I want to talk about something actually serious today, and I’m going to try to be calm and respectful about it, even though my initial reaction was, “Screw you, Commenter Number 3!” Except the word wasn’t screw, if you get my meaning.
My two-and-a-third-year-old is sleeping as I type this. I have lots of other things to do: phone calls to make, bills to pay, maybe grabbing a shower, and then if there’s any time and energy leftover, actually writing or arting. Odds are good, he’ll sleep just long enough for me to type something, maybe get a shower, and then wake up while I’m towelling off my hair. Then he’ll be awake again, and he’ll need a snack, and he’ll need to be kept from throwing things at the cats, and he’ll need, and he’ll need, and he’ll need….
I understand that motherhood is a blessing (to quote a friend, “it’s a fact I have memorized”), and that good parenting is important, and that family is important, and good relationships are important, and so on and so forth. The problem I have with commenters 1 and 3 above (I’m commenter number 2, and I never get enough sleep) is that they are (deliberately or not; I’m sure they’re very nice people) poo-pooing with platitudes a very real problem.
Maybe I’m a terrible mother. (Most days, I’m convinced of it.) But sacrificing my personal goals and ambitions on the “altar of self” (or rather, the altar of catering to a tiny selfish person’s every need) doesn’t make me feel saintly; it makes me frustrated and pissed. I legitimately have goals for my life beyond my progeny, goals for my art, and it is ridiculous a.) to say that once you’re a mommy that’s all you are and can ever be, world without end amen and b.) to make me feel like crap for wanting to be a person, whole and entire, and not just mommy.
My friend asked a real question. She did it with a smiley face, because she is a wonderful, sweet, kind, smiley person. But the question–HOW?!–is legit, and deserves a legitimate response, not some Pollyanna bullshit. (Sorry, I said I was going to stay calm about this, and it’s not happening.) This is the short end of the stick, and you’re gonna like it anyway, helps no one. Plus, you are not doing your children any favors by sacrificing everything up to and including the things that help to fulfill your soul. Unless you genuinely are a saint (I’m not, God knows), it will only make you bitter, frustrated, angry and resentful. I am speaking from personal experience here.
So let’s engage this question: How does one pursue a career (in art or anything) while raising children? Does one pursue a career while raising children? Or is one S.O.L.?
If one is not S.O.L., how does one manage? What if daycare or hiring a nanny are not options? (They aren’t for me, and many others I know.) There’s only so long one can go short on sleep–and only so long going short on sleep is effective. After a while, you’re too tired at night to work, and too tired during the day to deal with the demands of motherhood.
I don’t know. I don’t have an answer, and I wish I did. I’d apply it to my own life and share it with all my friends. I just know, I’m tired all the time (and prickly too!), and I find it insulting to the genuine pain and frustration of the would-be working-artist-mother to say, “Buck up, you! Children are more important than your selfish ambitions, anyway!”