This is a favorite post from the archives. It is a response to a young mother who wrote me a letter in 2013….
Dear Diary, I have had lots of interesting responses and conversations about the question I posed Why have knitting and quilting have become so popular, while rug hooking remains more obscure. Today I even got a beautiful handwritten letter in the mail from Carrie Clem a reader in Aylesford , Nova Scotia. In it she asked me to write a bit about when I was a young mother with small chidren and how I managed to work at that time.
That brought me think of this Christmas when my son agreed that I was much nicer now that he was an adult. I said thanks, then he said, “You’d still be cranky though if you had a bunch of young kids running around here.” I had to laugh because it had a serious ring of truth to it.
When my children were little sometimes I was a bit of a grump because I was always trying to be two things at once. I did take lots of time for my children. My son and I would make things together before he went to school. I walked him to school in the mornings. When he was really little we went to a play group every Friday morning and we would often go to a local restaurant for a cinnamon bun together. I was always around. I baked cookies. I hooked with him on my knee. I went to his classroom and made crafts. My daughter and I did the same thing, though I was only ever welcome to carve pumpkins in her class , she never wanted the crafts.
Sometimes as I did these things I bemoaned or complained a bit. I was no saint but I was a present mom, and knew somehow that this time was fleeting, just not how fleeting. At the time, I also had the pressures of two aging and ill parents but so I was sandwiched between multiple needs. My career was just getting off to a start. I wrote Hook Me a Story during all those in between intervals of caring and loving and complaining and sometimes I hooked rugs with a child on my knee. If I have one regret, it was that I was cranky with them and would lose my patience. Sometimes instead of having my mind on mothering, I had it on mat making. I know that if I had it to do again I would make mistakes again. There is no getting through those years of mothering, parenting, and loving without making them.
I often worked from eight in the morning until ten at night. The work involved everything from reading a bedtime story three times, to baking cookies, to wrapping packages for mail order, to hooking a rug. I was in the thick of it and I could not imagine that there would ever be a time that I was not yelping because I stepped on a piece of lego, or that we would not be driving in two different directions for hockey games on snowy days, or that there would not be lunches to pack. I was lost in mama land.
It was only this fall after my son had been away at university for a year already that it started to sink in that raising children is just a part of your life. Honestly, once I had kids , I felt it was my life. My family and my home was my priority, and my business and my art came second. Sometimes there were at war with each other a bit, when one would demand the other step aside for one reason or another. My son has been away for two years now, and it is just sinking in that he is a man now and that his life is his own. I can hardly believe it. My daughter is a young woman. They remain more important to me than any other part of my life but I have to tell you…..
I am so thankful that I have other parts of my life to turn to because with out my art , my business, my community, and my friendships, I would feel like a loose thread. I would be lost.
As we raise our families it is so important to hang onto ourselves and to carve out something meaningful for our lives. Rug Hooking has provided me with that in a multitude of ways and I believe that no matter how busy we are we need a few minutes to ourselves each day. We need to hang on to ourselves, to express our creativity and to carve out a life that is our own outside of our family. Khalil Gibran, the famous Lebanese philosopher, in speaking about marriage said, “Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.” He also said, “Let there be space in your togetherness”. I feel that this is true for families in general.
I never found parenting easy. In fact I loved mothering but really never loved parenting. It is a hard job, and unlike my rug hooking job, gets very little recognition. There may be no household where you are told each day what a lovely job you did on the laundry. Children may want and need to be parented but there are many times they do not enjoy it. My son is right though, I am more pleasant now because I have that much needed time to myself, time to think, time to be, time to create, time to work. One time I had to carve out those times out of a busy schedule.
I am glad I was able to, but also glad that I kept hearing that Harry Chapin song in the back of my head…”Dad can I borrow the car keys, see you later can I have them please…….we’ll get together soon Dad.” I never wanted to be the Dad in that in song, and if I ever am it won’t be because I wasn’t there. No doubt though, they’ll remember what I crab I was at times, and I’ll always be able to say, “”at least I was there, contrary maybe, but present” Who gets everything, I’ll tell them. I also do not reminding them that it wasn’t easy being with people who held their pee and yelled at you because you were making them use the bathroom, or regularly insisted on leaving three thousand pieces of lego all over the living room floor as the project was not finished, or pooped behind the chair in the living room , or refused to wear shoes.
For me being a mother was the most important thing I did but I am glad I spent time with people who went to bathroom with out being forced, and wore shoes when needed. I am glad I insisted on an hour to myself now and then, and that I made sure I got at least twenty minutes on my own each day, because un beknowst to me, it did not last for ever. I remain , a mother and a wife, and I remain Deanne. I am glad I hung on to her along the way.
Carrie, thank you for your thoughtful letter. I hope this answers your question…