When my daughter arrived here from India in 2009, I was elated beyond measure. I felt powerful, woman, incredible. I was so in love, so captivated, so full of light. Then I spiraled into a deep, black place. Postpartum depression is not just something biological mothers face. On my way down, I saw all the ways that I had identified myself shredded, obliterated by this tiny person and my new role. I was an artist who had worked hard my whole life to achieve this? To achieve butt wiping? To spend my day preparing snacks and picking up toys? Shattered. Hallow. “What a sham,” I thought to myself. “This whole motherhood deal is horrible.” I wanted to run away.
I started running 5Ks instead of away. I even ran the Warrior Dash in 2011. Though, that’s another story all together…
Fast forward with some therapy, an enduring husband, an amazing group of praying women, and one remarkable child, I am whole. Sitting at the bottom of that black pit with the broken, shattered remains of what I thought was my life I had nowhere else to look but up. I had no more illusions about who I was. I experienced the Grace of God in a new way. An honest way. I was not a “good Christian” or a “good mother” or a “good wife.” And God loved me still. In fact, He had loved me even when I deluded myself into thinking that I had been any of these things. I would piece myself together every Sunday and drag myself to church. I could not hide myself, not even there. I did not even have the strength to pretend. And you know, the women there were patient with me. The older women remembered how hard it was. Two of those women had experienced adoption in the 1970s. They were present for me, not hoisting any sort of platitudes on top of my already burdened shoulders. One misplaced platitude may have crushed me.
When my daughter was three, we sent her to daycare twice a week. Good Christian mommy guilt choked me. I would sit in the parking lot in tears every time I would drop her off. I would call my husband and he would calm me down. “It’s only two days a week. She’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. We’ve agreed to this as a family.” Yeah, it was our family. No one else’s.
It wasn’t long before I could not tell that this child had not once been a part of my own body. We had been divinely knit together in the great and beautiful mystery of family. I have moved beyond seeing motherhood as my job. Motherhood may be a lot of work, but it is not a job. A job you can leave, you get paid for, you get time off. Motherhood is this intense care-giving relationship that is hard and tiring, and beautiful and wonderful all at the same time.
I am an artist. I was born this way. My vocation as an artist had been set aside for a short time when we moved in 2009. Though, some things that are short in the grand scheme of things feel endless when we are in the what I call “eternal NOW” of depression. As the rhythm of family life beat on, I went back to work in the studio… er livingroom. I wasn’t going to let a shortage of space stop the work.
Oh, but this has gotten discouraging! Throughout the years, I have often found myself Placeless. And the Lord Provides Jehovah-jireh! I seared Grove City for nearly a year before I decided to look to my own back yard. We decided to fix up the garage for a studio. And the biggest blessing of all is that my dad drove all the way out here from Michigan to do the work. Not only did the Lord provide a place to work, but He provided an opportunity for my dad and I to work together.
Now I have a place to work, a contract with a church to work on, and a daycare schedule that works for both mother and daughter. I have to somehow figure out how to put the two vocations together.
In Kate Harris’ Q post about Mothering as Vocation she talks about how viewing her parenting as her vocation honors God, but the danger lies in the limited view that this mothering is the ONLY way women can honor God in Vocation. One of the young mothers she met at a dinner party was also an artist who balances two vocations. “She said, ‘When I paint it isn’t because I want more ‘me time’ like having a latte or getting a pedicure. It isn’t therapy. It’s what I feel made to do. I am a mother, but I’m also an artist so I have to believe I am a better mother to my kids when I make time to paint even if I don’t pursue that as a career.’ For her it means putting her kids down at the same nap time every afternoon, brewing a pot of coffee, eating a bite of chocolate and painting for a few hours before they wake up.” I see it much the same way. Art isn’t therapy, relaxing, or fun. It’s something I simply have to do. (Her article is totally worth the read, btw.)
And HOW? is the question that rolls around my mind nearly every day. How do I keep all these thoughts straight? How do I make great art when I’m thinking about what to make for dinner or trying to remember not to forget that tomorrow the letter of the day is “N?”
It seems that holding it all together will mean that I will have to exercise some skills that I do not naturally posses: organization, time management, and planning ahead. One of my very favorite blogs helps me do that. www.Artbizblog.com. I am in Alyson’s Artist Conspiracy group, where we get coached in being good managers of our own art careers. Recently, she had guest blogger, Sandhya Manne, talk about the challenges of Balancing the Roles of Artist and Mother.