This week I went to see Sting and Paul Simon perform together. Seeing Sting perform live was a long-standing entry on my bucket list.
It was a great show – both artists are incredible and have rich and diverse musical careers individually. It was wonderful to see them each perform each other’s songs and witness their obvious respect for each other and love of music and performing.
But the thing that struck me most about this concert was the band. Behind Sting and Paul Simon were a dozen other musicians, and each of them played several instruments each. They didn’t just dabble in a few instruments, they played each of them well enough to back up Sting and Paul Simon.
And they were having a blast. The violinist played with such intensity that he was shredding his bow. The accordion player was doing a 2nd line shuffle every time I looked at his corner of the stage. One band member switched from cello to electric guitar to recorder and had a special stand so he could play measures on a tenor sax without taking off his guitar. The three (!) percussionists were laughing and egging each other on during one particularly notable rhythm-section solo.
It got me thinking about how long it takes to learn a skill, and how much passion is a motivator, but also how passion is the payoff.
Also on my bucket list are these items: Write a book. Learn to play the cello. Learn to speak Italian.
In my life right now, being the primary caregiver to a 3-year-old and feeling responsible for keeping our home clean and organized and running smoothly, it sometimes feels impossible to reach for those things. How will learning to play the cello support our household? How do I justify the time it will take for me to learn that kind of skill, to put in that kind of practice? What will I, or my family, have to give up to make room for me to pursue those passions?
Watching those musicians, I saw the answer differently than I often do.
It is valuable for me to pursue my passions because when I am living passionately I burn brighter everywhere in my life. I am more alive in my parenting and my mothering and even in my home-keeping. I’m more able to follow my child’s interests where they lead and more willing to support my partner in his own outside-of-our-home interests.
Over and over I run in to this deeply embedded notion that because I choose to stay at home with our child, because I choose to not work in the traditional, office-based way, that I cannot or somehow do not deserve to spend time doing anything else.
I hear this voice saying I don’t have time for hobbies. I don’t have time for naps. When my child is in childcare I must be doing some kind of financially-productive work to earn the privilege of that time off for me. Which makes it not actually time off, just a different kind of work.
Over and over again I attempt to unravel that old idea and reprogram the voice. Because I really don’t believe it.
But it is very persistent.
If you feel guilty taking time for your own passions, you are not alone. If you have trouble turning off your to-do list, you are not alone. Us mamas, we feel like we have to do it all. Raise kids, have a career (or a successful solo business), have a beautiful clean home, have a busy social life.
All of which leaves very little room for us, the real women who are so busy spinning all those plates and wishing we just had time to paint, or read a book, or learn a language. Just because we want to. But that voice tells us we don’t deserve to take the time away from all those other things to spend on ourselves.
But let’s try this: Let us stand together in overcoming that voice that tells us we do not deserve. Because we do.
Mothers deserve to be autonomous, well-rested, passionate and engaged people, too. We deserve the time to learn new skills, pursue our curiosities, even to simply rest.
Not every single thing we do has to be of service to our family. It is enough, really enough, if it is simply of service to you.
Even when you are the primary caregiver. Even when you have young children.
If you could give yourself permission, what would you spend some time on that is just for you?