Monday, April 27, 2015

Mortal Mom

In 2002, I started a blog called Mortal Mom. The original title was Divine Mother, Mortal Me, but that was too long, so I abbreviated to Mortal Mom. The Divine Mother half was about the creation aspect, creation being an act of the divine as far as I am concerned. And Mortal Me referred to the humbling world motherhood. In our society, motherhood serves to show you just how human you are, because whatever track you take, you will have those out there who tell you that you are doing it wrong. Often those people are your own children. The raising of little people is at best a thankless task and at worst is a forum for all the world to criticize you.  The blog was about maintaining a creative life while also working full-time and raising kids, who were five and eight at the time. I wanted the blog to be a conversation with other mothers who were going through similar issues of finding time to make art--and I did. But the blog was also a way for me to keep running tabs on myself and my progress with my creative goals. What did it mean to be an artist in the face of motherhood? Were there times when my art came before my kids? Could I do it all? Could I still be considered an artist if I wasn't doing any artwork at the time? What were the hallmarks of an imaginative life?

I changed platforms for the blog, so I don't have records of any of it before 2008. Some of 275 posts that I do have are fun to reread. I cringe at others. But it was my path. And the blog tells an important part of my story. This blog entry should be on my Mortal Mom blog, but as I have laid that to rest, I am telling the story here. My daughter just came home today after being in New York City for eight weeks. She was doing a film-acting intensive for six college credits with New York Film Academy. She is a changed girl. Can you imagine being let loose to do as you please in the greatest city in the world at the age of seventeen? I would have killed for that opportunity. It has shaped her and probably will continue to shape her for years to come. If that experience wasn't enough, her six classmates were from all over the world, representing all the continents except Antarctica. I hope someday she does a world tour next and gets to visit all her new friends.

But I do not want to tell Maren's story. I want to share my experience of being a mother and an artist. For the last eight weeks, Mark and I have experienced the empty nest. It has been glorious, and in expressing just how glorious it was, I get a twinge of guilt. Mothers are not supposed to be in ecstasy when their kids leave home. If you believe the media archetype of an empty-nester mom, she is sad and bored--not knowing what to do with herself. Sending care packages to her child and sealing off her room with velvet ropes until the lost sheep returns home on a break. Not so with me. Maybe it was because Maren was only leaving for eight weeks; my separation from my youngest child was only temporary. We were getting on one another's nerves before she left. Knowing it was temporary, I took full advantage of our time apart. I even turned her bedroom into a sewing room, temporary though it was.

Here is the list of things I accomplished in that time:
1. Redecorated the Living Room, with painted wall, new furniture, changed artwork and mantle scape.
2. Painted a 48x36 painting for the living room, my first finished painting in years.
3. Designed and printed a prototype of a poster that I am going to use as a fundraiser for an upcoming civic project.
4. Sewed 2 skirts, 2 pair of pants, a dress and a half (only half-way done with the second dress), and a shirt. The shirt and the pairs of pants were of my own design.
5. Started a blog and wrote over 50 blog entries.
6. Designed and planted my garden
7. Finished my quilt
8. Redid my website

It felt like I was on fire--able to accomplish anything. I finished old projects and started new ones. I tried explaining the freedom I felt to to my other mom friends.  I didn't have a million things on my mind. More than just freeing up my time, my kids' absence gave me the psychic space that helped me accomplish it all. When my kids are around, it is my job to keep tabs on them, answer their questions, make sure they get places on time. Even if they have their schedule under control, I still fret and check the time on my phone until they are out the door. The fretting isn't productive, but I can't stop myself. It is part of the mother code. Is the child dressed appropriately for the occasion, for the weather? I have to juggle everyone's schedule in my head. Figure out a dinner plan for all of us when two out of three people have evening plans.

It was the absence of all of that that freed me creatively. Maren is home now. I want to be excited about that. It is good to have her in our midst again. We have a new appreciation of one another born of separation. And as much as I value that, I don't want to lose my momentum for my projects and my creative gain. Can I find a place in my mothering that allows Maren to be responsible for herself? She already is responsible in so many ways. This is a girl who navigated all of the New York subway system on her own. I am sure she would love it if I backed off on the fretting and overarching control I have over the family schedule. The lesson of the day is letting go, for her sake and mine. These next few weeks will be a test for all of us, learning to live with each other again, and trying not to unlearn the lessons that distance provided. I am a Mortal Mom. I am sure to make more mistakes before that day when Maren really does leave us for good. But these last weeks have proven that I am also the Divine Mother, and she too must be honored.

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