I struggle with guilt. When I feel burnt out on being a stay at home mom (which happens at least once a day), I remember these years in my kids’ lives are short, that I am so lucky to have the option to stay home and that I am free to work on my writing or get things done around the house during their nap time. Then, I feel guilty for hating my life in that moment. Meanwhile, I re-joined the gym since Lady Bug has (mostly) dropped her morning nap. Now, I can drop her off at gym babysitting while Sweet Pea is in preschool and get a couple of hours to myself, either to work out, or to write in the lobby. But taking the two hours for myself provokes guilt, too. Instead of fully immersing myself in whatever I’m doing, doubts creep into my mind. Maybe I should do a shorter workout and not bring my computer to the gym so I can have a bit more quality time with the baby. If I could get up earlier, I could work out and write before everyone else gets up, and I could spend more time with the baby. I should sign us up for a music class instead of coming to the gym every morning.
The guilt doesn’t push me to do anything differently. Rather, it’s a low grade annoyance, like the constant background noise of Sweet Pea, my three year old, on an errand to Target, asking me if I will buy her every.single.pink.or.purple.thing she sees.
I didn’t know it when I downloaded it, but I really needed to hear Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast today.
I am a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. I even give her some credit for my move to Boulder, and subsequently meeting Dan. In this podcast, she’s talking to a woman, Erin, who has two school aged kids. Erin wants to write a book, now that her children are at school all day. However, giving more attention to her creative life will take her focus away from her family, and she is afraid of depriving them of her best effort as a wife and mother. Elizabeth Gilbert tells her first to accept the fact that she will not be able to give 100% to anything else in her life while she’s writing her book, and that that is ok. She also tells Erin this:
I am a creator because my mother is a creator.
That statement brought tears to my eyes, as I thought of my mother, her creative life, and her pursuits outside of our family. When I was growing up, I remember my mom was always doing something or making something. I remember being three or four years old and sitting quietly with my books or toys in the corner of a conference room, while she attended our temple’s sisterhood meetings, where she served as vice president. I remember being five and watching as she sewed and stenciled matching curtains and crib bumpers for my baby sister’s room. When I was ten, she would drive us to the bowling alley, hand me and my brother a roll of quarters and tell us to play as many video games as we wanted, while she bowled with her league. She always made or helped us make our Halloween costumes (although I was on my own for Boy George in the second grade). She hosted all of our birthday parties at our house, coming up with fun games and prizes herself. My mom always had a project or two going. She’d be caning a chair, working in the garden, mending something, her hands always moving. I never saw her sit down, except to smoke a cigarette, which she did once in a while when we were little.
As busy as she was, my mom always gave me her attention when I needed it. When I started at a new school in the third grade and I had no friends and kids were mean to me, she let me sit on her lap and cry for as long and as often as I needed. When I struggled with fractions, she explained and explained and explained until I got it. Whenever I needed to talk, she listened. When I was a teenager and I was sure everything she said was stupid and wrong, I was even more sure she was there and that no amount of my sass could keep her from loving me.
Maybe she didn’t always give me what I wanted, but she gave me what I needed, which is a far better thing to give a child. She also gave me some of her creative spark.
“I am a creator because my mother is a creator.”
Elizabeth Gilbert’s words remind me, you can be a good mom, even a great mom, because, not in spite of, your own creativity. One of the many things I want to pass on to my girls is my love for creating things. I hope I can do it the way my mom did it for me. I hope, too, that I can do it minus guilt.
4 thoughts on “Musings on Motherhood, Guilt, and Creativity”
I LOVED this. I listen to Gilbert’s podcast every so often (I find each one sort of a similar so I space them out over weeks). Anyway, I heard Erin’s and it was really good. I love Gilbert’s friendliness and her wisdom. I can relate to a lot of what you said about your mom. My mom was also busy with projects and with her needlepoint store as I got older. But yes, she was always there when I REALLY needed her and I grew to respect, not resent, her non-family life.
This was actually the first episode of the podcast I’ve heard. I tend to only binge-listen if it’s something that I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT get enough of (eg, Serial- which I can thank YOU for recommending).
I’m so glad that you aren’t letting that guilt dissuade you from taking the time for yourself. It can be easy for us to think that the kids are so little that they a) need us ALL the time and b) won’t remember whether we took time for ourselves, or what that time was spent doing, but in reality, we’re setting a good example for them by pursuing our own creative interests…that maybe someday we’ll be able to do with them, side by side! (I keep telling myself this, but seeing you actually DOING it is inspiring to me, so keep going!)
Thank you, Michele!! OMG, won’t it be fun someday when our kids are doing their homework and we are at our computers IN A SEPARATE ROOM at the same time!?