Sunday, July 12, 2009

Being Mommy and Artist

Several weeks ago I came to the realization that I no longer think of myself as Juliette, now I'm Mommy; moreover, when asked what I do, my first answer is stay-at-home mom with artist tacked on like a wistful afterthought.

And I'm a great mommy. I long worried about whether I could accomplish that lofty title (and all that it means), but have found in the past, nearly 2 years, that it came easily and naturally to me as it does to most women.

The thing is, though, that as much as I define myself as a mother before anything else; I am still an artist (and all that IT means). And, being that, I can be obsessively preoccupied with my own thoughts, need a (excessive, to some) considerable amount of time to myself, can sometimes resent things that keep me from working on whatever project I'm obsessing over at the moment, have occasional bouts of melancholy, and am completely unproductive (in most every way) when stressed out or worried about anything relating to the stability of my life.

Knowing these things, we have, since our move to california, had a nanny/roomate living with us. Happily, we are able to have someone care for Lily 20 hours a week.. To me, this time is not a luxury, but a necessity, and I cannot imagine how I would be able to function (much less be happy) if we were not able to have this help.

It is not without its own stressors, though. First of all, I have many feelings of guilt and frustration about my inability to take care of my child without outside help. Who do I think I am to not be able to do what other women do, with far less helpful partners, and often more children than we have? What is so special about me that I think I should have childcare those 20 hours when I am not contributing money to the household, am not even close to being a great housekeeper-- I still haven't even worked making dinner as a regular habit into my schedule!

And, at least as stresful to me, is the knowledge that many of the people in our lives don't really see having a part-time nanny as a reasonable (or at least, necessary) thing. I know I must seem like a spoiled brat to feel incapable of being a "normal" stay-at-home mom, who happily cares for her child 24/7 while keeping a tidy house and having home-made dinners ready every night. I often think that about myself, too.

And maybe it's true. Maybe I could be that person if only I would grow up, take myself to task, adjust my attitude... Accept a new lot in life; one where I am the loving housechic and mommy, where I accept that my art will have to wait until Lily and I are in a place that offers me lesure time, where housework takes precedence over ideas, where I accept (gratefully) the beauty and meaningfulness of home and family-- and gracefully let go of the obsessive need to create.

The thing is, though, that even the though it MIGHT be possible; the thought of giving up that part of me (even for a while) makes me feel like crying.

Who am I, if not an artist? How can I continue to exist if I force into a coma the parts of myself that most fulfill me as a human, that make me feel important, that have provided me with the greatest justification to persevere during the darkest parts of my life?

I see the examples of amazing stay-at-home moms I know. I see that they manage to raise healthy, happy, children and create warm andd loving homes for their families. I see that they do this without "time off' like I have. I see that they appear to be relaxed, happy, and fulfilled with their lives. I see it and ask myself 1) how do they do it? 2)why can't I?

Without that 20 hours a week I don't know how I'd be able to keep the house as well as I do. How do they manage to give their kids enough attention while keeping a house clean, cooking, gardening and having friends and hobbies? I can barely half manage with 20 hours free!

In the end, though, I hope I won't have to make that choice. As guilty as I feel, and without any good excuse, I will continue to take those 20 hours a week to myself. I will continue to allow myself to get lost in my passion of a new idea, I will continue to struggle with balancing Lily's needs and my own.

For the truth is, and may ever be, that I (deep down) am simply an artist. I truly (and completely) believe that I am incapable of happiness without creating. I believe that if I were to try to be that "good" partner and mommy, I would eventually sink into the darkest abyss of depression, I would drown in feelings of dissappointment and discontent, and worst of all I would resent having to lose myself (at my most valuable) in order to be what other people think I should be.

And I do envy women who are able to be what I cannot. Life would be easier, probably much better too, if I could grow-up and stop being the spoiled brat that I am. I know, though, that I am (as all artists must be) too selfish and self-centered to make that sarifice.... as long as I have any other choice to take.