Friday, January 20, 2012

Can a mother have a life of the mind?

As I sat down to write this post both boys burst into the office drowning out the hum of the heater and the quietly brutal cries of Josh's Star Wars computer game.

"Can we have bars for desert?"  they asked, carrying the tin of energy bars and protein boosting nut bars I keep for lunches and emergency hungers.

"No" said Joshua. "Those are for snacks."

"Awwwww..." they both sighed, crestfallen.

"What can we have then?"

"You can have a Pepperidge Farm cookie." said Josh.

"Er, I think we ate them all this afternoon." I admitted.

"What, the whole bag?  That's... impressive."

"You can have a biscotti, or hot chocolate."  I suggested and Frost goes off to boil the kettle.

A great deal of hot chocolate is consumed during snow-cations even if one is not cold, there is some kind of subliminal association in the US between hot chocolate and snow.  Some days the entire top rack of the dishwasher is filled with mugs of kids and friends who have drunken themselves silly on hot chocolate.  Oddly, most of the little kids don't even drink more than a few sips plus the cream and marshmallows on the top.  This evening, they make them with the last broken candy canes that made if off the Christmas tree and have been hidden with the fancy cutlery for just this kind of emergency.

The question I have been asking, in the intervals between laundry and hot-chocolating, is this: can a mother - an in-the-trenches NW type of mother not one with a housekeeper and a babysitter and an agent or one with a spouse who makes everyone else doubt their marriages - can this mother have a life of the mind?

I guess I need to explain myself.

Josh and I were watching this movie - Another Earth - and the whole thing builds to the moment that the protagonist literally meets another version of herself.  My thought on viewing it was "Oh no!"   I would not want to meet myself.

Much of my life I have done creative things.  I have done interesting things and had a kind of freedom.  Since having children this has largely ceased.  Of course, I have my annual mushroom mania and draw fungi but its descriptive art.   I am not spending any time reflecting on my life (beyond who to consult for plans for the back deck and when to watch the next episode of Downtown Abbey).  I do not have anything to say as an artist (or writer, or potter or whatever).

My theory is that art comes from self-awareness and a bit of separation, separation that allows you to objectify whatever it is you think or see and self-awareness that lets you know you are feeling it.  But when kids are in your life all the time with only short blocks of time 'off' to work or cook or shop or clean or read a book to escape from doing these things, its hard to find either of these things.

When I was a kid I think my mother was in the grips of just this realization.  She made it clear to me that it was important to have a fulfilling life rather than marrying and having children.  I remember thinking how futile it was to make your life's work making kids when the kids would go on and make their life's work making their kids.  I mean, somewhere along the line someone has to have fun?  Right?

So, I had kids late to make sure I got some life of the mind in and now I want some back.

Anyway, I haven't figured out the answer yet but tomorrow I am heading out for a 4 day meditation retreat with a Vipassana teacher.  I used to sit daily but I haven't for years so I predict that I will get to see my mind up close and personal over the next few days.  I will report back if I find any answers.

I will not tell you if the answer is to stop seeking a life of the mind, because that would be depressing for all of you who didn't get to go on the retreat.

Meanwhile, in move guaranteed to lead to fun (if not self-awareness and creative expression) Tara and I have decided to buy cross-country skis and go cross-country skiing.

We may even take the kids.

My mind walking to the corner store to buy candy


Mum In Awe said...

Nope - it' snot possible. Even now the kids are older, and I have a spare hour or two to post on my blobgs - and , I still do not have a life of the mind. Those books I wrote that need editing gather dust, my easel is in the loft, and my sense of humour is a little scared of me. Hopefully it all comes back at some stage - before I'm too old to enjoy it!!!

Shannon said...

Oh my jolly gosh! I am a bit more worried than when I posted this. I expected to hear that I was the main culprit and should take more time for myself and "JUST DO IT!"

However, all the responses I have had have been the same.

Is it truly not possible? Can a father have one?

Mum In Awe said...

Yes, a father can have one. Whether that's our fault or society's fault (well we are part of society, so that's a bit of a conumdrum too...) is still up for debate.