When my children were small the pressure was obvious: to stay home and care for kids, or to work out of the home for income. It was a dreary, cacophonic, intense matter with many voices shouting over one another; I am angry still that this fraught conversation rages on without a modicum of pressure applied to fathers on the issue. Apparently, it is only women who are required to sacrifice entire lump sums of their personhood to ensure a quality of life for our world’s children.
What I remember, also, was deliberately setting aside my career – for the moment, for years anyway – and knowing that really, that was that. I heard other parents bitching about how family life and kids held them back. I knew that family life required incredible resources; but I didn’t feel “held back” and I certainly simply chose not to second-guess my occupation. I was putting that so-called “career” aside, on hold.
For the moment. For years, anyway.
And I spent those early years working my ass off for the children, the home, the marriage. And I didn’t have to worry about it getting “boring” or dull because, of course, my drive and creativity kicked in. Did it ever! Those early years, as difficult as they were on one income, were incredibly exhilarating; the most creative years I’d thus-far experienced. And while I was doing all this I built my career – without knowing I was doing this. As the children reached maturity and competency in housework, I found I could put large swatches of time into something new.
So today, that “career” is upon me. It rolled up and tumbled on so quickly I can barely catch breath. Today, I work as efficiently and as studiously as I can; I am fast and I am competent, skilled – some would say expert – and I love every minute of it.
And I can’t get out from under the work.
It piles up: more orders, more requests. Dresses and jackets and trousers and mending and alterations. Every job is a tremendous joy and I play a little game where I put it on my docket and I try to finish the job before the client has paid in full, and I think I will get a lull and get a break – and I do not. Once I am nearing the surface, I can see the sunlight – there is another job to do, to plan, to schedule.
Obviously this means I am a tremendous success in my first years of business. And I would be remiss in communicating displeasure; it is wonderful to have this vocation; it is amazing. It is also no small matter that all those warning voices that told me I was “sacrificing” too much to homeschool the kids and that I would regret putting aside that career – well, they were wrong. Doing what we did and how we did it, led to the best work I could hope for, and pays a wage that supports the family well.
Today I told my husband that at four o’clock, no matter what, I’d emerge from the studio and we’d take a family walk. And I did; and we did. We walked through the bird preserve and my youngest son spotted snakes and the older son caught them up. Both our sons are so gentle and so at-ease in nature; they are so quick to be enthralled by the smallest detail. I can’t quite figure out what to do about damn near anything these days, but making that regular time to be with my family grounds me enough to feel a great sense of hope.