a reasonable share of chores.

There is one phrase in the comic that resonated for me as both a mother and an artist who mostly self generates her own projects.

“Once I started managing projects, I quickly stopped participating in them. I didn’t have the time.”

This phrase instilled a sense of fear in me. In the past I have experienced the detriment of my work as director when I have also been the producer. Now I am most afraid of no longer participating in my children’s lives, of not being present as their mother because I am too busy making sure everything is ok for them, that they have everything they need. When ironically one of the things they need the most is me – their mother.

I am far from alone in this predicament. Juggling the everyday mental load of motherhood alongside the need to earn a living and/or maintain a sense of self through creative practice is overwhelming. To be your best as a performing artist you must be present with your ensemble/creative team. To be your best as a mother you must be present with your children. But, more often than not, there are conflicting demands on your energy and time that take you away from your best.

This project has provided and continues to provide much needed creative engagement for artists who find themselves isolated from their practice due to their role as mothers. This engagement will ask questions and share stories of the experience of mental load and celebrate resilience of mothers.

Julie Waddington

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