As a new mom, one who had chosen to stay at home with my daughter and turn art making into a job, my career status had been questioned multiple times by all kinds of people. If motherhood alone was not considered a job being an artist certainly wasn’t an acceptable form of employment either. The whole “get a job” mantra was delivered to me in many different nuanced ways, some subtle and some more direct. Mostly they were used to shame me for the choices I had made. This is a little about my experience and how I overcame or ignored criticism and judgements from people who just didn’t understand the choices I was making. To anyone who is going through this same experience, don’t worry, there are people out there who think and want to live the same way you do. Don’t give up until you find your tribe because that is when amazing things begin to happen.
“You haven’t found a job yet?” She said, her voice dripping with accusation and complete disdain for me. I could feel my face redden with the shame I was feeling. I had not been looking for a job. Jim and I had decided that going to college full time, working on getting our business off the ground and maintaining the house was enough for one person to handle. I knew it was enough for me, but still I felt guilty and then I felt angry for feeling guilty and then I just felt plain tired. I was tired of explaining myself to people who didn’t hear me. This wasn’t the first time my choices were questioned and certainly not the last time. Little did I know how many negative comments I was about to receive.
At the end of my last semester (of the graduate program I was enrolled in) Jim and I decided to have a baby. So, there I was pregnant and doing my best to complete all my coursework in between the vomiting and the doctor visits. Friends and family were constantly asking me when I was going back to work. Where was I going to work? Why wasn’t I working?! I didn’t understand what all of the excitement and panic was about. Jim and I had spent hours and hours discussing our plans. When I came home from my counseling classes exhausted and stressed out Jim said, “Are you sure you want to be a Counselor? I’m not sure you are suited to it. You worry too much about people. You absorb all their pain. I’m worried about you.” I thought about that. I was not very good at keeping good boundaries and the stories I heard broke my heart and kept me up all night. Not to mention, I secretly had a feeling I wasn’t going to be able to help many people. I couldn’t untangle myself enough to look at their lives objectively. I was living their failures and pain right along with them. That’s when I started painting again. It helped me think and sort out my feelings. Jim’s reaction to my painting shocked me. He wanted to know why I had been wasting my time doing other things when I could have been painting all this time. I confessed that I had moved to New Mexico in the hopes that I would find more time to paint (in such a laid back atmosphere), but had filled my time with so many other things. Things I had much less passion for.
Then my daughter was born and still people asked, “Aren’t you going back to work soon?” and “Don’t you think it’s time you started working again?” I didn’t know how to answer them. At first I thought they were plain crazy. I hadn’t slept more than 90 minutes at a time for weeks and sometimes didn’t even have time to brush my teeth. I already had a job. The hardest job I ever had! Plus, I waited almost 35 years to have a baby. I had spent most of my life taking care of and loving other people’s children. I finally had my own child. I didn’t want to be away from her all day and I didn’t need to be. Not to mention, between taking care of a baby, supporting a budding business, maintaining the house, and of course painting I didn’t see much room for a typical job. When your husband can make more in one hour than you can in an entire day and daycare would eat up most of your income what would be the point? Especially when I was already doing what I wanted to be doing. We decided that this was the perfect time and opportunity for me to concentrate on becoming an artist and to enjoy being a mother. I know I have disappointed some people with my choices, but this is my life and my time. Shouldn’t I spend it the way I feel is best?
Nobody asks me about working anymore. They have either given up on me or have accepted me for who I am. I don’t feel shame or doubt anymore when I say I am a Stay-At-Home mom who paints. I know I am not some lazy, shiftless person mooching off of my spouse. I am not eating bonbons and watching TV all day. I am busier, more creative, and more productive than I have ever been at any other time in my life. Jim tells everyone I am an artist with so much enthusiasm and joy that nobody can ever say anything negative in response. It feels good to be doing what is right for me and for my family. I don’t judge other people for their choices because I know they have good reasons for making them. There will always be naysayers, but I don’t want to be one of them. Most importantly, I try not to let other people extinguish my pride anymore. Sometimes I completely fail in those attempts, but I laugh because both my mom and my husband always say, “Don’t listen to them. They are just jealous!” How can so many people be jealous of me? It sounds so ridiculous, but maybe it’s true. I am pretty happy and I know that just drives some people crazy. Isn’t there an old saying that goes something like “Living a good life is the best revenge”? To all those people out there living a good life despite set-backs and criticism I applaud you and your efforts. Keep up the good and sometimes hard work of living an authentic life! In the end it might be the only thing that matters.