Sometimes when you take your child with you on the road to your artistic or semi-professional obligations you come out looking like a super-hero. As in, wow, that child slept the whole time while that mama did her thing. As in, wow, we women really can do everything! And with such grace and ease! When I was twenty-two I saw an independent film director answer questions after the screening of her film. Her some-month-old baby was there and the director, cool as a cucumber, would pick up her baby, lift up her shirt, and nurse that baby in front of one-hundred or so people while intelligently answering questions about casting and funding and writing and directing. I have always wanted to be that woman, not so much for myself, but for the other young, impressionable, not-yet-with-child young women in the audience who might be wondering if they can be both artist, professional, and mother. I want them to know they can, and that they can do all of it well. That it doesn’t have to be an either/or equation. That our breasts and our babies can be an integrated part of our professional and creative weft and weave.
So that’s what I was thinking about yesterday when we took Owen Cricket to our lecture at Dartmouth College. Only it didn’t turn out quite like I’d planned. First of all, there were only six students in the class, and they were all boys between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. Not that boys shouldn’t see a mother/artist at work, but I didn’t think it would have the same inspirational/impressionable impact as it could have had on girls. Or, it might have been impressionable in a way I wasn’t at all interested in impressing. Secondly, Owen started making a racket the minute I started talking, and wouldn’t settle down in his chair. He didn’t want to nurse, or shake his rattle, or chew on his expensive French Sophie. Which meant that the co-teacher ended up taking him out into the hall so we could do our thing, and that I kept bopping in and out of the classroom to check on them, and thus missed out on half our lecture and half the discussion and ended up feeling like both a mediocre mother and a mediocre semi-professional.
In other words, not a super-hero at all. Of course this is all to be expected. Of course there are times when it works like a charm and times when it doesn’t. And it’s all fine—it’s almost always fine. One of the things motherhood has taught me is that true catastrophes are very rare. And that most days demand, like a mother giving birth, surrendering with ease to exactly what comes your way.
So surrender I did, to the imperfection of yesterday afternoon. And today? To this early fall splendor.
Happy day to you all.