There Is No Path
I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom.
Nope. After many years in school, I was finally logging my intern hours at an architectural firm, just as I had planned. I was following The Path I had set out for my life. I was on track to becoming a Licensed Architect. (Such a long process.)
Of course, I had also planned to be a mom. I always wanted to be a mom, but I hadn't considered how the two would work together. Architecture is an historically male-dominated field; at school, as we learned about the process of becoming an Architect, no one ever talked about how becoming an Architect would work together with becoming a mother. I never considered it either. Even though they both happen at the same time in one's life -- you know, biological clocks and such.
Who knew once I had a baby - and then another just 18-months later - that my planned path would suddenly, and completely, change direction? I took 6-months off work for both babies. A dream! Then I went back to work, but worked only part-time. It wasn't great, I didn't like it. I cut back to even parter-time. Still not right. After so much internal debating, I quit.
What a tough decision. I worried, "How will I ever get back on track to becoming a Licensed Architect if I stay at home being a mom for several years?" There was no guidebook for those questions. I didn't know what to expect. All I could do was toss my plans. I decided not to think about my planned path, not to worry about the future. I needed to be with my babies.
I loved it. It was wonderful. I also didn't like it. It was so many things: monotonous, chaotic, ordinary, extraordinary, amazing, and amazingly difficult. (Being a mom is full of contradictory feelings, I learned.)
I didn't think about architecture. Except: deep down inside I craved to be creative, to be my own person apart from being a mom, to have my own space even. I was quietly jealous of my classmates from school who were building their architecture careers, while I stayed home. In the back of my mind I thought, "Why did I spend so many years in school - for this?"
Slowly, I carved out a space of my own in our spare room. I didn't know what I was even going to do with it, but I felt the need to have a space. My own creative space. I tentatively, quietly, referred to it as my studio.
My baby boys got bigger. I started playing around with fabric. I borrowed my mom's sewing machine. I designed my own bags, and made fun stuff for my kids. I accidentally started a business! It began to thrive and it took up more of my time. My boys started preschool and kindergarten and I thought, "What will I do now? Should I try to grow this teeny-tiny business of mine? Or should I go back to work? How will I get back on the Architecture Track after being away so long?"
But our family wasn't complete, I didn't need to consider that next step. I became a mom to a lovely baby girl. I took time off from my teeny-tiny business. And since my daughter wouldn't nap anywhere but in my arms; I didn't have much opportunity to sew. I held her for all those hours of forced quietness, and I loved it, I savored it (my last baby!), and I resented it (again with those contradictory feelings). I still craved to do my own thing.
As she got bigger, I knew I had to grow my business. We decided to try daycare a couple days a week to see what I could do if I had more time. I had two days a week all to myself! I worked in my home studio and got to do my own thing. My business grew a little. It was thrilling!
Unfortunately, it was also limiting. I still had all my same duties as a homemaker, as a mom to three growing, changing kids, as the planner, organizer, everything of our family - but with less time to do it all. I learned to become a great juggler, as all moms do, I'm sure. But I also became stressed. And I became bitter. Why did I have so many responsibilities? I was working, even if my workplace was in our home.
It was time for my husband and I to talk. I needed him to help carry the load if I was going to be working. He agreed. We rearranged some chores, I felt better. Things were going well!
But there were always summers to sort out, days off from school to take my time, a kid home sick, or this-that-and-the-other-thing, and all the responsibilities kept falling to me. I was over-whelmed. I told myself I could handle it, I was used to being a stay-at-home mom. Yet, every time my life got complicated with being a mom, my business was put in last place.
This past summer was especially intense. It has reminded me that I am an artist, and an introvert, at heart. It's challenging to put myself into creative-mode when my time is fractured into small segments, or when I'm continually interrupted. I love my family and I love being a mom, but I also need space and time to do my own thing. Putting my business last means putting myself last, and I can't to do that anymore.
School has started again. We're getting back into a routine. I have more hours to work on my business, my daughter is in preschool and daycare most days, and my boys are in school.
My husband and I continue to talk about sharing responsibilities. Which can be very hard! Many things that I had done as a stay-at-home mom, I continue to do out of habit. Luckily, my husband is an understanding guy, and he's willing to change as I enlighten him on the many responsibilities I can no longer do on my own. I'm learning to be an advocate for my time. If I don't place importance on my business and my art, who will?
Next year all three of my kids will be in school. I'm excited to have even more time to explore my artistic side. I'm considering moving my work to a studio outside of our home. Maybe I'll be able to hire an assistant if I have more space. It would be nice to separate family space from work space -- finally. It would also make some things more difficult. There's always another challenge to figure out.
I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom, but I got to do it twice. In two different ways. And soon I'll be moving on to the next chapter of my life. But this is something that I've learned: There is no path. I'm making my own path. Readjust as necessary.
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I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.