Squeezing my self back into the picture

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.

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4 Responses to Squeezing my self back into the picture

  1. First Gen American says:

    I didn’t start my family until my 30’s, so I feel like I got alot of my bucket list items already ticked off. Also, my this time in my life, I am enjoying re-living childhood with my children. It’s not just about “parenting” which is an obligation, but it’s being right there in the moment with them when they experience something for the first time that’s awesome, and a lot of things take the back seat to that. I try to add variety to their childhood experience in such a way that I’m enjoying myself too. I love the beach, parks, museums and zoos, so we go to those places. I hate Chuckie Cheese, so we haven’t been back there in 3 years. I’m definitely not the lay on the sword type when it comes to that stuff. I actually like the bounce house because it gives me some reading time while they are out having fun.

    I think you can still be you while you’re being a parent at the same time. It would be a disservice to your kids if you were somebody different. I’m coming to realize that childhood goes by super fast and there will be time to do all those me-centric things when they are gone and out of the house. In the meantime, I’m fine with planning my weekends around “us” things…just as long as it’s something that will enrich my life as the same time as my children’s. Nature rocks and it’s even better when I’m dragging my kids along and having them try to spot animals and balance across a tree stump.

    • First Gen American says:

      ooh, sorry for all the typos.

    • growingmygirls says:

      Sandy — Thank you for your insights.

      I too started my family late (yes, I’ve had a few people ask me if I’m the grandmother because I don’t dye my hair) and feel similarly, and I do enjoy living my children’s childhood with them. And I HATE those loud children’s “fun” place, so we don’t do those much. This post was more about changing the family balance — it may be more about my personality than anything else. As they get older, there are more demands in terms of time, my husband isn’t always available to share the work, and I find I’ve put “something” aside that I want to bring back. Still exploring this — it may be that patience is where I have to land, rather than elbowing other family things out of the way to meet my own wishes.

      Also, one of my kids LOVES many things I don’t like, like those Chuckie Cheese place, hates hiking etc… and as she gets older, how much do you insist and how much do you accommodate — another juggling act. We recently went to visit White Sands National Park and she complained mightily and asked if she could stay home and I insisted that she come, and she loved it. But I’m sure it won’t always go that way. Just very interested in how other moms do this and it constantly changes.

  2. Pingback: Trusting That I Can, Day 20: Earning my keep | growingmygirls

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