This is me being honest: I have truly struggled with motherhood.
I love my 2-year-old son, but I don’t enjoy the immense responsibility that goes along with being a mother. I also feel overwhelmed most days with my schedule of part time working, writing novels and poetry, AND watching my son. But every day, I manage it somehow. Every day, I learn to keep up with the important things and let the less important things go.
Letting things go that I want to get done and just can’t is so hard for me. I grew up as an only child. I’m used to doing whatever I want, when I want. I’m used to traveling when I want to, writing for 13 hours straight when I want to, and focusing on myself.
All of that changes when you have a child. It’s frightening. I remember reading somewhere that having a child is like having a piece of yourself exist outside of your body, a very fragile piece, that’s new and vulnerable to the world. I get anxious all the time.
I’ve gone through plenty of times of self-doubt and self-criticism, but being a mother exacerbated all of that. I feel guilty all the time when I need to do some work and my son wants more attention. Or when I give him all my attention and don’t get the time to write.
It’s a constant battle, inside and out.
But It’s worth it. I know it is, and every time my son does something ridiculously cute or impressively smart for his age, I get excited and I forget to worry about the precarious balancing of work and childcare that I do.
Two nights ago, my partner went to sleep early. I wrote all day, so I was ready to take a break from writing and focus on my son for a few hours. I realized that maybe he is old enough for markers or crayons, and I realized that I still had 30-something wooden blocks cut for him, that I’ve been planning to paint for him for a year and a half. I took everything out and we had an amazing time drawing together and he drew on some blocks while I painted other blocks.
It reminded me of the time I spent teaching mural painting in an Irish primary school. I loved teaching art to kids. It was one language that I could speak with any child—from the Irish-speaking kids of Dun Chaoin to the Nepali and Indian kids of Kalimpong.
When I’ve taught art, the fact that I can’t hear kid’s voices or read their lips doesn’t matter. My son signs, of course. I don’t have a communication barrier with him, but I have a hard time playing with him in a way that excites me, too.
I am so relieved, and so thankful, to have found a new language and a new way to play with son that makes me forget my work, my writing, and even forget that I’m fully responsible for this tiny person, I’m a mother now, not just a daughter, or a wandering writer and occasional muralist, or a twenty-something-year-old with a passport filled with stamps, or a sailor living on her own boat.
I’ve resisted motherhood for a long time, but sharing art with my son helps me embrace it.
This is a blog post for new mothers—it’s hard as f**k, but if you can share things you love with your children, it makes everything better.
(I am sure this is old news for many people, but sometimes it’s easy to get sucked into our own needs and stressed over also meeting the needs of our family, and I think it can be easy to forget that when you share things you love with the people you love—older people included—life feels more free, happy, positive, and invigorating. And then when we go back to our work or our responsibilities, we realize they aren’t so overwhelming after all.)