December 04, 2008

THOUGHTS IN PROGRESS

A FRIEND of mine believes books fall into her hands at times they’re to be read. They contain for her a teeny tiny pearl of wisdom, a message or thread that sends her off on a wider path of discovery. I feel Rachel Power’s book The Divided Heart is that for me.

Now, stick with me, because I have a convoluted thought process going on here.

I stumbled upon Power’s book here. Natalie was close to finishing the book when I started reading her blog. The fact she was reading it in snatches while busy with family, work and life, resonated with me.

We all read blogs that resonate with us but I have been wondering who my blog resonates with, if anyone. Essentially it has to resonate with me, but it’s not the blog I imagined creating when I started it earlier this year, and that’s got me thinking.

I’ve been thinking about the blog, what does resonate with me, why what resonates with me doesn’t seem to be making its way to my blog, what I am doing in real life that plays havoc with what I’d like to happen in real life and what I should be doing to make stuff happen. You following?

Readers of The Divided Heart, and many other smart cookies out there, will see where this is going. Fulltime parent, fulltime work, what feels like fulltime volunteering and fulltime creative soul. Hmmm. That’s a lot of full and not a lot of time.

My difficulty is that I am only an intro and one interview into The Divided Heart and already feel a fraud. You may have noted I carefully dodged the words “fulltime mother”. I am not the mother of the four children I have helped raise. They already have one of those – my partner as it so happens.

Now, this is where it gets trickier because people are ready to offer you medals and life memberships to parenting clubs when they learn you are raising children you did not give birth to. Step-parents are so very common but so marginalised. Society assumes "steps" take a back seat to "real" parents. You’re wicked and meddling – dangerously so – or you shouldn't have a say. People really struggle with the idea of taking responsibility for children not your own.

And for me, once the matter of residential status is cleared up the conversation then goes something like this.

Them: Oh Lordy, you mean the children live with you?

Me: Yes, all four of them. (Well, there's three now. I killed one off ... No, she's all grown up and moved out of home.)

Them: But where is their mother. (Place emphasis on the word mother.)

Me (choice one): Their mother is actually my partner. (Now, I never mean to shock or rub my choices in people’s faces and the tone of this statement is always carefully selected for the audience.)

Them: Either stunned silence or too-cool-for-school, fiddlin’ and fumblin’ to cover up the fact they hadn’t guessed that, or thought they’d guessed it, but didn’t want to say.

FADE OUT.

Me (choice two): The children have very close contact with their mother, in fact, they have four very loving and caring parents and we consider ourselves to be a knock-out parenting team. (White lies can sometimes be a safe option, not only for me, but for the children. My partner and I have gone to great lengths to ease them into a very unforgiving, at times, society.)

FADE OUT.

Either way, once it’s known the children’s mother, my partner, is on the scene, I’m written off as superfluous.

To illustrate, I had a colleague ask me a couple of years ago whether I was involved in choosing Christmas gifts for the kids. As my partner is considering a blog about moss and lichens, I think it can safely be said I’m the arbiter of all matters style and good taste in my household. So der, mate, whaddya reckon?

It’s not an uncommon assumption, though. To add to the murky waters my family I am also 11 years younger than my partner. People imagine I get home after a days work and swan about doing whatever I like while my partner does the - excuse the pun - mother load.

It’s a tricky one, made all the more so because I do not wish to diminish the hard yakka, patience and endurance of my partner. She has her own battles with motherhood and I marvel at her ability to manoeuvre through - in a blended, extended, left-of-field family - a minefield of human frailty and emotion.

That minefield becomes particularly difficult to navigate at Christmas.

Lisa, at The Red Thread, posted this week about how she’s had to step up to the role her mother left in her passing and create a Christmas full of meaning for her own family. It’s the missing members of a family, alive and dead or separated by distance or divorce, that are elephants in the room at this time of year. I imagine, each year, how I’ll make Christmas special and as the date looms I feel the pressure of that responsibility.

Each and every year my expectations for that one day dwindle in size and grandeur as it draws closer and I tell myself to be calm and go with the flow. Like the women in Power’s book, I struggle to make the vision match the reality. As a child Christmas was a time of creativity and careful planning. Now, dare-I-say-it, as a working mother it’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, arms flailing, crazy, crazy day which is often wedged between two working days because newspaper people, as my partner and I are, don’t get public holidays.

