My friends and I met Saturday night to watch Who Does She Think She Is?
There were 6 of us from the ages of 41 to 59. We have children ages 9 and up to 30-something. Between us. we have 9 children and have written seven books, 5 of us are either editors or have been editors of a literary journal, there is 1 Rona Jaffe $25,000 award winner in the mix, 6 Artist Trust GAP grants, 5 of us have either have our MFA or MA or will complete it in the next couple of years, we all have won awards for both art and writing. I mention this not to brag, but so you understand when I ask myself-- why on earth do we have self-doubts if what 1) we are doing is worthwhile and 2) it's okay to focus on our creative work.
After typing out some of our achievements, writing that we sometimes feel self-doubt seems ridiculous, but I tell you, it is true.
I will say it honestly as I can here--while I truly believe that I could completely live with myself if I failed as a poet and writer, my biggest fear is that in finding the balance I will somehow fail as a mother and that is something I can't live with.
I didn't realize that until this afternoon when I asked myself--what exactly am I afraid of?
Even this morning when I was watching the director's interview on why she made this film she said, "I left my family for 2 weeks, I had never done that." But instead of leaving it there she added a few seconds later, "Well, it's not as if I left them at home by themselves--they were at camp." When she said that, I immediately got that knot in my stomach--why couldn't she have just said she left her kids for two weeks to focus on her art, why does there have to be a self-protection clause, that "I'm-a-good-mother too" side note, why do we worry so much what other (mothers) think?
The knot in my stomach was because that woman on the television had a part of me in her. I was annoyed because I do it as well and I don't think it's helpful to other mother writers/artists. I slip in a good-mom clause occasionally just to make sure... We so want the world to know we are good moms.
And actually, maybe it's not the world but other mothers because really, I have rarely felt judged by men, fathers, or women without children when it comes to being a mom, but I have been made to feel inadequate by other mothers-- a woman told me when she found out I was working on my MFA while I still had a child at home that she didn't know how I could leave my child with her father to come to a writing residency. And how many years later do I remember this? And why? Because it went to the center of my own insecurities (was I being a "good mom" by leaving her?)
I want to tell you, before I had kids I really could have cared less about any of this.
Before I had kids you could have told me you were leaving your kids with your next door neighbor who you met three weeks ago (but she seems nice) for six weeks to go to Italy to paint and my only questions would have been, "What part of Italy?" and "Will you paint in oil, acrylic, or watercolor?" I would have assumed the kids would be fine. Why? Because they are kids and well, kids are durable and they are always fine. (Also, by this part of the conversation, I would have already forgotten the names of your kids... but tell me again about your art!)
Then I had kids. Or should I say "kid." And all those things I couldn't have cared less about now mattered.