One of my favorite musicians, Amanda Palmer, is many things—former lead singer of the punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, independent artist who writes lovely confessional songs, bestselling author of The Art of Asking, beloved center of a huge community of fans who support her work through a Patreon page, wife to another of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, and for the last 5 months she's also been a new mom to baby Ash.
Since Ash was born, Palmer's done a remarkable job balancing being an artist and being a mom.
But it hasn't been easy.
Recently, she released a new song—"A Mother's Confession"— that shares some of her fears, failings, and worries about being a parent. After Palmer posted the song, she asked others to share their stories, saying: "if you are a parent and would like to add your own confession in the comments, i would feel less lonely. everybody else would, too."
Hundreds of people have offered anecdotes, encouragement, and support to her and for each other. As so often happens with Palmer's work, a supportive community has grown up around her art spontaneously. And it's almost as beautiful as the song itself.
"I'm both laughing and crying," wrote commenter Amanda Heague. "I can totally relate. dropping the baby, leaving it at home, locking a child in my grandmas house as we all left for lunch, forgetting to pick up a kid from school, closing all the doors between the screaming baby and the furthest corner in our garden, where I sat and cried until my husband came home from work.....they are all still alive, there are days where I wondered if I'd survive...... you are doing a champion job. xxxx"
Another wrote: "Are there any babies out there who have not fallen at some point?"
And another: "This reminds me of the first year we had a baby, and every night my husb& and I would congratulate each other on keeping the baby alive for another day."
As I listened to "A Mother's Confession, I heard echoes of specific moments from my early days of motherhood— my son falling off a changing table, being overwhelmed during shopping trips, crying in my car— and these lines really resonated with me, even after eight years of parenting:
i feel so useless in this universe
i know i could be doing worse
i'm trying hard to stay at peace inside
i know it's hard to be a parent
but my flaws are so gigantic
...i wonder if i should have had a child.
I caught up with Palmer to talk parenting, making art, and more. Below are some highlights, and you can read the full interview over on my blog.
Is parenthood harder than you expected?
That's a hard question to answer because I had no expectations—good or bad—about it. I figured I'd be doing myself and my kid a disservice if I went into it with any expectations—either of all love and rainbows or that it would be hell. So, I worked hard not to expect anything. I didn't buy baby books or go on the Internet, and, although I had almost no exposure to babies, I figured I'd allow my instincts to kick in and I'd listen to the wisest voices in my environment.
The steepest learning curve for me was following the new organization of my mother-brain. It's very disorienting, and I felt a bit like I'd been dropped on another planet without a map. Yes, I had instincts—but it was a challenge to have my parent and non-parent sides living together in my mind. Figuring out the new relationships with my child, with my partner, and myself were the hardest parts for me.
"A Mother's Confession" is your first song about being a parent—were you surprised to write it?
I've always been a confessional song writer, it's what I do. So it didn't surprise me that that was the song that wanted to come out. I never have any giant strategy for my career, or my songwriting in general. But if you take the ingredients of Amanda Palmer, it's not a huge leap of imagination that something confessional about motherhood would come out. I'm at my most interesting when I'm at my most vulnerable and confessional, but there were some lines that were hard to write.
That said, the song has given birth to such a wonderful and growing bunch of parent confessionals. I'm glad I did it.
Stating our fears, mistakes, and anxieties can be a really wonderful way of communing with one another. I love that the Internet, which can be so dark, can also be such a light and wonderful place.
What does the future hold for you and your family?
I have no idea, but I approach parenting like art making—plans are your enemy. It's better when you react and listen, and I've spent my life getting really good at improvisation, so I feel like I can improvise life. I don't think parenting is going to be any different.
Any other thoughts?
We can't control anything anyway, so do what you can do that you love in the moments you have. Do your best, constantly forgive yourself, and go on your merry way.