I'm a Mother, Not a Soldier
I wrote a great article the other day, poking another hole in the myth about us not having time to create and pursue our dreams.
I write about this particular topic over and over again, because I know this is one of your issues too. It’s the number one reason people give for not going for their dreams. I have no time. (Closely followed by I have no money.)
Regardless of our specific circumstances, whether we have no kids or five, whether we have a lot of money or none, whether we work three jobs or are stay at home parents, we all say the same thing. We have no time. If only I had time, I would ….
No, you probably wouldn’t. If you had some time to spare, you’d probably fill it with something else, like you have done this far. Like you’ll continue to do until the end of time, or until you get real with yourself.
Do you truly want what you say you want? Do you want it bad enough? If you do, there is time. You will have to give up on something else, for sure. Great dreams don’t come at bargain prices. It’s going to cost you, but if you’re willing to pay (the currency is commitment) there’s time to be had.
That’s what I wrote about. And this morning I deleted it all.
It’s true, what I wrote. All of it is true. But it’s not the whole truth. There are shades of grey that I didn’t allow for.
I have a story to write. I’ve been carrying it for a very long time now. It’s been germinating inside, asking more and more insistently to be written down. To move from vision to form. I’ve heard it asking and I haven’t been able to answer.
I was talking to my man about it yesterday. I was frustrated to the point of crying. This is all I want right now, I said. But I just can’t find the time.
And granted, it hasn’t been easy lately. With sick kids, rounds at the hospital, a bad relapse of the inflammation in my back. Hell, even the dog got a limp this last week.
But I keep telling you this: If you truly want it, there is time. So I knew I needed to look closer.
We’ve wanted to redo the kitchen for a couple of years now and this spring we made a plan. Keeping it simple, we thought. Just a little paint, new tiles, some open shelves, replace the leaky faucet.
Well, simple or not, that hasn’t happened either, mostly due to all the health stuff we’ve dealt with lately. But this weekend he was taking the kids for a sleep over at my mother’s place so that I could get started and do some painting. Finally.
As we talked he simply said: The kids will be at your mother’s tomorrow, and you’ll have all evening and morning to yourself. Fuck painting. Write instead. (He actually didn’t say fuck, he never does, but that’s how it rang inside my head. Loud and clear.) Yes. Fuck painting. Fuck the kitchen. What’s more important?
If I truly want to write, there’s time.
Remembering this got things back in order. My life felt right again, my shoulders came down with the relief.
And then I went to bed and had the crappiest night in a long time. The baby had another cold coming on and just wouldn’t settle down. I fell asleep late in the night, only to be woken up a couple of hours later by the dog in a state of distress, apparently needing to go outside immediately (never argue with the growling stomach of a dog).
And then the baby woke up and that was it.
I can get by on a couple of hours sleep when I have to. All parents do from time to time. But if you’re too exhausted things will start to become difficult. It will show in your work.
Will I be able to write this evening, making use of those precious hours stolen from our kitchen remake, in spite of the crappy night and the crappy last month?
I’ll certainly try. And I might simply be too tired to get any focused writing done.
Is it a matter of going pro and soldiering on? That’s one way to look at it. But I’m not a soldier, and I’ve made a vow not to treat myself like one anymore. I’m not a warrior, I’m a tired mama, who’s also a committed writer and some days – some months – that equation does not work out.
It makes me think of a few lines in Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art. It’s wonderful book and I love Pressfield, but this time he missed an important point.
He wrote about how nothing can stand between the artist and his work, if true commitment is there. As an example he mentioned how Dostoyevsky had twelve kids but didn’t let that stop him from writing his books.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read that. What about Dostoyevsky’s wife?, I wanted to ask. The woman who stayed behind caring for all the twelve kids so that he could go off and write. How would she have gone about it, if she wanted to write? I’m not saying she did. I’m just saying someone needs to care for the children.
If the baby needs food or wakes up crying, even the muse will have to stand back for a moment.
You can get help, of course. We don’t live in the nineteenth century anymore. There’s day care and baby sitters and equal parenting, and we can create a structure allowing us some time to devote to our craft. And then the kid gets what feels like the tenth cold in a week and your neat structure is fucked.
I don’t think of my children as valid excuses not to pursue my dreams. Never. But as long as I have small kids at home, and I’m dedicated to them and their care, the equation is tricky and constantly changing.
To acknowledge this is not a matter of giving in to excuses, or playing small, or being a victim to circumstances. It’s a matter of seeing what is and trying to go from there, instead of trying to walk in the boots of someone who’s circumstances are radically different from yours.
Male artists and creatives have done it a certain way throughout the centuries, and their way is not necessarily available to women, particularly not mothers. Or it’s only available at great cost.
Women artists in the past have often chosen a life without children, in order to pursue their art. And that’s a choice we can make. But if you look around you right now and kids are climbing the bookshelves and raiding the kitchen drawer, well, that’s what you have to play with. That’s what you need to make work. Somehow.
This is still the road less travelled. I want us to remember that. Being a mother, an artist and a professional is a relatively new combination of roles for us to take on. There are still things we need to figure out. Things we need to let go of. Things we need to claim.
We are shaping the path as we go. What I know for sure is that it needs to include fierce prioritizing, gentle compassion and zero bullshit. It will include failure and wrong turns, as well as epic breakthroughs.
You’ll need to get up, again and again. Get up and re-commit. Connect with the rest of us, trying and stumbling next to you. We will stumble together. We will clear this path for ourselves and each other and for our artist daughters.
We may not be soldiers, but what we are doing takes immense courage. We are mothers, creatives, trailblazers and pioneers. Let’s give ourselves due credit for it.
About Anna Lovind
Anna Lovind is a writer, editor and writer’s coach. She helps people write from the depth of their hearts and at the top of their ability. On her site, Anna writes about creativity, consciousness and communication. She also creates posters and art prints, happily searching for the sweet spot where poetry meets picture. She lives in an old log cabin on a mountainside, overlooking a lake, where she drinks endless cups of tea, tends her garden and her kids, and writes.