My response to Salsa's comment on the previous post was getting so long I thought I may as well write it as a post.
She said that she's at the point of considering giving up the idea of continuing with writing/editing while her son is young, especially when it's for dwindling pay or no pay at all, and with its the demands on her time and the "need for obsessive-level focus".
"I can't break through and I can't manage my life with a small child and a household on top of it all. I've worked for the last seven weeks and the house has descended into shit and I'm giving my son about 50%."
I can't even begin to express how much I can relate to this feeling! And, sadly, my kids are now 8 and 11 and I still feel this way.
It can be such a no-win situation for women trying to work, especially in low-paid jobs and/or jobs that demand a lot from us.
I feel constantly frustrated that whenever I try to do my own work (especially the unpaid creative work that I do on top of my day job), everything else falls apart. The house turns to shit, the kids feel neglected and I start to resent... well, everything in turn: my family for making me feel guilty about my work; and my work for taking me away from my family.
The times that I give up on my creative work completely (which happen frequently), everything else seems to run so smoothly. Which then feels like a kind of punishment - a message that says: "See! Everything could be so wonderful if only you gave up on your own silly little dreams."
Sometimes I can go along like this quite happily for a long time, convincing myself that no book I could write could be worth tipping my life back into chaos - or more chaos than it's already in, even when I'm not writing!
But there's only so long I can carry on like this before I start feeling spiritually bereft. My life is all too full, but my soul (for want of a better word) is empty. It begins to feel like a literal grieving.
Now that I'm nearing 40, this grief of sorts has taken on an extra dimension. I can see my life rolling out in front of me. I can see how easily I could spend the next 20 years (if I'm lucky enough to have that time, touch wood) continuing to relegate my own desires to the bottom of the pile until it's too late.
That's why, when people tell me that they want to give up, I tell them that giving yourself permission to give up can be vital, for a time. It can be a necessary breather. But I also think it's really important to find some way to keep the flame flickering.
Yes, mothering and nurturing others are hugely important roles. But women have every right to want more than a life of housework, supermarkets and ballet/footy runs.
Amid all the intense demands that life throws at women - I think I've felt almost continually overwhelmed from the moment my first child was born! - we have to keep sight of our own needs.
Remember that everyone around us suffers when we're feeling deeply unsatisfied. And the world suffers as a whole when women decide to give up on their dreams because it seems easier to take the path of least resistance.
You can't let go of the things that make you feel alive - even when you can only visit them for 10 or 20 minutes a day. Of course we all have to be realistic, but we also need to guard against a wholesale downgrading of our expectations for our lives.
Even when 10 minutes a day is all we can claim for ourselves, at least it's sending out a message that says: "See - Crazy Domestic Life! I know you're doing everything in your power to make me give up, but here I am! I'm not going away and I don't owe you any justifications. I've got something I want to do with this life - JUST BECAUSE. Just for me. So there."
P.S. Happy Women's Day for March 8, friends! xx