I’m hoping this Christmas for answers, time and direction. There’s a big wide world out there and I’m in it, well and truly. I don’t wish to complain or grumble and hope people don’t read this as such. I’m, like so many parents and oh so many mothers, putting my hand up to say “I hear you sista”. I am reading your blogs and am gobsmacked by the sheer talent and enthusiasm you have for your families, your art, your craft, your work, your gardens, your wardrobes and your friends.
I still feel a bit the new girl and if you don’t mind, I’ll just hang back a bit this month until I can work out where I fit. In fact, if you don’t mind, I’m the one in the corner with her nose stuck in a book and while I’m not known for being shy, today I’d like it if you said hi first. I’m sure we’ve got lots in common and I’m an OK listener – not great, but OK.

25 comments:

  1. hey, I think you are doing a splendid job - and am often in awe of your talents; your cooking, gardening, dedication to girl guides, awesome opshop radar!!
    In my opinion, parenting is always going to be challenging, especially if you take the time to reflect on how you do it and how you could improve on it....even if you put 100 percent in you can't expect perfecion.
    I've decided that there are some years I can't manage an advent calender or hosting a lunch for extended family but if I can provide one special memory that will suffice. And there's always another christmas next year.

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  2. Im saying Hi first today:) Thank you so much for sharing. The world is such a different place these days and families come in all shapes and sizes. I cant pretend to know exactly how it is for you but I too am part of a family that is not the traditional. For me it is just the Boo and me - her father at this time has chosen not to be part of her life.

    I have read this great book too - funnily I also felt a fraud whilst reading it - but for different reasons (ie I dont consider myself an artist in any way). I suppose we shouldnt beat ourselves up about the different labels we are given (or give ourselves) - we are who we are.

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  3. Oh Katie!!!!!!!!!! I so hear you!!!!!! The parenting thing is so complicated these days. I know so many people in situations like yours and it's tricky for the 'non-bio' mum. Hell girl, I ain't brave enough to even go there so you have my utmost respect for trying.

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  4. thanks for sharing a bit more about you,ive never heard of this book but it sounds interesting and its great it made you post today...im sure you'll have a wonderful festive season, i bet it gets really busy in your household..it will be a New Year before you know it!

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  5. Hell, I wrote that book and I still feel like fraud!! As women who do so much and care for so many in our lives, just living well and keeping ourselves from sinking is an art! And if I have learnt anything from all these amazing bloggers out there it's that raising kids is the most creative act going. And you've taken on a really huge job. Artists will make work when and how they can--and for some this means little output for long stretches at a time. Give yourself permission to do what you need to stay sane and have faith that everything changes... In the meantime, keep on blogging--I, for one, am hearing you!

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  6. Now then, darlin', if the author of the book you're reading is also reading YOU I would say you are resonating in the blog world and positively bristling with authenticity to boot.
    So, chin up. Don't let the turkeys' get you down yadda yadda.
    Send me your address, I think a comfort parcel may be in order.
    x

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  7. At first I was going to say that I feel guilty for giving you this existential crisis. But then again, I think it's a good thing. The only way we develop as people is by giving ourselves challenges and looking into ourselves. I'm not a new-age guru, but I do think it's important to take time out and assess what makes you happy and pursue that. What's the point, otherwise?

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds to me like you're doing an amazing job.

    Christmas can be a funny time, one of those times that you feel the pressure for everything to be perfect. My family, my siblings mainly, have started going the bah-humbug route and it really saddens me that my family have lost the Christmas spirit. I really want to do something to bring everyone close again, but am at a bit of a loss how to do it from far away.

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  9. Katie - I meant to also say to email me if you'd like to chat more offline:
    info@mizudesigns.com.au

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  10. I have to say that fraud is one word I would never use to describe you. I find you inspirational - being a parent, full-time professional woman, supportive partner not to mention guide leader as well as creative with your hands and mind. I've been loving your blog so much, I'm getting the courage together to start my own. Take a deep breath and don't sweat the small stuff.

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  11. I have gone through yesterday and today absolutely blown away by the response to this post. I've replied to each of you individually and the conversation has gone on away from the blog with some of you. Nic, hello - gosh you're sneaky reading without popping by before now. Thank you. I can't reply to you at a blog, but please, please, please, start your own.

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  12. nice juicy post! have heard good things about this book and looking forward to reading it being someone who has 'given up' art for motherhood for the time being (although i've found motherhood is full of ceative opportunites). its lovely to learn a little more about you and am left feeling strongly that you have every right to call yourself the mother of your children. you are mothering them in every sense of the word from what it sounds like to me. modern families are so complicated i wish you didn't have to face this need to 'explain yourself'. anyhoop thankyou for the meaningful, inspiring, stylish reading. looks like you have plenty of fans! goodluck with the christmas production xx

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  13. Great post. Thanks Katie for sharing a bit of your life. I love your blog for the variety of topics you offer. My blog tends to get a bit bogged down in craft and reading your blog gives me that extra something. Thank god for different family units. I've found, in my own experience, alot of people feel uncomfortable when they can't pigeonhole you.

