It has taken me a long time to get this post written. It's a tough one because I have so many thoughts on the subject. Especially now, as I am rediscovering what being mother means - the power and all the wonder and beauty of it. I'm writing a treatise on motherhood. I have a list going of "gifts" I want to give my children as their mother, lessons I want to make sure I teach them, and qualities of character I want to instill. I think there is power in defining these things, especially in putting them in writing. This installment on motherhood is dedicated to Brooke who emailed me a question. I taught Brooke art lessons way back when she was in high school and I had one little baby. Now, she has a baby and is searching for that balance, just as I was then, how to be an artist and a mom.
My response is going to come in two parts. Part one is the practical advise, that which I would have wanted to hear. The second is what I want to say on the subject now.
Part one answers, "how do you manage your time so you can be an Artist while being a mom?" I get asked that question a lot. The answer is organization. I work so hard to stay organized, using all sorts of tools, like chore charts, check lists, and whatnot to keep myself and family on task. I exercise and get ready for the day before the taking the girls to school, I clean the kitchen and read my scriptures by nine, I check five things off my running to-do list, and then, most days, I can go into the studio to paint until school gets out and I have to put it away. And, I have worked really hard to teach my girls to be self sufficient. When we get into a rut and recognize it's not working, we reinvent, restructure, flip it upside down and start something new. I have some bizarre systems, but they keep me accountable to accomplish all the needful things. It's hard work, it's really hard. You have to think, be creative and try to stay one step ahead! Then, you have to carve out some specific time to work. Even if it is a half hour at a time, and it seems like you are painting one square inch a day, something is better than nothing and it will add up. The secret that I am going to whisper to you now is this: no one is going to give you the time to paint, you have to take it. It requires a bit of selfishness. My biggest dilemma today is how to balance work time with all the other I could be doing. I mean balance as a verb, constantly adjusting, acting and reacting. There are a lot of good things I could be doing, and I have to put away guilt and doubt constantly. I have learned not to try to justify the time I spend painting and question what my art is worth, but just get to work. And if my intent is to glorify God, to create that which is good and uplifting, all will be well. I am not about to have the audacity to say that in the end my art will have had the effect that my dad's has had on people, but I hope it does. It is essential that you have an answer, with conviction, of why you paint. So, why do you paint? Write it down. Put it where you can see it, read it every day. Decide, then do it. And be patient. A drawing in your sketchbook counts, there will be a day when you can work 8 hours straight! (And your back will ache and you will wish you had a baby's neck to nuzzle.)
Part two answers, "my biggest concern is that I will get too caught up in being a Mom that art will be set aside." What I want to say is what could be more wonderful than being so caught up in being a mom that it overrides your desire to do something that you are passionate about. But, I remember those early days of motherhood. I went a little bit crazy after my third was born. Like, Mad hatter crazy. I mumbled incoherently and forgot to get out of my pajamas most mornings. There were other factors playing, but mostly it was just having a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and baby underfoot, every day, all day, relentlessly needing. And, I remember feeling like I was losing myself. My body, my time, my energy, all was going to them, and my perception of self was becoming frail. I worked so hard to keep painting during that time, desperately clinging to threads of me. A lot of my paintings showed a separation of my mom-self and my me-self. My apron strings were in knots and strangling me. I saw the beauty in motherhood, but I was drowning at the same time. Fine time for my professional career to take a leap. I was in demand, I had come out with my Delia's Dream series, paintings with children. It was a huge hit, I was in print! I was being defined as a painter of children, and after that series I just couldn't do it anymore. Little girls were everywhere, I needed them not to be in my paintings as well. My paintings had to be me. I needed to process the conflicting tangle in my head. I think most mothers have gone through something like this, a fear of losing one's self. It used to make my heat rise a little when the old ladies at the grocery store would tell me to enjoy every minute, because it goes by so fast. As baby is screaming, toddler has to go potty and I am ready to pull my hair out! But, I really get that now. It does go by fast, so fast. You don't have to enjoy every minute, but do enjoy some of them, lots of them, and those will be what you remember. (That is what the old ladies are remembering.) I loved each of my babies fiercely and took time to rock them an extra minute, breathing in their smell before I laid them down for a nap. That is the stuff we remember. We remember the crazy parts too, chuckling as we recall lipstick on every surface of the bathroom... and children. Do what you have to do to hang onto yourself, take that time to be alone, to ponder, to work, to be with you. Here is the magical thing that happens. So gradually that you don't notice it happening. They get older, they start to think about things, you get to have real, meaningful conversations. One day you have this aha moment when your daughter says something that sounds exactly like you. You realize that your children reflect you in their thoughts, actions, mannerisms. And there you are. Your were there all along, and now you see yourself through them, more clearly than ever before. Realizations about what you say, how you say it, what you are teaching them as they watch you become tangible. It can be scary, but it is a beautiful thing. Get caught up in it. Get so caught up. Let it inspire your art, let your art inspire your parenting. Use your creativity, use your gift for expression to enhance the raising and rearing of your children. Be an artist, be a mom, and let these aspects of you live in harmony. Separating, crossing over, ebbing and flowing with every season of your journey.