I wanted to post a link to this blog, Little Brown Mushroom, which was just sent to me by my friend B. The latest post, “On Being an Artist and a Mother–A Conversation,” really hit the spot for me today. I was frantic to turn in progress grades (the bane of my existence, progress grades), dealing with a student situation, lamenting the fact that two of my childcare days are done for the week and I haven’t even looked at my book, and wondering how I was going to wrap up all of this angst in a little ball and bury it before it was time to go get dear sweet L. Then I read this:
I just… [listened] to my two and a half year old yell from his bedroom in both in joy and despair for two hours in an attempt to not go to sleep while I sat in the living room trying to prepare tomorrow’s photo history lecture. I can definitely relate to finding it difficult to focus. When Oliver is talking-whether in the same room or not-I find it extremely hard to concentrate on anything else. Having a child and an art career, and teaching is a lot to juggle. I always wonder and ask other women how they do it. The most helpful response was from a photographer that I greatly admire who said “sometimes you are a not-so-great artist, sometimes a not-so-great mother, and sometimes a not-so-great teacher.” Hearing that made me feel not so bad about being not so great all the time at everything I was trying to do. Since grad school I made the decision to define success as continuously moving forward in some way, even if very slowly. And while I continue to ask artists with children how they do it, always hoping for some bit of wisdom that will make doing it easier, I realize that I am doing it too. For me, finding some balance (though that word makes life seem a little more stress-free than it is) happened when my son started going to day care two days a week and I had those days as studio days. I could focus on my work those days, teach a few mornings and be genuinely present when I was with him.
How I long to be fully present with L when I’m with him. It’s been a struggle of late, my desire for a job I don’t have to take home–but is still as fulfilling as working with students–so that on the days it’s Mama and L we’re really with one another, and I’m not worrying over whether I said the right thing to my student or what we’re doing in class next time or whether I’ll have time to finish up progress grades and lesson plan while L naps (or doesn’t). I am practicing detachment, but most days it doesn’t work that well. I found it really comforting to hear from someone else about trying to lesson plan while your kid refuses to nap (you all know I have blogged about this very phenomenon before). Childcare is such a blessing. L has been napping at Lorena’s very faithfully, and when I pick him up, he is happy and healthy. Repeat: this is such a blessing. Balancing it all is still a challenge, though, and I’ve been very busy and pretty stressed out the last 48 hours. Sometimes it occurs to me that life will always, always be like this, and that even an office job would leave me with angst to ball up and take home. Teaching, writing, and child-rearing seem both perfectly suited to one another and extremely conducive to burn-out.
I didn’t intend to write today so I will leave this here and now. More soon, comrades.