Except for the jaunty mustache, this is an excellent portrayal of me. I found it on Creative Commons via Leevclarke
I should be preparing for my 2nd MFA residency right now. You might envision me poring over books, furiously typing away on my computer, and you’d be correct. Those are things I need to do. But I am a 39-year-old married mother of 2 that is preparing for 10 days of no at home time except for sleeping. So for me, preparing means: making sure laundry is done, planning for meals and shopping for them, making sure family calendar is up to date and transportation to and from violin and dance and school is arranged for, clean the cat box. I realize typing this you probably think my husband is a jerk who doesn’t help me out. This is not true. He would do these things. But I do it instead. Because I am their mother. Because of the weight.
You see, no matter how many fun, pinteresty memes you see that tell you to follow your dreams! Go for the gold! Do it now or you never will! Those don’t apply to middle-aged mothers who spend tens of thousands of dollars and 30 hours a week on a Master’s degree. Especially an art degree. Not to mention the twice yearly residencies. I am stealing from my children. I am stealing money that could be saved for their college accounts. I am stealing time that their mother should be spending with them. And no matter what thing it is you want to do for yourself, if you have children, our society will tell you – no. You are not supposed to do that anymore. You are not you. You are a mother. Your life is not about you.
I spent 8 years as a full-time stay at home mother. Then two more as a stay-at-home mother/student. Now I am a working mother and student. Don’t get me wrong, I got shit for being a stay at home mother. ‘Must be nice to not have to work.’ ‘I don’t understand what you do all day.’ ‘Hey, why don’t you watch my kids too?’ . I know first hand, that no matter what choices you make as a mom, someone is going to give you hell for it. But even with this knowledge, I feel the weight.
Last residency, my daughter cried when I left one morning, about half way through. She’s 10. She’s not a baby. I’m not even a full-time resident. I’m commuting. This time, my son has already requested I sleep in his room when I get home. I love these babies of mine, and have obviously raised clingy little beasts.
Why am I doing it? Because I have always wanted to. Because it’s the thing I will regret not doing.
Why didn’t I do it when I was younger, before I had kids? Because it wasn’t time. Because I had to veer far off the path over and over, so I could get pushed back on, before I finally said, “Yes. It’s true. This is the thing. The thing I’m supposed to do.”
Why am I writing a depressing post about it? Because, I try very hard to keep a good front all the time. Because I need to sort it out and let people know, especially mothers, that if you choose a path that doesn’t put your kids first, even if you put them first in all other aspects of your life, you will feel that weight. But instead of letting it push me down, I will carry it. It will make me stronger.