The Needs Of The Many and The Needs of the You
We have a special guest today! Writer Shalagh Hogan is here to explore the intersection of creativity and motherhood and asks the question, Whose needs come first? -Jen
The birth of my daughter Fiona brought me such joy, I could barely contain my creative expression. I would lull her teeny tiny self back into napping bliss on my lap, simultaneously breastfeeding and writing on my laptop. I was Super Blogging Creative Woman and an Uber Mom. I was proud and complete.
But six months later, as I tried to write, that baby showed me how risky a stunt this had become. After a “maybe she’ll stop if I ignore her” period, her shrill howler monkey screeches reminded me of a lesson learned with my first child and since forgotten. The fulfillment of her baby needs and my creative expression needs can not be expected to happen in the same room at the same time.
When I create, I have to be free to pursue my muse and go where I’m led. Even if she’s asleep, she may awaken and then I must stop creating. Both her needs and mine require my patient and uninterrupted attention, separately and at different times. The absolute definition of mutual exclusivity.
I begrudgingly dropped my writing efforts to focus on the fair wee Fiona‘s needs and hoped inspiration and opportunity would come again. This is when I heard the inner whisper of generations of women saying, “sacrifice my creative needs for the sake of my children‘s“. Me or them. Mine or theirs. Whoa. Where did that voice come from?
There is no nobility in declaring my needs to be unimportant. This is not a choice. I wouldn’t want to model that to my little mothers-to-be and my resentment would make me an unhappy mommy. Which is sadly what I experienced once in a grocery store bathroom.
I had just taken a seat when I heard two little daughters being silly in neighboring stalls. “I see your feet”, they giggled. Suddenly the mother abusively and profanely berated them. They were causing her lateness and craziness. From my stall, I questioned her loudly, “Really? In Here Right Now?“ The children stared at me in disbelief as I washed my hands and left the bathroom. I was shaken for a long time afterwards.
She was an overwhelmed Mom and blamed her children. But our children don’t ask to be born or to be dragged to the store. And mostly have to be coerced to pee. It is not their fault we have too much to do and aren’t allowing ourselves to take care of our own needs. We’ve agreed to that, not them.
A better plan may be to acknowledge our needs as humanly necessary and put that on our ‘to do’ list. My need for a pedicure and a play date is long overdue. Having fulfilled my creative needs, I am happy and can better handle the daily needs of mothering. My challenge is to puzzle out every and any which way to fulfill my needs, no matter what.
Through my YMCA’s child watch program, I found a college gal who comes once a week for four blessed guilt-free hours to watch my baby. I also asked/told my husband to help so I was finally able to paint Fiona’s room last Saturday. I asked my mother-in-law for hands free time now to paint the woodwork. I remind myself, helping me gives them pleasure as well.
My definition of a “Good Mother” is the acknowledgement, allowance for, and the meeting of my creative needs and my children‘s needs, whatever those needs are. Hustling the time, money, or permission to take care of these needs is my challenge. And I see my job as a mother to creatively allow for and weave our combined happiness into an organic blanket called life with a family.
Awestruck and amused by the ordinary, Shalagh gathers her lessons and spills her thoughts on her blog, Shalavee. She is a pontificate-or, a ponderer, and is busy practicing the art and mystery of housewifery. You are welcome to join her at “Chez La Vie”, the home of her life, her blog Shalavee.