I have been looking at the Artist’s Livelihood Survey trying to work out how to fill it out in a way that reflects my working life. This got me thinking about the what happened to the project that this blog was written about. Reading the last few posts they reflect my excitement with gaining support from organisations like Stour Valley Arts and Dover Arts Development towards some work that really interested me. One of my comments was along the lines of…’its all getting a bit real!’ I was just going to submit my application for an Arts Council Grant. And then nothing. So what happened?
I find it difficult sometimes working out the parameters of a blog. What is professional and what is personal? What should be included and what left out? Anyway to talk about what happened to my project I will have to write about that blurry bit where the personal and professional overlap.
Towards the end of 2012 my husband and I were getting worried about his parents. His father had just had a fall and broken his hip. Clearly they were going to need a bit of short-term help until things were back to normal. They lived near us and we saw them quite frequently. Only once we started helping out we discovered that it wasn’t going to be that simple. Mike’s dad had we found out been doing everything in their household. He had essentially been his wife’s carer over the last few years so now they both needed help.
I would like to say here that at this point they got fantastic help from the Local Authority and the NHS in a way that probably isn’t available now. But we realised that it wasn’t just grab rails and meals on wheels that they needed. What would actually make the difference would be time, company and conversation. We had to make some big decisions especially as they didn’t want to leave their home. There were a whole lot of things we had to balance up. My work, Mike’s work, our kids and money constraints. It probably won’t be too controversial or surprising to say that my work (which I loved) was often stressful, irregular and didn’t pay well enough to have much room for manoeuver. During the time developing or carrying out projects I was often a drain on our resources rather than an asset. Mike often had to cover the bills anyway. We decided that I would essentially work (even more) part-time and would cut out speculative work (like applying for Arts Council Grants) and travelling. So no more applications for residencies or even for teaching or workshops if they weren’t nearby. And I would put the time into being with our older family. I realise that I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to make that decision.
Three years down the line, Mike’s dad is 92 and is doing well. My mum-in-law became more frail and died a couple of years ago. I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to spend proper time with her. In the meanwhile my mum (who is much younger) became unwell and is now going blind. Mike and I spend a lot of time with them, doing shopping, fixing things and talking. For my mum we are her only company during the week. This is not to complain. I feel so privileged to be able to do this. In many ways it reminds me of the time I spent with our children when they were young before school gave me a working day. However it has impinged a huge amount on (mainly my) work. Which is why I find myself sitting at the computer trying to fill out the Livelihood Survey and thinking that different questions need to be asked and more options available to describe what must be a very familiar work / life pattern. It makes me think that the problems I find with work and livelihood aren’t just ones that an artist would share or just for relatively low earners or people with elderly relatives but all sorts of people. It is all about how we value care and family.
As an afternote because I realise I haven’t talked about it at all…I have been able to make work over the last few years. Just more slowly.