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.
Oh, to be a teenager again! Yep, I actually thought that last Saturday night when I attended my first Quinceanera. Everything was decorated in a fabulous hot pink and zebra striped motif (including most of the guests!). The food was beyond delicious. The beautiful young lady we were celebrating is so loved and adored by her family that her Great Aunt hand rolled 500 flautas and her Grandmas made brisket, potato salad, and rice. There was enough food to feed the mouths of 80 hungry people. Not to mention a zebra striped birthday cake, a cupcake tower and cookie-pops that were all provided by this young women’s lovely family. What a blast!
My daughter was the center of attention when we arrived. She was circled by teenage girls and celebrated for her “cuteness”. Of course, the attention soon shifted to the birthday girl leaving my daughter to wonder where all of her admirers had gone. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the night. During the grand entrance ceremony my daughter dislodged herself from my bear hug and attempted to run through the circle of photographers and no doubt climb the throne to overthrow the princess. Then, during the slide show, where we watched the birthday girl mature right before our eyes, my daughter ran up to the screen right at the end. Everyone started clapping because the slide show was over. My daughter turned around to face the audience smiling and looked like she was ready to take a bow. She thought the applause was all for her! We managed to eat dinner, but it was 8pm and bedtime. Miss cranky started rolling around on the floor attempting to trip dancers, dancers wearing fantastically high heels that could also be used as murder weapons. What a night! When the DJ turned the music up it was our cue to leave.
It would have been fun to stay longer and dance and eat ourselves happy, but it was obvious my daughter wanted to be in her bed tucked in with Elmo (she fell asleep on the short ride home). The slideshow had left me all teary-eyed anyway. I realized how quickly time goes by and that someday in the not too distant future my daughter will be a teenager. She will be wearing short skirts, giggling with her friends, and hanging on the arm of her boyfriend. It’s going to happen too fast. I’m not ready. For now I think I’ll just eat my zebra striped cookie-pop and be grateful. Grateful that her short skirts come with bloomers and that a furry red monster named Elmo is the closest thing she has to a boyfriend. It doesn’t get any better than this.
There I was with peanut butter on my pants, gel medium on my phone, and a permanent slice of very old banana permanently affixed to my linoleum floor. That was the moment I realized my life had become one big, sticky mess. Life with a toddler can be summed up in one word: messy. Maybe two words would be better: super messy. No, it’s three words: Super, Sticky, Messy. There is just no avoiding it no matter how hard you try to.
Sometimes, however, I do like to keep score. For example, it is 1:30pm and so far my daughter has worn three different outfits and I am not even dressed yet. When I do manage to get dressed and out of the door I find jelly hand prints on the back of my pants or marker drawings down the arm of my jacket. Toddler win; motherhood fail.
Her hair is combed and styled in a cute little ponytail and mine…well…mine is a disaster. Speaking of hair, my hairdresser suggested that I blow my hair out and style it once every three days. I should just wake up on the non-styling-days, spritz it with a little water, and go. She obviously does not live with a toddler. Most days I end up with oatmeal, dog water, or some other food related item in my hair. It has to be washed every single day and I usually don’t have time to style it in any flattering way. My daughter, however, is dressed and coiffed beautifully every morning!
My daughter helps me clean up her spills by dragging a paper towel through the puddle on the floor while yelling joyfully, “Messy! Messy! Mess!” Then she usually rolls around in it, walks through it, or tries to eat it. On the other hand, I have washed the floor several times and it still looks like a barrel of monkeys has taken up residence in my kitchen. Two points for team-toddler and zero for team-mommy.
In this game of mommy versus toddler, my daughter is on a winning streak. She is a champion at this game and I will never score enough points to catch up. One thing I have learned from my messy life with a toddler is that banana is stronger than Gorilla glue and Crazy glue combined. It is stuck to my floor and it is not coming off anytime soon. I’m thinking of marketing it as an all-natural, organic alternative to the glues available in stores now. Anyone interested in buying some? It might even come with a free piece of linoleum stuck to it.