Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Virtue Trap

This week is Week 5 of my The Artist's Way for Beaders group on Facebook. This week is always a good reminder to me of what I need to do to stay sane as an artist, and a reminder of how important it is to work at staying true to myself while being considerate of the needs of my family.

The very first time I did The Artist's Way, I was right on board with the whole taking-time-for-yourself thing. I was working at a job that I didn't enjoy very much while at the same time trying to get a business of the ground, and it was hard. I understood how much I needed that time to unwind and create, and truthfully, it wasn't very hard for me to get a lot of time to myself. This was way before Tom and I had even thought about having kids, and even though we were busy, it was really all just about us.

Then I had Colden. Wow, nothing like having a baby to totally change your perspective and your attitudes about having time for yourself! Tom and I made a lot of sacrifices to have Colden, and we still make a lot of sacrifices to make sure that Colden's needs are met. After all, we made the decision to bring him into the world, and it's our responsibility to make sure that he grows up to be a productive, well-adjusted, and happy member of society.

So where does that leave us when it comes to having time for ourselves? As a couple, and individually?

It's hard. It's really hard.

This time around, I bristled when I read through some of the examples that Julia gives in The Artist's Way of how people put their families' needs and/or desires above their own individual creative needs. Well, of COURSE we're going to buy a second vehicle instead of sending me to a bead show. Of COURSE we're going to pay for Colden's preschool instead of spending the money on ourselves. How dare Julia suggest that we put our own needs above what's going to be good for our kids?

But, no, I had to rein myself in. Of course, that's not what she's talking about.

Example: I work 8:30 - 5, 5 days a week, writing about beads, jewelry-making, and bead-weaving. I spend most of my days taking and editing photos, writing blogs, formatting newsletters, choosing content for eBooks, poring over spreadsheets, and analyzing statistics. It's not like I get to sit in front of my beads and just stitch for 8 hours a day.

Of course, when Colden and Tom get home, there's dinner to make, dishes and laundry to wash, beds to make, baths, and bedtime. Not a lot of time to sit and create after dinner. Mornings are crazy, since Tom leaves so early, so it's all me for getting Colden up and dressed, fed, and out the door. Not a lot of time there, either.

So, when DO I get time for myself to create? Where do I draw the line between doing what I "have" to for work, and what I "want" to just for myself? They aren't always the same thing, that's for sure.

Sometimes, my husband sees me beading and says, "What are you doing that for? Don't you do that all day? Stop working, and let's do something to relax!"

Which really gets me ticked off. I *don't* sit and bead all day, as I mentioned above. I'm answering emails, writing, editing photos, etc. When I decide to take a few minutes and bead, it's because I AM doing something to relax, but somehow, he just doesn't seem to get it.

That leads to me avoiding my beads when I find myself with a few minutes of downtime. Which leads to me getting really, really, really grumpy after a few days.

I really *need* that time alone or that time when everyone will just leave me alone to do my beading. I really *need* that time in the bathtub with my sketchbook and my jewelry books to dream and doodle and think.

And how do I manage to balance my needs with the needs of my family? It ain't easy. It's been a struggle since the beginning. Something always manages to get pushed to the side, usually the housework, which becomes another struggle.

 Why do we think that to be "good" people, we need to sacrifice our own well-being to the point that it makes us miserable and not much fun to be around? Am I really benefiting my son if I deny myself an hour a day to bead and relax? Will he remember the fun we have, or will he remember me being a screaming maniac because I'm so stressed out and won't take time for myself?

I don't know what the right answers are to any of it, really. I do know that I feel happier when I manage to find time for myself to bead and create or dream during the day. But I also know that when I get into my "zone", it's hard for me to break out and move on to the next thing, and invariably, I have to break it off before I'm ready to because something else needs my attention.

I would love to find time to sign up for an art class at the Cultural Center in Plattsburgh, or a photography class at Clinton Community College, or a workshop at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. But my big concern is: where will I find the TIME?

My time with Colden is so precious and so fleeting... Sometimes I think I guilt-trip myself into doing something with him when what I really need is to take some time for myself and let Tom take over.

So, yep, it's all back to the Balancing Act. Not easy. But as long as we can figure out what works for us, we'll be good.


Kristen said...

I am in the same boat. Although I do not have the work day you do I am trying to launch my jewelry business and I had no clue how much time that would take. I am working on the time management thing and it is a struggle. I do however set the time that my husband and I have in the evening for my creative time. I have never been one to sit idle so we chat or watch a favorite program and I bead. I am so glad you wrote this post!

Amy B. said...

Jen - you have no idea how this resonates with me. While I don't have children, I have multiple businesses. One is the very important career path - that demands ME.
Beading becomes a chore at times, because it is what I need to do for the second "job."
I do not get time to create & design.
There is always something or someone that needs ME.
But finding balance is in order. Otherwise if we keep stifling that creative spirit, someday, she may not be there when we are 'ready.'

Leslie said...

If you have a full time job, you are lucky. The other side of the coin--being self employed-- means working ALL the time to make money, and not much of it. And THAT is the CHORE part, to do it for money. I hate that voice in my ear because it prevents real creativity, but that's the reality of our lives. I can eat PB and J but tuition needs to be paid. With small children your "me" time shrinks no matter what! But consider that a stage to go through and you will eventually have some of that time back. I too am never idle, beading everywhere and anywhere, at night vegging before bed, and I go to bed late as it is. At least my hubs supports me and doesn't call it 'sitting around and beading.' That boy needs a time out!