This month I’m facilitating a discussion in the Mama Scout Readers and Writers Tribe of the book Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson. I’m only three chapters in (reading is slow going for me right now), however I’m finding myself nodding and underlining and resonating with the experiences of these women who came before me.
In the last six months I’ve found myself having time (and energy) to devote to my writing. As my daughter has grown older, her independent play has increased and it has left me at times wondering what the hell to do with myself. I found my way back to writing and was spending more than an hour a day (sometimes up to three or four hours a day) journalling, blogging, writing academic papers, and waxing poetically about life via the written word on social media. It was certainly a taste of heaven.*
(The asterisk are the times I had to stop writing this very post to meet the needs of our family or more accurately, our new little tyrant 😉 )
That has all changed of course since our son was born a little over a month ago. We have each had a lot of adjusting to do, and I’ve had the physical recovery from the birth to contend with as well as nipping postpartum depression in the bud. This has meant no time to write in over a month and it has been frustrating and heartbreaking for me. I have yet to write out our son’s birth story–with our daughter I had her birth story written out within a few days–** or write about how we came to his name or about how amazing his big sister is and has been since his arrival or really about anything that is important to me and that I want to get down on paper or screen.
I have yet to master the fine art of nursing at the keyboard*** (nor do I know if I really want to) and so time to me is both sparse and sporadic. Even though my husband happily feeds our son the expressed milk I supply, there are times our son refuses the bottle, only being satisfied with milk straight from the tap. This of course means I drop everything I’m doing, including writing (or eating or peeing) to feed and calm our baby boy.
I want to note I am not complaining. I love our son, and love that I am a source of both comfort and nourishment for him. I do find joy and fulfillment in motherhood and yet there is more to me than being a mom. I am giving very real life examples of how our work as women is sidelined for our families. Our children, especially when very young, always come first. Many of us also sacrifice our own needs or desires in order to make life easier or more accommodating for our spouses–often without even discussing with our partner that we have needs or wants or are making any sort of sacrifice.
This sacrificing our self for our family is true for women without children too. Our parents come before our own needs, as do our partners, our nieces or nephews, even our cats and dogs. Or worse, we allow a job or career we find no satisfaction in take precedence over what our souls long to do. We put our own creativity and nourishment on hold, on the back burner and often never get to it.
It is culturally ingrained in us to put our own needs aside as women. Be this as it may, we do have a choice to follow that path or not. There are consequences to any choice and honestly I don’t believe in balance (as in the myth of the work-life balance). We choose our children or parents or spouses over our selves over and over without thinking about it, and we do, as individuals and as a women as a group, suffer for it. How many great memoirs or paintings or architectural or engineering designs have been lost because we have been so accommodating to others?
This is not to say there is not a time and season for everything. I know that I am in the season of the young child (again) and this means that time for my writing will be limited, but it doesn’t mean it comes to a stand still. I am conscious of where I am in my life and where my family is. I consciously and mindfully find chunks of time here and there, pump out bottles of milk and say a prayer that our little tyrant will accept it so I can do the things that fill my own soul, those things beyond motherhood that I am called to do.
And so the ebb and flow of life continues.
It would be easy to say that I can’t write now. That I can’t focus on school or my clinical training. That I can’t continue to build my business. No one would fault me and many would say, of course, that is how life is. But I’m not willing to accept that. Yes, we have a very young infant and an older child who need my attention and love. Yes, my husband is our main bread-winner and so certain accommodations need to be made so he can work. And none of that means I can’t have time for my own pursuits. Perhaps I don’t get three hours a day at this point, instead perhaps it is three hours spread over a week. But it is still time I take for my own creative and intellectual outlet.
I invite you to do the same. To step away from the convenient excuses that life offers you to not shine, to not glow, to not be and become the person you are called to be. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to write or paint or doodle or daydream. Fifteen minutes every day just for you to do something just for you. Break it into three five minute breaks if you need to. Meditate, stretch, make yourself a yummy nourishing snack, create a quick blackout poem, read a couple paragraphs in a book or write a list of things you’d love to write about later. Whatever it is that fulfills and replenishes you, make the time for it. Make yourself a priority.
You deserve this time for you. The world deserves to see you glow, to see you nourished and replenished. Take this summer to create the habits to support you becoming the person you want to be. Release the convenient excuses and your fear of your own glow. Step into being and becoming the person you are truly called to be.
Last week I released a program – Mid-Summer Glow – for registration. I have decided not to offer the program this summer after all, instead focusing on my writing and creating my fall program (Being and Becoming Circle). This decision is a step into my own self-care and releasing of some “shoulds” that have been circling in my brain. If you are looking to work with me this summer, you can still register for my free summer-long program Glow Wisdom by clicking here.
If you are interested in joining the discussion of Composing a Life, simply ask to join the Mama Scout Reader + Writer Facebook group here. We’d love to have you as part of our tribe!!*Stopped to feed our son and then once he was asleep put diaper laundry in the dryer **Stopped to feed our son and get him back to sleep ***Stopped to change our son, add time to the dryer, pump a bottle and hand son over to Daddy so I can try to focus. (and look, it worked!)