Artist Miranda Skoczek On Single Parenting, Smelling The Roses + Spontaneity

Hello Miranda! You live out in Belgrave with your son and aunt. Did moving to the outer suburbs of Melbourne change the fabric of your family life?

Moving to the Dandenong Ranges a few years ago didn’t really change the fabric of our life that much. From Harper’s very early days I would ensure almost a daily stroll through the botanical gardens, as I wanted that nature-filtered air to fill his wee lungs. Now, living in close proximity to the giant Mountain Ash, I hope to have instilled a deep respect and awe of nature.

I have a very supportive but small family made up of key figures that have shaped who I am, and who Harper is. As a child, my mum’s sister was like my second mum, and five years ago when Harper and I had our ‘tree change’ I dragged my ‘city girl’ aunt with me.

Whilst Harper and I immersed ourselves in nature, we still had a great connection to urban life (his father is there) and we both still needed the stimulation city life offers. We love the contrasts our life – the support of nature coupled with the inspiration galleries, cafes, skateparks (so many skateparks!!) offer.

What were your perceptions of ‘family’ growing up, and how have these changed since becoming a parent?

My perception of family growing up was that substantial attention to the child’s wellbeing – physically and socially – was paramount. My brother and I grew up with two parents who were devoted to our physical and cultural health. We were always kept busy with extracurricular activities, made most aware that to perform at school was important! We were taught to care for ourselves but also for others, and our curiosity for life in general was forever nurtured.

There were definitely very clear boundaries between us children and our parents; much to mum’s dismay, when it comes to raising Harper I’m a lot more lax.

Having said that, parenting is a multidimensional, challenging process. Harper and I have complete and utter love and admiration for one another and that passion truly nourishes and sustains us, but I’ll scream my head off when he pushes me too far, and immediately he knows I mean business. I think the most important element of parenting is to listen; as unorganised as I can be with my life at times, I check in every day and we have super honest discussions.

Would you say you live a spontaneous life?

Ah yes, spontaneity was once my greatest attribute and yes, I definitely consider our life to be spontaneous. It’s less so these days during Covid, but I absolutely value its ability to add spice to life. I know we’ll get back to a higher level of it one day. Harper is a very resilient child – he’s so adaptable to change and that makes life easy for us.

Are you an advocate for multi-generational living?

I’m an advocate for whatever it is that works for the individual. These past five years I have been afforded immense support as a parent, artist and individual because my aunty, Margaret (Gosia in Polish), has lived with us. She most definitely has her own life, but life has been far easier since she’s been living with us.

So yes, I am an advocate for multigenerational living, but it’s definitely been important to have clear distinctions between Gosia’s ‘end of the house’ and mine.

Do you split the parenting load?

Harper’s father and I have an arrangement that seems quite standard: mid-week Harper spends a night with his dad, plus every second weekend. I miss him a lot some days, and others, I’m pretty grateful to get the ‘me’ time.

Do you date?

Oh I did date, I gave it a red hot go for a while there, but in the last 12 months I’ve all but given up on actively seeking out a mate. I have my ‘little mate’ and I have my career, I have a home and social life that feeds me. A Florentine palm reader told me decades ago that men would come in and out of my life, and he was right. Being single really gives me the freedom that I enjoy.

How would you describe yours and Harper’s relationship?

Our relationship can only be described as honest, pure and passionate. He tells me what he thinks, and I him. We love each other unconditionally and with great intention. Harper is wise beyond his years emotionally, and as much as it is my role to parent and provide, he amazes me with his ability to make me accountable.

As a single mother, do you have a strategy you’ll use to approach ‘teenage years’ with Harper?

I started to sow the seeds for the teenage years, years ago. Shan’t lie, they scare me terribly sometimes. It’s a whole new world compared to when I was a teen, so the importance of nurturing an honest relationship is key. You want your kids to have the confidence to tell you when they’ve stuffed up so you can navigate the consequences together.

I did recently say that if Harper were to ever find himself lost/mixed up with the wrong crowd I’d sell everything, buy a van and we’d drive off to learn and do life on the road. Did I mention I’m a hopeless romantic?!?!

You’re an artist and a single mother, which means you’re without the conventional support structures lots of people have (a 9-5 job, a partner to share the load). How do you navigate single parenting when you don’t have structured work-days or a ‘traditional’ income stream?

I think with what I’ve banged on about just now: honesty. Harper knows all my secrets. Okay… perhaps not the darkest ones – no need to stress a young mind – but definitely I let him see life for all that it is. Both the immense beauty and hope that it can hold, but that it isn’t always roses. He knows all too well about the ‘feast and famine’ that my/our life is.

I’ve taught him from day dot that happiness does not come from material worth (despite having a mother who has an almost incessant need for ‘things’). I’ve taught him and continue to teach him the importance of enjoying his own company, and the old adage that only ‘boring people get bored!’

He is my life, but I have a life too. If I need to work, he needs to grab a book and occupy his time so that I can do what’s necessary to give our life options. Having said that, I’m not motivated by money, and I have always opted to be at almost every school drop off and pick up, and not work all that much when it’s school holidays. He is my ‘numero uno,’ so work can wait.

Families, relationships and love are such fertile grounds for creativity. Does your family life manifest itself in your paintings?

Oh without a doubt. I have always been playful by nature, but since becoming a mum, I value the importance of play so much. I’ve absolutely become a better painter too, since my role as a mother. I’ve learned to have confidence in my ability to make decisions, and to trust my intuition as a parent. The process of life and love are woven into my paintings, and home life is a constant source of inspiration for my practice. My home and my paintings are intrinsically linked.

What are you optimistic about for the new year?

I’m a perpetual optimist. I absolutely face challenges – mental health and the like, but I’m very good at not worrying about the future – I feel grateful for that. I have a full calendar of shows for the next 12 months, a son I adore, a supportive family.

Covid is obviously a problem but we will get through this, we need to focus on the little things, and be grateful for those.

I’m looking forward to planting more trees, painting more paintings, focusing on giving myself more sleep, getting fit (finally at 45).

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