Today’s guest poster is Lily Mae Martin, a visual artist currently living in Berlin. I found her personal blog several months ago (she has another that focuses more on her career and artwork) and consider it to be one of the most engaging and inspiring I’ve read. She writes about the challenges of living abroad, the daily struggles of parenthood and the battle to honour her artistic drive and maintain a focus on her career. I get the impression that she writes straight from the heart without second-guessing herself. That takes courage. Her sketches are as important to the posts (for me) as the writing. Without getting too gushy – I can’t draw to save myself so I am in awe of her artwork. And I’m very happy to include two originals that she made specifically for this guest post. I asked her to tell us a bit about herself and about being a parent and an artist and why she started Berlin Domestic. Her Facebook Page is here. Thanks Lily!
The Berlin Domestic Project:
Hello, my name is Lily Mae Martin. I'm an artist, occasional writer, and full time Mother from Melbourne living in Berlin, Germany.
Life as a parent is not what I expected. In retrospect I'm not sure what I had in mind, but I guess I thought that sometime after having my baby I would return to life and to work – that things would resume as normal only with the addition of a baby.
This however was not the case.
My husband Gene, daughter Anja and I moved to Berlin when Anja was just six months old. I had previously lived in Berlin and had fond memories of it. But returning to this city with a small child made me realise how strange this place was – how strange the world has become now that I am a Mother. Everything has changed for me since becoming a parent. Everything. I tried to ignore it. And there were a few months last summer I really thought I had gotten my old life back – my old cares and concerns, but it was a lie.
Last Summer I had a studio and a baby sitter and began painting at a rate greater than ever before. I made friends; people got to know me as a single entity rather than as a Mother with a baby on my hip and a husband. But with this came expectations of me that I could not fulfill – parties that I couldn't go to, gossip I didn't care about, spending time at bars, gigs, etc.
One day my unhappiness hit me like a ton of bricks – 'What the hell am I doing?'
I was trying to live a life reminiscent of my old life, but in order to do this I had to dump the baby at home and live without spending any time with my husband; not knowing how his day went, who was in his life. Did he notice the cute new things Anja was doing?
So I gave up my studio and moved it into the family home. It was hard at first, as all new routines are, but after a few tears we all managed to settle in to Mummy working at home.
But I also worked out that my art was also a large source of my unhappiness, as it still denied the biggest part of me – my being a Mother. My work never reflected the hours of sleep that I had lost, the number of nappies I have changed, the countless meals I have cooked, the depths of my depression, the heart-achingly beautiful moments, the fretting over getting out of the house, the relentless piles of laundry, the piles and piles of dishes appearing from out of nowhere. The long, long months of being locked indoors during Berlin's freezing winter – Oh Christ, the isolation!
Then one day I thought – why not draw it? Why not write about it? There's a poetry in the folding of laundry, the sweeping of floors. An art in the food splatters and the cooking of countless meals.
So I started Berlin Domestic. Initially, I wanted it to be a book, but I also wanted to communicate with people, so I decided to start a blog instead.
Blog now, book later.
Some of the sketches take just a few minutes and I can do them while I'm with Anja, rather than hiding away in a cave to paint. Some take a few hours if I'm feeling inclined to spend the time on them. I can also do my writing on the go – on the back of receipts, on napkins or my small sketch book if I'm organized enough to remember it.
Over the past three months of blogging I have received emails from many people telling me their stories or relating to things that I write about. These emails and all the comments and support mean so much to me. It's so good to be communicating and not feeling so overwhelmed and so alone.