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Hard at Work


Today. I wake up at the same time as I did yesterday, make the same thing for breakfast and mediate the same disagreements between the hungry children waiting for their pancakes. I clean the same kitchen, sweep the same floor, read the same websites. I know time is passing because the cherry blossoms bud, blossom and burst in an explosion of pink snow, but at home each day seems very much like the one that came before.

Am I moving forwards at all? I work hard every day, but what exactly am I working at? Where do you see the proof of my labours?


I might point out the brand new, handmade purple spice shelf I made with Beatrice. We measured and sawed and hammered and sanded and painted and then I took the most difficult step of all, figuring out how and where to affix it to the wall and actually doing it. Creating physical objects is supremely satisfying to me. There it is, that thing that we made. Every time I look at it I am reminded of the entire process of creativity: conception, building, problem solving, perseverance, completion, evaluation.

It is so tempting to say that my life’s work is raising my children. In one sense it is true; it is my work to care and provide for them until they are mature enough to take care of themselves. But my work doesn’t make them grow. They grow themselves. And the work of tending to the growth of children isn’t quite the same as putting a purple shelf up on the wall. It’s ephemeral. It looks more like keeping house, making notes, reading books, brushing out tangles, listening to whispers at bedtime.

I want to feel like the work I do every day is building something worthwhile, something tangible. I want to be able to point to it later and say, “This is what I spent my life doing. Here is my positive contribution to the world.” Deep in my heart I believe in the value of raising children at home. But there are days when it feels like I work hard at knitting up something that is unraveling at the other end. And I don’t know how much credit a parent can really take when it comes to their child’s future success or failure. As a parent you do your best, but it’s not your life, it’s theirs.

In truth, I crave both kinds of creativity. It just takes a little more energy to make the tangible creativity happen with all the tending to the children and our environment that goes on around here. I think a few changes are in order to make it easier for the tangible creativity to happen spontaneously… Maybe it’s time to rearrange the furniture again.

What’s your creative process like? Do you feel like you are working at something important every day? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cynthia May 1, 2012, 11:32 pm

    That’s how I feel about crafting (of any sort): “There it is, that thing that I made” with my own two hands, both beautiful and useful, something tangible to hold on to at the end of the day. It’s hard to find time but as the kids grow (well, for the next four months, anyway, until we start all over with the baby stage) it becomes easier to pull out my fabric and cut and sew while they watch or do their own thing. The boy even helped sew his own new pair of pajama pants the other day. Even though I find mothering to be very rewarding and believe it to be important work, I also find it supremely satisfying at the end of the day to have something done that won’t need to be redone tomorrow.

  • Emily Montez May 2, 2012, 7:25 am

    There is definitely something satisfying to knowing I have done something tangible, something I can see and show off and point to when it feels like I have accomplished nothing in a day. At the same time, I see my children grow, watch them learn and explore and there is something incredible to that as well. I guess at the end of the day it is about finding balance, making something for myself and still being the mama they need me to be. :)

  • Rachael May 14, 2012, 8:13 pm

    In a way, writing poems doesn’t feel that much different from keeping house. Every day, a few lines or another draft. Gradually, eventually, a poem emerges from the effort. But that just means it’s time to move on to drafting the next poem.