Monday, December 14, 2009

Mastering The Art of Mothering

Due to an undeniable urge to do anything but clean the kitchen, I blog. Whether anything substantial comes of it is doubtful.

Scott and I spent some time watching Julie and Julia a few nights ago, and I'm pleased to report neither of us fell asleep, which has to be a first for in at least six months' time. I'm sure many of you know the gist of the plot: Modern-day girl (Julie) decides to make all 530-ish recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year. Her story is interwoven with Julia Child's, zealously carving her niche as an American In Love With French Food. While her husband is stationed in Paris, Julia cooks passionately and tirelessly, enrolling herself in cooking classes intended for professional European chefs. Her tireless devotion lends way to great success, eventually co-writing her book (intended for other American housewives and cooks like herself,) making endless revisions to it, only to receive numerous rejections before its eventual publication.

Well, the obvious energy of the movie was spent developing these two charming characters and their admirable (shared) obsession. But as the movie ended, I was still muddling through the question of how much one should really admire Julie. The movie makes her restlessness and questions of self-worth/importance of how she spends her time absolutely clear. Frankly, those are questions to which many SAHMs and others can thoroughly relate. And there is no doubt in my mind that she needed something substantial, something unique and defining to do. A mission, a project. (Again, I can sooooo relate. I am queen of projects. Not necessarily finished ones, though.) However, her project became utterly consuming. Rather than adding to her identity, it pushed everything else out. There was no room for anything but her project and its accompanying blog. Her husband spent a large part of the year most unhappy, leaving her due to the obsession but eventually returning.

The thing is, I can all too easily understand this part of the film, too. Some of my projects build such momentum, such steam, that it's tough to keep them in check. Drawing that line between the appropriateness of having interests outside the home (NOT optional, in my book) and letting them consume me is something I think I constantly mismanage. I have reigned in my photography interests these past few months for several reasons, but it seems prudent to mention how frustrating it can be to build up that energy, only to have to slow it to a seeming halt because this week Scott's days off need to be devoted to thesis work and job interviews and household chores; next week we need to be at my parents' place, and maybe I could squeeze in one photo shoot the first part of next month, if I play my cards right.

Seriously?!? It frustrates the life out of me. Some days, I'd rather just pack it all in. Be done. It's easier to not experience the thrill of the hobby. It's not worth the frustration. It was one thing when life was just the two of us. But now, someone has to watch Betsy. I can't always ask that of Scott. And even if I can, lots of times I'm wishing he could simultaneously assist on a shoot and keep Betsy at home. That's not really feasible, is it?

Well, these are rather scattered thoughts. And I'm too frustrated by it all (and the messy kitchen taunting me) to make all these thoughts sound pretty. I know everything has its time and season; I am very content with that. These days are good ones -- how much I love each minute with Betsy! Still, I live in search of obtaining outside interests that don't consume me. But frankly, the problem is my own: I've never been that kind of person. For me, it will always be a struggle. Don't mistake me, though, Scott will always be encouraging, but my first duty will always be mothering -- I'm not going to ever mistake that. After four years of teaching, I've seen what that does to a kid. So, as a result, I will never have the kind of time I crave. That's okay; it's my choice. My choice. But that doesn't mean it's not a sacrifice.


Laura said...

I really agree with your last couple of sentences. That even though you have chosen to be a mother it doesn't mean that you don't make sacrifices. I feel the same way. I admire people like you that try to continue their hobbies. I have found that I have just given up. It has been a process of giving stuff up, like privacy for example. At first I got frustrated that I couldn't have privacy in the bathroom. I finally had to grasp the fact that while I have little kids I am just not going to have privacy. I just gave in. So good job on trying to continue with your hobbies. I admire that.

Amanda said...

I like this post. And, I also like the last bit. Any choice we make is going to involve some kind of sacrifice. I completely identify with what you're saying. After Kallie was born, I felt like I was losing part of myself. And I fought to keep those hobby parts of me alive.

Now, two kids later, I have come to realize that my kids are currently my hobby. (Could just be that I have an infant at the moment.) That's not to say that when I have an opportunity to do something else, I don't take it--because I do. It's just that at this point in my life, I've had to come to terms with the fact that this isn't that season. I still do a few things here and there, but those times are usually born of necessity (gifts, etc.) instead of for the sake of creativity.

I still have goals and hobby ideas that I'd like to work toward in the future--but for now, they get to stay in the future. And, I am completely OK with that right now.

Catherine said...

I struggle with this constantly as well. My reading hobby is one that, if I'm not careful, can really consume me. However, when I can rein it in, it is wonderful. It keeps me awake and (sometimes) content at night when nursing becomes a chore. I know that as Eve grows, though, it's something I will have to stop, again, like I did when Sam stopped nursing so much and wanted more of my attention.

Cooking is one hobby that I find can quite happily coexist with mothering, for me anyway. Sam can help me cook, and I can still interact with both kids while tending to something in the kitchen.

Svedi Pie said...

Agreed - I constantly wonder about what will happen when little ones come. But it's true it's a choice one makes and with every choice comes sacrifice (SAHM give up privacy, personal time and hobbies - just to keep the list short; working mothers give time with their kids; childless couples have more time for hobbies but give up first words, first steps, Christmas with little ones, hugs, kisses, etc; singles sacrifice companionship; marrieds sacrifice a lot of independence and some control in their way of doing things). I think you hit a key point of being be happy with your choices, it's recognizing those sacrifices and learning to be ok with them - it's that learning to be ok with them that may take a while.

I love that you bring up these types of topics. Very thought provoking. Also I love that you made mothering sound so delicious in your blog title :D

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Shelly Beth said...

Amen! I love your posts - they are always so thoughtful and they make me think. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, too. But you just wait - it is even harder to define yourself, have outside interests/hobbies, with TWO little ones. I literally packed up my scrapbooking table and supplies and put them in the closet because I have NO TIME to work on anything. I still do projects, especially during this time of year, but I find myself having to stay up past midnight in order to use the little time I have to myself. It is frustrating. But I also wouldn't have it any other way. The moments with the kids are just too special and essential to push away during the day :) So, here is to finding a little of ourselves in the chaos of every day mothering, right?

Jeff & Michelle said...

I loved this post. And I really think it is true with any phase of our lives, but at times "feels" harder, at least for me, during this phase of life. Taking care of a child is very rewarding, but also full of a lot of repetitive menial tasks, without a lot of ME time. Oh, the never ending juggling act of finding balance in life!!