Can You Be An Artist And A Mom?

Call me crazy (I prefer the term “mentally ill”) but I think there are more important things in life than chopping vegetables, even if they are grown locally by farmers wearing artisanal hemp. Maybe if your arts reside in the culinary, then preparing dinner is totally your thing. I don’t despise cooking, and derive considerable satisfaction from the care and feeding of children, but I have had to admit something to myself.

I. Just. Want. More.

A man is never questioned for wanting and needing more than being a homemaker, and certainly never questions himself, but what if your soul’s survival depends on self-expression, without which you will be useless to your kids or anyone else? How much time can you devote to your passions taking away from your kids, without ensuring they bring it up years from now at their meth intervention.

Many of the artists or just plain ambitious people I know chafe and strain at the bondage of parenthood, but what surprises me more are those that don’t. I am suspicious of their perfectly packed lunches and smug smiles. In my experience these are not the “creatives” in the family, who seem free to live in their artist’s heads, leaving the “sensibles” to worry about which snack is for the Celiac kid.

When you are a single parent, or co-parent, you have to be both. When I had a husband instead of an ex-husband, he was still a workaholic, so it was left to me to pick up the parenting slack, but I didn’t resent giving up some of my creativity because the guy worked to keep the lights on, and was a very involved dad when he was actually around. But over time, something inside me got eroded, and started to blister and crack like a third degree burn. Something was roaring, and even the meds I used to take couldn’t shut it up. I became aware that if I didn’t listen to it, the “something” was going to rear up and kill me. (And in case you’re wondering, I’m not referring to cute, hypothetical, metaphorical death, I’m talking about death death.)

The truth is, I want a bigger life. Always have, though that became scarier once I had children. I was terrified of my own power. For years I worried I was “too much”: felt too deeply, craved too much realness, thirsted for experience to an abnormal degree, sexual and otherwise. Yet through a different lens, perhaps all along the problem was that most people are in fact “not enough,” content with the kind of tepid exchanges that pass for intimacy in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

My soul was pulling on the sleeve of my consciousness like a recalcitrant child, until I started tuning in because I had no choice. Unlike a child, you cannot make your soul be quiet, you cannot reason with it; you cannot threaten to take its electronics. Your soul is lodged firmly inside you and immune to threats. You cannot exile your soul into a time out, and the harder you try, the more your soul will throw tantrums like a bratty toddler. Or worse. Sometimes the soul needs to create health problems, or extreme depression, or suicidal thoughts to get your attention. Your soul will not give up, because it is a loud, persistent motherfucker and I, for one, am grateful to finally be able to hear it.

Nowadays my soul and I are in negotiations. I want both my art and my kids, and gosh darn it, this is America, and I’m going to have both. So unlike what I concluded in “Can you be a Slut and A Mom?” I believe the answer to “Can You Be An Artist And A Mom?” is “Yes you can, but where the fuck is Mary Poppins when you need her?” Oh yeah, she’s fictional. Okay, just affordable childcare then, pretty please, and a reprieve from the guilt of leaving your kids with someone who is not you. And on the subject of fictional characters, June Cleaver can totally suck it.

Photo by Ray Mickshaw

3 comments

  1. […] better parent. In my opinion and experience though, sometimes you have to allow life to shake your shit up. Much better to move forward towards an authentic goal, instead of mindlessly trudging towards what […]

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