Thursday, April 21, 2011

Being myself while being "mom"

Dana hit the nail on the head with this week's post. I am among the 94% of moms who feel guilt. I feel guilt about many things, and one of the things I find myself frequently feeling guilty about is letting myself be myself while being "mommy."

I find myself so busy taking care of my two kids that I have a difficult time fitting in any me-time. When I try to scrounge a bit of me-time, I end up feeling guilty about it. "I should have been interacting with my kids." "I shouldn't have let them watch TV while I tried to do something I wanted to do." "I hope I didn't hurt their feelings when I wouldn't come look at whatever it was they wanted to show me at that particular moment."

When I was growing up, once I got to be in about junior high, my mom (who was a stay-at-home mom throughout my entire childhood) started going to art school during the hours that my sister and I were at school. Suddenly the house filled up with easels, paper, canvases, acrylic paint, oil paints, solvents, gesso, pastels, and the beautiful art that my mom created with these things. It was fascinating. I loved it. I thought it was so cool and I loved watching my mom paint and draw and I loved telling my friends that my mom was "an artist."

Then she got rear-ended one day and that screwed her neck up so that she had to stop for a while. Even after healing from the accident, she didn't go back to taking classes, painting and drawing. I never understood why.

Despite being enthralled with watching my mom make art, I never took up painting until a year ago, a few months after my second daughter was born, when I got the most uncontrollable, undeniable urge to paint. When both girls were napping, I'd give myself twenty minutes or half an hour to play, experiment and paint. I had an unbelievable amount of fun with this new-found creative outlet, this gooey, gloppy, wonderful, cathartic pastime.

Then my older daughter stopped taking naps, and there went my tiny bit of creative me-time. I found ways to carve out a little time to paint by giving my daughters some washable kid-paint and painting while they painted. If that didn't work, I'd catch a few minutes to paint after breakfast, while they watched some TV or played together a few feet away in the living room. I enjoyed it, but I found myself feeling guilty about it. I felt selfish, like I should be interacting with them instead of giving myself a few minutes to paint. I felt guilty for letting them watch TV just so I could indulge in some creativity.

When my mom visited Seattle last year, I took her to Daniel Smith downtown, which is my favorite artists' supply store. It's a wonderland of paint, colors, textures, paper, easels, canvases, everything an artist could ever need. It was part of a diabolical plot to get my mom to start painting again. She bought some canvas and a couple other supplies and was like a kid in a candy store. We talked about painting and art, and she related that the reason she had quit taking art classes was because she felt like we needed her and she therefore had to give them up. She was most of the way done with a BFA, but she felt like she had to quit to take care of us.

I told her I wouldn't be painting if it weren't for her influence, if I hadn't seen her paint when I was a kid and been enthralled. I told her I wouldn't know how to do anything if I hadn't been watching her. She had no idea I'd been watching.

My kids need me to be mommy, but they also need me to be their mommy. They need me to be who I am, so they can truly know me. They need to see me do the things that I love to do so they can know that if and when they are moms, they can still do what they love to do. They need to see me be myself so they know that they can be who they are and that becoming a mom doesn't mean shedding everything else about who you are.

Therefore I refuse to feel guilty anymore when I indulge in a little painting while they enjoy some free-play in the next room, or when I need to listen to some of my music instead of Laurie Berkner Band or the Wow, Wow Wubbzy soundtrack. In exposing them to the things that I love, I might just be doing them a favor, like my mom unwittingly did for me by painting and drawing when I was a kid.


  1. There is certainly something to them watching you go after your goals and being successful. Cheers

  2. I think it's great that you're going to continue to nurture yourself as well as nurturing your children. Everyone needs a creative outlet and at least one thing that is all her own. Otherwise, you lose contact with your true self. All the best to you, and don't stop painting!

  3. Thank you so much for your comment, Dawn! Creating makes me happy, and therefore a better mommy. :-)


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