Ok. I’ll say it out loud: I am very passionate about my hobbies (or…”special interests”). I’ve rarely been one to just casually dabble in something. I either don’t do it at all, or I attack it with all the vigor of a starving lion until I’m exhausted and I have to pee. My favorite interest/hobby is creating art and crafts of all sorts. I’m currently working toward becoming a professional artist and selling my work. Many times over the years I’ve been entirely occupied in both mind and body by all-consuming art projects. Which was an acceptable use of my free time, as long as I occasionally moved from the spot, acknowledged my husband’s presence, and remembered to make dinner.
Of course, all that changed when I had wee one. No longer did any art piece matter one iota as much as keeping my daughter safe and content. And that’s how it ought to be.
However, when I emerged from the fog that encompasses the newborn stage, and wee one became slightly more independent, I remembered I’m still an artist sometimes, as well as a mom. During her daily nap I find myself with just enough free time to get obsessed with a project again, but not quite so much that I can actually finish one in any reasonable amount of time. Which recently led me to try to sneak in some creative tweaks here and there…while she’s up and running about.
This proved to be a bad idea, particularly with my last project. I had been at it on and off for weeks. Not only was I getting progressively more frustrated with it, but one night I actually did forget to make dinner…AND I wasn’t being a present mom. (Yes, I deserve to be smacked with a trout!). With paint all over my hands and tension built up in my shoulders, wee one came up to me to play and I wanted to keep working. But the whole thing just wasn’t working. I wasn’t focusing on her, and I wasn’t focusing on my art either, because I knew I needed to be there with her. I finally gave up on the stupid project, painted it all black, and started playing with my daughter. Then I learned a few things.
First, the should-be-obvious: When people talk about balancing work and family, I don’t think they mean you should be doing both literally at the same time. (Duh.) Also, I learned I can go without eating or using the restroom for a surprisingly long time (TMI, anyone?).
But mainly…I know I’m always going to passionately love art, and maybe eventually that drive will produce some really fantastic work. Perhaps someday, I’ll even leave behind a legacy of inspiring creations. However, my “special interest” needs to be separate from my family. Physically, my art stuff needs to stay in its own space (not strewn all over the house!), and mentally, my latest obsessions need to have a separate place in my head. That means that when I’m with my family, I need to be mentally present with them…not stewing over what pencils to use on my next piece while I construct a block tower with my daughter. I may feel a “need” to create, but I also actually need to change diapers, teach manners, and read books in silly voices. Those family needs come first. I think a quote I heard recently in a sermon really summed it up nicely:
“Interruptions are our work”.
This quote was in reference to a busy office setting, but I feel it applies to life in general. When I’m *busy* with laundry, trying to work on something, etc…and wee one comes up to me trying to get my attention (which in the moment I would consider an “interruption”)…that is my work. And by “work”, I mean my first and most important responsibility. I can usually finish what I’m doing later (unless dinner is burning). But there are only so many times she’s going to want to nestle into my lap and kick my thighs with her tiny, striped-stocking-feet, while we watch Sesame Street together.
Memories like that, for both of us, are the real legacy.