Motherhood. I've been meaning to write this post for a long time*. But each time I start I end up feeling like the topic is too big, I've too much to say, and I'm too tired. One thought was that another title for this post could be "Craft as a Parental Survival Technique" because in the early years of motherhood, craft really did save me. I'm worried that sounds a little dramatic, but I feel that many of you will know exactly what I mean. You do, don't you?
I had a short email exchange with a friend today about parenting toddlers and tears. The tears of the grownup, not the kid, you understand. She was nearly there today and I've been there, many many times. In fact I was there only a few short weeks ago. Sending myself to my room because I just wasn't coping with the demands of three small people at bedtime in the midst of headaches, mice plagues, renovations, absent partners and a freezing cold winter. Too much sibling fighting. Too much he said, she said. Too much.
To cope, during those few days of overwhelm, I found myself knitting like woman possessed. Knitting as a way to find a little headspace. Knitting as a way to find a little calm. Knitting as a way to be a better parent. The parent I want to be. One that is thoughtful and kind and present and wise. I'm nearly 10 years into parenting now, and I know that without craft, there is no chance I would even come close to being that parent. Craft means that somedays I get there.
I've often wondered whether there really are people in the world that fully embrace parenting with their whole hearts, never needing their own space or craving their own time. Or whether that is purely a myth, and those that appear that way, merely look that way from the outside in. Maybe there are? And if they are in that space - the one where they are just present and truly happy - then I envy their contentment. I'm there sometimes but often I find myself craving space, adventure, freedom.
Yes, parenting was a choice that I chose. I chose to have children and I honestly love it. Wholeheartedly. They are truly magic and beyond a doubt it is the most amazing adventure I've ever been on. But that said, I don't think I really understood the choice I was making when we decided to have a baby. I didn't understand just how much of yourself gets consumed, not just by the kids, but by the household duties that come along with it. I used to say to my partner that I had agreed to become a mother but not a housewife. And yet there is a certain inevitability to the daily slog. I do housework because I love my kids and I want to create a home for them that feels warm and cosy. I try really hard to be present. I try really hard often. And yet housework has never been something I've been able to fully embrace even when I try really hard. I resent it. I've tried following the Buddism for Mothers idea about moving meditation and non judgement. "It's only a broom. It's only sweeping". I've tried not judging the activity with the dialogue of "this is so f&%*ing boring. How is this my life?" I know those thoughts are ungrateful. I know how blessed I am to have three healthy happy kids and a partner and a cosy home and yet sometimes it feels all consuming. How is it possible that that there is that much housework? How is it possible that there is no time? How is it possible that I have no time to do the things I want to do? The things that give me joy and fill me up?
Kids, by their very nature, crave attention. I don't see them as attention seeking as such. They are however, totally wrapped up in their view of the world and it's excitement and want to share it with the people they love best. And I'm lucky enough to be that person.
I love hearing about their inner lives. About the special headband, and the steps involved in doing a handstand, and how they found a gecko, and how their best friend said that she was getting a horse for her backyard....
But there is a but. And the but is that there is often no headspace at all. Sometimes it feels like if they see that I'm actually having a thought, any kind of thought that doesn't involve them, then they feel honour bound to bring me back with a "mama, mama, Mama, MAMA MAAAAMA!!!". Till I am back. Right there with them.
As they have gotten older the intensity of parenting is easing up a little, and I know it will one day end for good, which truly devastates me. But being in it, being in the thick of it, somedays I just want to run for the hills.
My friend asked me today whether I had read The Divided Heart: Motherhood and Creativity by Rachel Power. I forgot to reply as I was dealing with ear infections and renovations, but the answer was a big loud YES! I'm so grateful to that book. That book talks about the struggle. The struggle to mother well but also to retain a sense of self. I read it when my kids were young and it was such a blessing to me. I heard other women talk about their struggle with the same thing. And it is a struggle.
This simple line from the book sums it up the best for me.
An Inner Life! I want one of those.
And then there was this
There wasn't (isn't) time. There wasn't (isn't) space. And that is why domestic textile-based handcraft became my lifeline. It was portable. I was able to do it while they were there. I didn't need a special setup. It could blend into our life. Over the years it's become so much a part of our lives, they seem to see it as if I'm doing housework, and so don't feel like I've left them when I'm doing it.
Craft gave me something of my own, even in the midst of kids and chaos and sickness and school and moving and travel. It gave me a visible product at the end of a day where I felt that I had achieved nothing but even more chaos. The click-clack provided a rhythm which matched the beat of my heart, calming me down, grounding me in precisely the right way. It gave me a way to be present when all I could think about was freedom. It gave me 3% of my me-ness even when I was reading a story I didn't like, to three small people who were simultaneously doing my hair, sitting on my back and arguing over whose turn it was to sit next to me. And it turns out that 3% is often enough.
It gave me something that was mine, just mine. Space. A moment. A thought. An idea. A product. A process. A feeling. A spark. Joy. Calm. Grounding.
It enabled me to be in it even on days when I didn't want to be there. It meant that within the new life (I had chosen) there was still a part of me that was the me of before. The core of me.
After writing this down I take back what I said at the start. I'm not worried about it sounding dramatic. I'm almost worried that I won't have conveyed just how meaningful craft has been to me. And even though the intensity of small baby-hood has passed, on days like the one a few weeks ago, it is as relevant and meaningful and necessary as ever.
I'd love to hear your stories. Was this your experience?
And if you are a creative woman with kids looking for a fantabulous life-changing and afirming read then please look at Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart. I go back to it time and again when I need a reminder that I'm not alone.
*The date that this post was originally created, according to my web software, was way back in May of 2014.
PS. My apologies that I haven't been as present as I would normally be in this space. That life/parenting/family/running-a-retreat thing has been kicking my arse just a little bit. I'm reading your comments as always just not able to reply like I normally would.... Today though - I'm totally here! x