Saturday, April 22, 2017

Children and Art

In the early years of my first marriage, I was introduced to a friend of the Rabbi's wife where my (first) husband worked. The friend was apparently an artist, or at least, that's how the Rabbi's wife introduced her. She asked me what I did and I started talking about writing plays and acting. I got a few sentences in when she interrupted me.

"Wow," she said, "it sounds like you're doing a lot! You must not have children."


I stopped talking and tried not to let my mouth hang open. I literally couldn't even believe what I was hearing. 

Set aside the obvious snarkiness of the phrase. Why does having children preclude being creative or having time to create? Yes, it takes time to care for young children. But so does a full time job or multiple jobs) which many artists need to have.

This woman was obviously feeling upset that her children were holding her back from whatever she wanted to do as an artist. So much so, that she needed to tell me that the only reason I was accomplishing anything was because I was not a mom.

It was an ugly moment, and I think ultimately I decided not to answer her and walked away from the conversation. But I remembered this woman recently when I saw a post on Instagram. The writer was lamenting the fact that people were always asking him when he was going to have kids.

Why do people feel it's any of their business? Whether you have one, two, seven kids or none should have no bearing on anything (except for you and your family, of course). But people somehow feel they have the right to share their pronouncements on this subject all the time. When I was pregnant another family friend had to tell me that being a mom of a very young child means you can't do anything else but be a mom. Ever.

Again. Huh?

Yes, I was tired (OK, exhausted), by caring for an infant and during much of my son's first year. But I was still able to do a little writing and more importantly, find a good support system of paid help so I could carve out more time as my son got older. 

Somehow no one blinks if a mom has to return to work three months after her child is born (let alone the dad having to go to work the very next day). But if an artist is trying to figure out how to find work time with a newborn, everyone thinks she can't/shouldn't?

I don't get it. But if I met the woman I mentioned again, and she said I was only an artist because I didn't have kids, I'd tell her that I know a ton of artists with children and are even inspired by them, artistically and otherwise. I'd also want to tell her I don't think parents should judge nonparents and vice versa.

And then I might ask her to get a life. Politely. 

Or not. :)