Rufus Mufasa is just about to release the follow up album to her award-winning debut Fur Coats From the Lion’s Den (2017). Here she writes about the power she draws from motherhood for her music.
There’s a saying that mothers don’t sleep, they just worry with their eyes closed. We carry invisible note pads full of invisible lists. Constant lists. We micro and macro manage.
Few of us will be unscathed by labour, or pre or post natal care, to then be catapulted into the unknown without a pause to catch our breath. I’ve had two bouts of PTSD, two post labour surgeries.
My Nanna had seven children. She never stopped, and carried on caring for all the grandchildren that would follow, and when wondering how she coped, with five children more than me, the answer is easier to find than I thought, because even as a young girl I supported my family’s younger generation. I spent the entire summer one year walking my cousins Paul and Paige miles in the countryside. I was eleven, maybe twelve. They were tiny. I can still see those days. Beautiful days. If you are reading this, I love you, always.
Geographically, we are set up differently now. Fundamentally, we are different now. Grandparents are working until their seventies, or are too aged to support in the same capacity. Add that, to both parents working, breakfast and after school clubs, education systems at capacity, extracurricular activity, no time for creativity, not really, political uncertainty, food banks feeding families… it would be fair to say that we are all feeling frazzled.
We recently became a family where Dad stays at home, and I work full time. Private contractors taking over council contractors made my partner’s job impossible to sustain decent mental health, and our schedules were always impossible to compliment or coordinate with each other’s and parental responsibility, childcare costs were insane to sustain, changing rotas made it impractical to safeguard regular days for support, so something had to give.
Freelance can be so unnerving, sometimes brutal, especially when payments are late. I’m still finding the confidence to profess that I am a writer, and question its ability to pay the bills. I recently considered retraining completely, because the rejection in this game can make you feel very confused about who you are, and what you do… it’s a constant muddle, but it’s my muddle and we are working it out. I’m learning to love the rejections, and am aiming for at least 100 a year, because that means I’m doing it right. But there are a handful I’ve shed tears over.
My partner is home full time, and is also having the opportunity to work on his art. He drops a new album on the 27th May, titled The Pride: Magic & Molecules. Completing this at home was enough of a challenge, and probably would not have happened had he been working crazy shift patterns full time. And he has always done the majority of the cooking.
But despite the equality that we are demonstrating, and with me working full time hours, I still do the majority of the laundry, the shopping, the organising, the sorting, the sock matching, the folding, the clothes rotating, the charity shop bagging, my fair share of mopping, the plotting, the planning, the scheduling, the packing, the listing, 50% of the cleaning, the hunter-gathering, the Christmas nesting, party organising, the accounting… I still worry with my eyes closed.
I’ve turned up to events and people have gasped in horror -“Where are your children?” I give them an equally panic stricken look in return. People have commented “You’re so lucky that your partner cooks”, as if I’m living it up. Even in the trenches of parenting I still have to work, to meet deadlines, have to make difficult choices… and we have both thought it, although it has even been said out loud: “When is this going to pay off?” It is in these moments that I think maybe this is pretentious? Maybe I should just throw my efforts elsewhere… then I send the thing, the thing that feels impossible to get in on time, I get on top of the admin, and the invoicing, and the build up of emails and messages, and I remind myself that it is paying off; I’ve had funding to give me time to write and have secured other opportunities in abundance… but this game feels like a constant battle between blind audacity and crippling self-doubt, and in the chaos of our house, that we’ve made home, our way, on our terms, my girls pull me on to the kitchen floor, and I stop, I really stop, to play, and just be, until someone wants me to get something, or to do the laundry, or the washing, or the kettle I forgot I put on starts screaming… and I’m learning that sometimes the dishes can wait, but sometimes they really do need doing.
Collectively, we need to readdress the balance, reassess the frameworks in place at present, and strive for less rat race and more family/human centred job specs, and give parenting the value and thanks it deserves. Culturally we’d thrive.
I’m blessed, because as unsteady as freelance can sometimes feel, it’s working for us in other ways, and most of the time our rule-bending is making things better. I don’t know if I’m right, but I know it’s wrong to pass on so many of the old rules. I long for my daughters to be creators not consumers, and for their lists to be filled with wise wishes, and for their sleep to always be deep.
Please check out Dishes, a new single I released by the skin of my teeth on Mother’s Day, a collaboration with Kevs Ford, nurtured by Bel Blue, Beautiful Andy and Helen Malia. Cover Art by Marion Cheung.
And here’s a Wales Arts Review exclusive, Sweet Mother I See You, from our forth coming album, The Pride: Magic and Molecules. Cover Art by Becky Davies.
Follow @rufusmufasa for further information.
Massive shout out to Nain and Grandad, because without your support none of any of this would be possible.