When my neighbor had a very young daughter, she did what many of us do: She put off her favorite hobby until after the baby's bedtime. Mary loved beading; before being a mother, she could spend an entire night designing and creating beautiful pieces and never get tired.
Once Jessi was born, however, that had to change. Left a single mother through no choice of her own, Mary spent her days running, working, cleaning, chasing... you know. Being a mom. That's what we do! But she wasn't ready to give up her beadwork, so at the end of the day, when her sweet giggling daughter was finally asleep, Mary sometimes tried to regain some part of her Self by pulling out her beadwork. There were boxes and bags of findings, wire, beads, tools. She'd collected them for a long time and it always took a while to drag everything out and go through it all.
Ironically enough, she often spent more time trying to decide what to make than she actually spent working. Every once in a while her alarm would go off in the morning and she'd wake up with a half-finished project in her hand and a cat on her side table, meowling for breakfast. She would frantically stack the boxes, close the bags, shove everything into a tote in her closet, and start her morning routine with her 3-year-old girl.
The night came when my neighbor didn't have to set an alarm for the next day. She dragged out all of her supplies and spent some time choosing her materials and brainstorming ideas. She was too tired to come up with anything, however, so after an hour of fruitless contemplation, she stacked the boxes next to her bed and went to sleep. We've all been there.
The next morning, my friend Mary woke up to a clack.
A sound like water rushing or like pebbles sliding.
No! It wasn't water. It wasn't pebbles.
She opened her eyes, almost afraid to look. She already knew what she would see. And she was right.
Her cat and her daughter were having a grand time swishing feet through the beads that had been tossed from their boxes, jingling findings that had tinkled out of their bags, and stretching wire that had slid from the spools in the avalance.
Mary was, of course, devastated. She locked her bedroom door, dressed and fed her daughter, let the cat out, and then returned to her room to cry for just a moment. Just a moment. That's all the time she had.
It took her over a week of late nights to re-sort and organize her supplies. Finding the nerve to pull them out again took a bit longer.
In fact, by the time Mary pulled her beading boxes and bags out of the closet for another designing spree, Jessi was old enough to sit down and work with her. Years had passed.
So many of us are like this. We have our favorite arts and so little time to do them. Little boys sneak off with knitting needles. Joyful daughters dump mountains of yarn or fabric on the floor. In the end, we decide our favorite creative outlets can wait until the kids are just a little bit older. And, yes, years pass for many of us because taking everything out just takes too long. By the time we've chosen/designed our project, it's time to put everything back. The baby wakes early from a nap or someone needs a shoe tied, a ponytail fixed, a glass of water, help with homework....
Jessi is 18 now and Mary still remembers the incident with a sadness that gives me a deep grief. Wouldn't a mother's life be easier if we didn't have to spend so much time preparing our arts? If only we didn't have to spend so much time 'kitting up' an embroidery project or even deciding what to make next!
There has to be an answer. There has to be a way for us to maintain our Selves without taking extra things out for the babies to see as toys. To be able to put everything away in a box at a moment's notice - and not have to worry about how big the messes could get.