Presenting a guest post by Diana Cherry – a lovely story about our roles as women–and what is possible:
“I want to be an artist-astronaut-teacher-mom,” my 4 year old proudly announced as I picked her up from pre-school the other day. I immediately felt a sense of panic, just imagining how stressful such a life would be. The time away from the kids, the papers to grade, all the work functions she’d have to work around to be home on sick days. I quickly dismissed the idea in my own head. It could never work.
Her teacher, on the other hand, was much more optimistic and told Norah, simply, as we packed up our things to leave, “I’m sure you could be all of those things.” Still to myself, I thought: could she really?
Later that night, when discussing this with a friend, she went over all the logistics with me, “You know,” she said matter-of-factly, “she really could be all of those things. I mean, she could paint or photograph her adventures in space. And, astronauts are not traveling in space all the time, so she could teach classes in the down time. She could certainly also be a mother. She could do crafts with her kids, tell them of her space adventures, and teach them how to read.” It all sounded so well packaged; so possible. It seemed that everyone but me could wrap their minds around my daughter’s dreams.
As children, our lives are not narrowly defined by career options or financial provisions. But at 4, it seemed my daughter was driven by the very limited concept that you are what you do. So why not do everything? 24 years her senior, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and maybe that’s because I’ve never outgrown that very limited concept myself. It feels as though for the past 6 years, I myself have been juggling the life of an “artist-astronaut-teacher-mom.” Although for me the roles are different; I often find myself trying to balance too many roles at once.
The other day, I watched my daughter in her paint clothes (a tie die shirt and sports’ shorts) let loose on her easel. She painted a beautiful pattern across the page with reds, greens, blues, and yellows. She danced and sang as she painted and asked me to turn up the music I had playing on the stereo. She was in a world all her own. She doesn’t want to be an artist. She is one. With the time and space to play and create, that aspect of who she is (who she’s always been) emerges.
This past year, I finished my graduate degree. At the same time, my husband and I decided I would quit my job and stay home with our kids. A decision that left me feeling unbelievably excited and free but also oddly debilitated by fear. That same sense of fear (but for different reasons) gripped me when I decided to return to work after the birth of our first 2 daughters. Is there really a right choice for me, for any one of us? Or…is it just about taking one step at a time and trusting that there are sometimes many choices and there often isn’t only one right choice. The best we can do is live with what we decide and choose to love what comes of it.
I realized the concept of the astronaut-artist-teacher-mother stresses me out because it was more about the “shoulds” and less about the “coulds”. I was taking out all the possibility and the promise of dreaming, of learning, of doing – of being free to make mistakes, explore, and have fun along the way. During the time while I was working full time, going to graduate school, and trying to get a healthy dinner on the table by 6 each night, I wasn’t taking any time for me to dream, to paint, to sing, to grow.
Whether working or not, I, like my girl at her easel, must carve out personal time to take out all the paints, grab my pen and journal, go for a walk and be open to what comes. With a little time and space to play and create, I too, have found some surprising aspects of self emerge. I am not aspiring to the role of artist or mother, I too, innately embody those roles. Given the time and energy I need – these parts of me flourish. I find myself saying “yes” to playing dress up and doll house. With space to breathe, I do take the time to sit down to write or to paint. I naturally explore books, nature, and art and am a student whether in the classroom or not. We, all of us (my daughter and I included) are so much more than the labels we pin to ourselves. My daughter can and should explore all that interests her along the path to growing up and beyond. Once I started to do more of what I loved and for the right reasons, I realized I’d been wrong about her. She does what she does because she is who she is, and not the other way around.
I now know that I can be proud to claim my many roles, because I’m finally taking the time I need to really enjoy them. I am an artist-teacher-student-wife-mom and so much more. As it turns out, that is far less complicated and a lot more fun than I thought.
About the author:
Diana Cherry is a mother-painter-photographer-