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  14. This is such an amazing post. I read it last week, and was really moved. Thanks so much for sharing this... and so beautifully. It really made me think. It must be hard as the 'non-bio' Mum. (The sort of challenges and presumptions you must face must be so challenging. From an outsider looking in, you seem like a really strong woman.) But you are Mum nonetheless. And a pretty good one at that, from what I have seen from reading your blog for a while.

    (I've really been enjoying your beautiful photos lately too. Your blog has really grown and reflects that creative, earthy artistic side of you. Which is nice.)

    xx

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  15. Hi Katie, I've been so caught up in my own *stuff* lately that I have only just read this post. I really enjoy your blog because it's honest and it's 'you'. I'd love to, and will, write more, but it's just beyond me this week. Thanks for sharing and trusting us enough to share. x

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  16. Hi Katie,
    I'm another sneaky reader like Nic. I've only started reading blogs in the last few months despite being forced to study them at uni (currently the only blogs I have to my name are study-related).
    Until now I've never found any that seemed worth following, but since I found yours via a friend's blog, and looked up all of your favourite blogs, and their favourite blogs, and so on, I've become a bit of an addict!
    It also got me thinking about how having this new(ish) medium has affected parenthood and whether it enables parents to maintain creative and other interests that in the past sometimes got lost in the hullaballoo of family life. Consequently I'm writing an article about it for a magazine I work for, Mothers Matter. I know it's a time of reflection for you, but I'd love to interview you about your experiences and insights (I'll be chasing Home Girl up as well!) and would also welcome any other comments from others with thoughts on this topic. Just drop me a line at jennifer.sheridan@mothersmatter.com.au.
    I hope to hear from you, and hope you continue blogging, I've so enjoyed reading about your activities and following up many of your recommendations of other blogs.
    Thanks,
    Jen

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  17. great post ms crackernuts - raw, wise, and so open. If I wasn't already completely fascinated by your life before you wrote this post, I certainly am now! As far as resonating in the blogosphere, from all the above comments I hope you are now aware that you are resonating at a high frequency. I completely agree with what both Rachel and Natalie have said in their comments too, so beautifully said.

    And as far as this time of year goes, I hear ya sista! I have so many family complications that I could write a book soley based on them (and maybe one day I will) - going with the flow is really all we can do.

    xx

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  18. Well, aren't you amazing for sharing so much of your life and thoughts with us. And I had to chuckle at you being gobsmacked with our gardens and wardrobes!!!! Hehehehe, the irony.

    One of my best friends (since primary school actually) is 12 years younger than her partner, and even without children they have enough of those awkward social conversations.

    It seems to me you have got a really good thing going. Christmas is great, but also has that power of putting extra emphasis/pressure on "family" across the board, which tends to push some to melting point anyway. Believe me, I've seen it.

    Sorry, I'm babbling. What I'm trying to get at is that I'm sure, even if you are worried about Christmas, your kids probably aren't. I'm sure you do a great job, however big or small you make the day :)

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  19. i think your blog is great. i just stumbled upon it today for the first time. i think it is wonderful that you are working through this, in part, by posting about it on your blog. that takes a tremendous amount of faith. i think every single one of us are searching for ways to follow our hearts in ways that are not only a fulfillment of our own dreams, but that also blesses those around us. i must get the book you are referencing..it sounds wonderful!
    i hope and your family have a merry, happy, Christmas and many more after this one. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. A friend of mine always said it is about finding "joy in the journey"... :)
    xoxo
    teri

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  20. Thank you for such a beautiful, honesty-filled post. I think you deserve a hug pat on the back for everything you do - you obviously put a lot of thought and effort into all your roles, and by the sounds of it do a damn good job.

    And it doesn't matter in this crazy old world who you are, what you are or how you are - you're always going to be judged by somebody, somewhere, and feel like you're coming up short (that's how I feel most of the time, anyhoo!).

    Not that I think you're coming up short. Oh my goodness no way! I think you're tops and always enjoy reading your posts.

    xoxo Jorth

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  21. Your post was great! Sorry I hadn't commented earlier, but as you say, I am part of the whole newspaper thing and knocked off my feet these days. And I feel for you concerning the festive holidays; I'm leaving everything up to my mother and sister completely and utterly.

    Merry Christmas to you and your partner and children! :)

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  24. So beautiful Katie, I love this and your bravery to put it out there. There are all kinds of mothers out there and you are one of them. Mother = Love and that's it.
    Best to your family they are lucky to have you :)

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