Last Sunday I had two things I had written in my calendar in pencil for myself. I often have things penciled in and usually, I don’t do them. I do family events, housework, or work first depending on which is more urgent, which means that there is rarely any time to fit in anything else.
Last weekend, one thing I wanted to do was go see a movie about stellar mothers and how they’ve found a balance between mothering, earning money and art. I bet you can guess I didn’t go.
When the weekend arrived, I actually didn’t even bring it up as a possibility. Why? Because I felt the need of the kids was greater. Okay, it wasn’t really a need, but I’d say it weighed about equal to mine in terms of life enhancement. Which I define as an activity that enriches ourselves and our family.
So we went hiking around ancient rock caves for a shelter-building project that is a long-anticipated climax of my daughter’s third-grade year. Both girls got to feel the volcanic tufa rock that is soft enough to claw with your hands. We walked through long flights of stairs worn away hundreds of years ago by feet climbing and descending cliffs to get water and tend crops. We crawled around inside the caves, saw the ceilings burnt black by ancient fires and the small cubbies for storage. We’ve visited this place before, but without a same sense of history and immediacy that might come from then going home and making a replica. We collected a small bucket of the white tufa sand to put on her cave dwelling carved out of foam. It was great.
And maybe if I had wanted, I could have insisted and rearranged the weekend. But that’s it – I didn’t want. Or I didn’t want badly enough. Oh, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have this all consuming role as a mother, a role more different and more meaningful than any other in my life, and I need and want to see it out as completely as possible.
Another factor: I need to work part-time now. This new element has elbowed and harrumphed itself into the middle of our lives and we’ve adjusted. But like much paying written work, the assignments, so far, are only mildly satisfying.
When the kids were little, our particular circumstances clearly didn’t allow for a lot of quiet time, so I didn’t do much of anything internal. Now as the girls grow up, my desire to grow as well is returning. So when and how does creativity and self-fulfillment come back into the picture? Mothering is a source of great fulfillment and, of course, is innately creative when it’s not intensely boring or wildly irritating. But that is a collective, outer creativity, not an inner, personal expression. I’ve been ignoring this, putting it aside, because what’s being called needs quiet and time to coalesce and rise to my mind.
So I’m facing a dilemma that most creative people face, parents or not. The call of the outer world is always a distraction that is famous for interfering with the next book, musical or painting. The solution has always been to create an schedule and stick to it. But what puzzles me now is how to do it — how to be even more efficient and squeeze more into our short busy days. It apparently means dropping even more outer things — dishes, laundry, healthy cooking, getting to bed on time — that I do now. And that is exhausting.
Inside me, I’m also facing a wildly rebellious mind, a total lack of confidence, and legitimate distractions — last week’s were taxes, budget planning, the basics of spring gardening and taking care of a thrown-out back. One assignment has ended, so I need to get cracking on finding the next one. Last week’s newly-minted resolutions about using some of my freed-up work time for creativity vanished.
I know, do it anyway. And have patience. But what is getting clear is that my self needs to find a higher rung up the ladder, a few steps up from the selflessness of pure mothering. I just haven’t found the, ah, creativity to make it work.