Back in the old days, when I only had one child, I happened to overhear a conversation between two coworkers regarding a less than flattering Mother’s Day gift. My coworker’s daughter had made a book in school “All About My Mom.” My coworker shared how dismayed she felt because under “What my mom likes to do,” her daughter had drawn a picture of her cleaning.
I vowed at that moment to make a lasting impression on my children beyond how I cleaned the toilet or baked a tuna casserole. And then within the first nine years of my marriage I found myself with five kids. I’d stopped writing, taking pictures of anything but my children and crafting came in bits and spurts that usually just put me in a foul mood. (But Addie does have one ugly baby quilt to prove I at least tried.)
I love reading and manged to keep up with that (one of the good things about bedrest and nursing non-squirmy newborns) but all my time outside mothering, homemaking and teaching went to activities for my kids, work (for varying amounts at varying times) and church functions.
Now none of those things are bad, but for a long time there was a creative side of me that needed an outlet. I wondered if I should get a job or try to start my own business. (Ugly quilts anyone?) I actually had another blog a few years back that was even more niche than this one, if you can believe it. But the site’s serious nature demanded long, in-depth posts which, after a several enthusiastic months quickly dwindled because 1. it’s hard for me to maintain seriousness in just a stare-off contest, and 2. I was pregnant again. (Pregnancy brain 1 , coherent train of thought 0.)
After Fulton’s diagnosis I even went through a period of feeling like I should live each day to the fullest by cutting out everything that distracted me from my children. Life is too short and too precious to spend it planning homeschool conferences (which I did, twice) or organizing playgroups or running sports teams. But I like organizing events and leading things so then I was unhappy too. I felt guilty because being a SAHM just wasn’t enough, as much as I wanted it to be.
After many nights scribbling on a legal pad, I finally settled on how I wanted to spend my free time. I created this blog, and I perform once a year in my church’s dinner theater production. I still love to read and occasionally I will attempt to make something (don’t ask me about the two-year t-shirt quilt project) but I narrowed down my interests, picked the most important things and let the rest go.
Now when I have free time, I know how I’m going to spend it. Afterwards, I feel refreshed and satisfied and better prepared to tackle the rest of my life. Previously, when the creative juices would start to boil over, I’d get an hour free and I didn’t know how to spend my time, “Should I make some jewelry? Take pictures of the sunset? Learn the lap harp? Redecorate the living room?” And ultimately I’d feel more frustrated after the hour was over than when it began.
Currently, I’m trying to balance all my dinner theatre rehearsals with blogging. Practice is taking up a lot of my free time so, as I can’t replace dinner prep or laundry time with blogging, writing has dropped off. But I know I’ll come back to it when the time allows and in the mean time, acting is satisfying my need for personal expression.
But despite straightening myself out, I was still on track to get my own disappointing Mother’s Day present and I didn’t even know it. The other day when I asked my daughter what she though my hobbies were, she quickly answered “Facebook.” I quizzed her further and she guessed I also liked acting, since I participated in the church’s production but otherwise she elaborated on her earlier answer by adding that “the computer” was my hobby.
Wow. What an awesome legacy.
Besides immediately launching the offensive on how I’m not on Facebook “that much” I showed my children my blog. This is what I do on the computer. I told them approximately how many words a week I write. I explained how I designed the site, added links and advertisements. I showed them my site’s stats and they learned that a bunch of people visit my blog every day to read what I post.
I think it worked. Just like Byron enjoys movie making, Addie lives for baking and Edie colors like a pro, they know Mama loves writing online (and taking weird pictures, too.) I’m glad they can see me as something outside of a baby maker, teacher, housekeeper and cook. While ‘Catholic Wife and Mother’, are my favorite titles, they don’t paint the complete picture of who I am. I want to fulfill God’s plan for my life by using the talents He’s given me, not by sacrificing them. The next step is making sure the kids know Papa’s interests aren’t limited to work, commuting and hording old Star Wars action figures.
Now go ask your kids what your hobbies are, and see what they come up with.