Another coffee shop, another blog post, this time as Josh puts Ro to bed for the night. I left her crying—we're unofficially trying to wean her, and as she is our first kid, we don't know how to do it. Tonight, "weaning" meant trying to redirect her back towards her dinner when she tried to breastfeed with a full plate of food in front of her. She wasn't buying the redirection, and I have learned through multiple reputable parenting experts that I should definitely NOT back down from a reasonable boundary I've set, especially not because she cries, as that will only mean years of therapy for everyone involved. So I didn't back down, dug my own grave, and kissed her sobbing face goodbye to come flee to a coffee shop. To do... what? That's right—to attend to my artist residency.
This is the first time since Ro was born that I've asked Josh to put her to bed twice in one week so that I could tend to myself. Ro was born 21 months ago. I feel inspired to tend to this creative process, and that in itself feels important.
Before Ro was born, I would have never imagined I'd be one of THOSE parents who lost their identities to parenting. And it's extreme and cliche to put it that way, but what happened is that I found after a while—after we'd survived the first six months of blindly, gropingly meeting the needs of a human infant; after we emerged into a realm in which we started feeling like we'd gotten the general hang of it, and that we could maybe check e-mail and commit to social plans and have interests again—that I didn't know what my interests were. I was doing the full-time parenting thing, and whenever I did manage to arrange a couple of hours of childcare here or there, I had no idea what to do with that time. A couple of hours of occasional babysitting did not free me up to write a long-form magazine story or to pursue photojournalism work. It gave me about enough time to make a Safeway run and to withdraw cash for our babysitter, or to sit somewhere and read a book for a bit. And where did that leave me? I was a full-time parent who spent her child-free time making Safeway runs. I did not have the time, energy, or mental clarity to have a creative practice outside of parenting.
So I embarked on an investigation into "finding my passion" (see Resources) in an attempt to clarify what I wanted to do with my limited time. (Run? Read? Weave? Write? Learn guitar? <No—too loud to be feasible> Carve spoons? Apply to fellowships? Pitch stories to media outlets <shudder>? SLEEP?) I read Elle Luna's The Crossroads of Should and Must. I laugh-cried watching Ali Wong's Netflix special.
But I also needed a framework—some way to document my process, and to contain it. Then my good friend Svea told me about the Artist Residency in Motherhood. I kept the idea bookmarked in my mind, feeling unable at the time to start because I didn't know where to start.
Well, I still don't know where to start. But a couple of days ago, during my most recent two hours of occasional childcare, it was finally time to start.
And for the first time since Ro was born, I feel inspired to begin—blindly, gropingly meeting the needs of my new, half-formed self.