Many years ago I realized that successful women artists generally don’t have children, the notable exception being the great German Expressionist, Käthe Kollwitz. Kollwitz, however, took the highly unusual course of negotiating child care as a condition of her 1891 marriage.
Her father, who had championed her career, opposed the idea of her marrying at all. “He had expected a much faster completion of my studies, and then exhibitions and success,” Kollwitz wrote. “Moreover, as I have mentioned, he was very skeptical about my intention to follow two careers, that of artist and wife.”
“You have made your choice now,” her father told her. “You will scarcely be able to do both things. So be wholly what you have chosen to be.”
Kollwitz proved him wrong, becoming both a mother and one of the inarguably great artists of the 20th century. But her father had a point and, 125 years later, the situation hasn’t changed much.
Knowing this, I went ahead and had four kids anyway. Last week my daughter stayed with me while her husband traveled for work. She’s an engineer but is suffering serious pregnancy-related health problems that have put her out of work temporarily. She also has an eight-month-old son.
I’m pretty intrepid, but I don’t have the energy to be ‘just’ a stay-at-home mom. Painting sun up to sun down three days in a row is less arduous than caring for an eight-month old baby. He’s got the boundless energy and teeth of a puppy, he’s fast, and he doesn’t like to be confined. Oh, and he’s trying very hard to walk.
I’m referring my daughter back to Käthe Kollwitz’ great insight: yes, you can have it all—if you have good child care.
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