Watching Who Does She Think She Is? (with Jelly Belly dispenser...)
When the Self Doubt Began--
I think it began when I started breastfeeding, I not only made milk, but somehow begin to produce fear. Fear in large quantities of all I could do wrong to this small innocent being relying on me and I thought, "God, I don't want to screw this up!" And with those words, everything magnified. God not only turned on the light (which was a spotlight), but told me to babyproof my outlets.
Yes, now I was responsible for something living and breathing.
I imagine that many women wouldn't have children if they knew how by giving birth, you are immediately promoted from casual minimum wage worker to CEO and the whole company is riding on you, baby.
I know dads feel a different kind of stress. Especially breadwinner dads. But this "keeping a tiny person alive" responsibility absolutely terrified me. And while it terrified me, it also produced in me a kind of love I had no idea I had. I would throw myself in front of a bus for this person (and still would), but where was the *me* I knew disappearing to? Where did the writer fit in?
And so it began -- my life as a mother/wife/writer etc. etc. Now, how to make it work?
The film Who Does She Think She Is? reminds me I am not the only one with this issue or concern. Many artists struggle with the question, "Is what I'm doing important?" Kids or no kids. Men and women.
The women artists, performers, filmmakers, in this film all struggle with creating art and fulfilling their artistic lives along with the balance of other things. In the case of the film, they had kids, but other people have full-time jobs, relationships, a sick parent or family member, volunteer work, pets. We all have things we are balancing.
I think working moms have always had this struggle no matter what kind of job they were doing-- juggling their work with a family. Of course, I think the biggest difference with working moms and working artists is that as working artists we are not guaranteed the weekly paycheck--we are not guaranteed *any* paycheck!
And I think this is what it comes down to many times in America-- we value the work that is monetarily rewarded.
If I were a writer making a million dollar advance for my book of poems (imagine!), I do not think people would question my use of time to write.
And it is the same with artists or any woman who has kids that is doing something that doesn't have a secure paycheck attached to. We want to see the value. And sadly, so many times for many of us to see the value in something, there needs to be a price tag attached: This work of art = $3000.
And so as women artists with children, what do we do?
We keep creating and keep supporting each other.
We support all artists. We support the men who support us. We support the working mothers and the stay-at-home mothers. We support the stay-at-home dads and the working dads. We support the single-income families and the double-income family. We support the women who chose not to have children and the ones who desperately wanted children, but could not get pregnant or just never had them. We support the families of two moms and two dads. We support the artists who go to their day job then home to work on their art late into the night. We support the parents who use childcare or babysitters to find time to write. We support our own choices as our own choices and not as the only way to live.
We look at everyone around us trying to their best and we think just that-- they are trying to do their best.
I personally am going to hold my tongue (and maybe literally) if I find myself saying something uncomplimentary about another mother. If I hear myself saying, "She really shouldn't be..."
Who am I to judge? I have my own challenges as she does hers.
I will try to look at the world with compassionate eyes.
I know I won't always get this right. I know my own insecurities will cause me to judge someone else, but I will try harder to remember Plato's quote: