Most of you don’t know this about me and might even be shocked to know it, but I’ve got a secret love affair with Amanda Palmer’s work. Back in my Hot Topic days, I listened to a band called “The Dresden Dolls” and fell in love with them for their uniqueness, their passion and their beauty. I got busy and forgot for a while, but one, random day just this year, in fact, a dear and distant friend of mine reminded me how much I loved her. He sent me a link to a YouTube video of a girl singing her heart out with a ukulele and I thought- hey wait- I know her… and it reminded me how much I loved her work. I immediately subscribed to all her social media pages and blogs and such and have been keeping up on her for the last few months. Anyway, that song– I’ve listened to now, probably a thousand times, when I need inspiration to keep moving forward and to trust my creative self, to embrace myself and continue to give my all when things are hard. She is raw, she is real, she is harsh and to me, she is amazing.
Well, this girl, who just happens to be married to one of my favorite authors; Neil Gaiman, is pregnant. She’s one of those people you would never have expected to have children. She’s almost exactly a year older than I am and she is a touring musician and performance artist and just doesn’t seem to have the time or the lifestyle to want to have babies. But she did anyway, because something within her called her to make it happen. So, she did.
Now, nearly 30 weeks into her pregnancy, one of her fans wrote to her with deep concern that she would lose her creative edge once she had a child and that, as a fan, she was upset that she had invested money into Amanda’s Kickstarter and Patreon funds for her to bear a child and change her style and possibly turn away from her fans in the process. I listened to Amanda read the fan’s letter and then I listened to her reply. It brought tears to my eyes. Tears of understanding, knowing how terrifying the “leap” away from life as we know it can be as we dive headfirst into the chasm of unknown territory called Motherhood.
Some of you reading this knew from the day you were born you would be a mom. Some of you, like me, were not that girl. I was never the girl who played “bride” or “house” with babies. I played with ponies and I raised kittens and thought I’d grow up one day to be an opera singing version of Catwoman, the “cool aunt living in the city – not a homemaker. I did not fantasize about my wedding day or what I’d do when I became a mom one day. So I get it. I get where she’s coming from here, and I hear in her voice that while she is confident, she is anxious- as anxious as I was. The difference is, she has an entire world’s standards and expectations to live up to. She has people who have paid into her career who believe in her work and demand a consistent, finished product. Unfortunately, she also has the problem of attracting fans who are not always understanding of children and their needs, and the needs of parents who want to be GOOD parents, not just people with kids.
She had posted the situation on her Patreon fund page a few days ago and today, I replied to her directly. To hear her presentation reading the fan’s letter and her response, click HERE.
To read the response I’m about to send her, see below.
I know you’re going through so much this week, my heart is with you as you travel, stand by the bedside of someone in pain and try to be strong for those who suffer. I can’t imagine what you are dealing with but I can offer my heart, my love and the knowledge that people, globally, have their arms outstretched just waiting to comfort you during this time. Knowing what you are dealing with right now, I know it may be some time before you read this and that’s okay. I’m not in any hurry.
I don’t often write letters to “famous people”. I learned when I was 7 that the letters you write into your favorite TV stars never actually make it to those people and if anything, are read or responded to by someone who is paid to take care of them. But I’m writing this anyway because I know you are one of those people who reads everything and maybe you will read this and take some comfort, maybe it will make you smile, breathe a sigh of relief to know you are not alone and that really, everything will be okay. So, I’m taking a chance here, either to make a fool of myself, or to reach you.
As I read your post on Patreon and then listened to the broadcast where you read a fan’s letter and then replied, I just kept thinking- Oh sweetheart- you are not alone. You are amazing and you have this gift of life within you- even more powerful a force than the gift of creativity you give to the world every day. I hope you have the support you need to know it’s okay to be afraid and still move forward- so I had to tell you so and share with you my experiences.
This dear, sweet girl who wrote you in concern- I genuinely believe she is heartfelt in her letter, not meaning to be hurtful or cruel. She cannot understand. In fact, I would venture to say she never will, unless she has a child of her own.
I’ve always said, there is nothing like working in childcare- no other profession that could create a child hater more perfectly. Molded in the hot flames of rage over other people’s children; their tantrums, their anger for no reason, their loudness, inability to follow directions and their seemingly unending energy with parents who dote over them with gushing and exhausting, unconditional love. They cannot understand. They even despise them to a point, these creatures that cannot be understood, who seem to react to events going on in random, alternate universes no one but they can see, but somehow, their moms do. Somehow, their parents forgive them, even when the can of red paint gets tossed onto the half-finished art project drying in the back yard… instead of freaking out, they realize that it just becomes a NEW art project- a collaborative effort and these people who don’t have children stand outside this circle of knowing and they just don’t get it- why didn’t that child get beat and put in a corner?? Why did that mother just…. allow it to happen?? Children become the irritating client they go home to vent about when the day is done and they cannot understand how ANYone would want to come home to more of them. Because they cannot understand, instead, they judge. I don’t blame them, I just know they are coming from a very different place.
Motherhood is, unfortunately at times, a closed circle. Once you become initiated, things begin to make sense, but until then, you are on the outside with no real understanding of the secret workings that go on within. That reality can create a kind of jealousy masked as selfishness and it makes people say and do terrible, mean things.
Before I had children, my best friend became pregnant. I was annoyed when she couldn’t go out because she was caring for her baby. I would ask her if she could leave her child at home when I asked if she wanted to go places with me. After her second child, I even got angry with her for never answering the phone anymore when I called- as though my call was more important than her baby. I had horrible thoughts- the thoughts of a childless woman who could never have understood the value, the power and the profound responsibility being a mother encompasses.
I think about those years often now, as I have left my corporate job to be a stay at home mother to my toddler children. I hang my head in shame for my ignorance, for how I made her feel in those years when I simply could never have understood- but I COULD have respected her choices and simply didn’t.
I know better now. I DO better now. I AM better now.
As a writer, an artist, a woman and a human being, I am better now BECAUSE of my children. I have embraced the mantle of motherhood and I wear it with the pride of a queen regent – my home, my family, my kingdom, my heart, my world- is better for these tiny souls that came to live within me and, eventually, outside of me, alongside me, looking to me for their very survival.
When I had my baby, my world came alive and I was creative in ways I never could have been before. Trust- “baby brain” is real- but it’s also an amazing awakening to a whole new aspect of yourSelf you never knew existed before. No one will understand, not really, until they have a child, themselves.
Sure, I get busy. I get so busy I can’t think straight and I can’t remember what I was doing five minutes ago. I had to let go of things like watching The Walking Dead and midnight runs to the city to get a cup of coffee by the oceanside, writing feverishly in a coffee shop corner or concerts and club outings and I exchanged them for trips to Disneyland and marathons of Disney Jr, Guess With Jess and In The Night Garden, hugs and night-nursing and family trips to the park instead of weekend getaways to a hotel in Laguna Beach. I went from geek with money, fancy makeup and too many clothes to broke mom with two kids, trying to learn to sew so I don’t spend $60 on a dress I totally don’t need who writes from her kitchen table and teaches voice on her out of tune piano in the living room. Even as I write this, I’ve got a two year old staging Tinkerbell, Queen Elsa and Cinderella on my shoulders as she gives me random hugs and kisses, the older one is eating popcorn watching some claymation (do they call it that anymore?) show about a circus we found on Netflix today.
I still write for a small comic book publishing company, but my column changed from the perspective of “geek chick” to geek mother. My zombie apocalypse writing got shelved for a new series about a 4 year old learning language and life lessons for children with developmental delays. I still get to attend conventions occasionally, but we don’t go to panels anymore or anything with a longer than 20 minute line and most of what we look for is focused on what I know the children will enjoy seeing. We ignore the child haters who believe any sort of “geek” convention is not a place for children. We take it slow and we include our children in our lives, we don’t hide them away or hire others to be parents while we do whatever we want. We WANTed them and now we want them with us, as we live because they are part of us. Sure, I’m in debt up to my eyeballs paying off school and house and credit cards from medical crap because the market crash hurt us a few years ago. Sure, I miss singing, being on stage, dressing up and performing… but not as much as I’d miss these faces, their hugs, their games, their absolutely incredible imaginations and the magic that surrounds them. A paycheck is never going to be worth as much as their love.
Many have told me I’ve given up everything. I’d been a supervisor in a corporate office in Los Angeles, working for an edgy fashion company and 80% of my coworkers were unwed and did not have children. It was a party atmosphere and those who had children were often not respected, considered a liability because their priorities were obviously “elsewhere” unless they put the kids in daycare and didn’t bring up the fact they had babies waiting for them at home when asked to do overtime. When I chose to exclusively breastfeed my baby until he was ready to stop, I decided it was time to leave my job. I did not return to work after my maternity leave and with that, almost all my friends from work stopped talking to me.
It has been 4 1/2 years and I have two children now. Instead of performing, I now teach voice in my living room and when people ask, “are you still singing” I tell them, “I’m teaching voice and being a mom” and most times, they roll their eyes and sigh, some say “wow, that’s too bad”, like I’ve been afflicted by some sort of disease. Many have told me I’ve “lost myself”. I’ve been told, “you are no longer fun” and been asked, “when can you leave them so you can come hang out with us” and “when will you leave the kids with a sitter and get back on stage?” and, “don’t you know ME TIME is important or you’ll lose yourself?”
I just smile at them and say, “I have everything I need here and it’s no longer my turn.” I explain this often on my mom blog.
Yes- I am now one of “those people” who started a blog after I had babies and alongside it, maintain a private Facebook page for mothers of all parenting styles to find a safe place to ask questions, vent and seek help and support for things they are too embarrassed to share with others who will judge them. I crusade for mothers who feel ashamed to be the mothers they wish to be. I support babies by teaching mothers how to breastfeed without shame. I advocate for compassion by sharing the benefits of attachment/gentle parenting practices. I put on killer birthday parties that some moms (including mine) think are ridiculous to give me a chance to create something beautiful and make others happy.
That is how I maintain my creativity for now, and I’m okay with that. I always say; I had 33 years of “me time” and now it’s my children’s turn. I don’t expect the people who are not parents to understand- I mean, really- how could they?
Did you know your brain literally rewires itself when you become pregnant? It begins the moment of conception and works to rewrite how you think about things, react to things, you lose some unnecessary bits and you gain even more. You can patience, a higher pain tolerance, sharper vision and even clearer hearing sometimes. Don’t forget, you’re still mostly animal in there, however beautifully human you are- and your body runs on instinct. The moment you conceive a child, it gets to work to prepare you for the pain, the danger and the need to protect and grow another human. If you are lucky enough to have a partner who sleeps beside you, their brains are changed, too. Your hormones are sensed by that other person’s brain and they react accordingly, changing their own chemistry in preparation for another life that must be cared for. As a unit, the two of you are even more connected than can be imagined- a united front to bear, raise and protect the new life you both have made. Those changes continue through the first few years with the aid of breastfeeding and co-sleeping to form bonds and trust that is never shaken.
People who do not have children don’t understand those changes or the desire to be inconvenienced by night-nursing, co-sleeping and attachment parenting. It’s not because they’re not compassionate or even that they don’t WANT to understand, they simply cannot do it. It’s like understanding someone of another race, another gender, another sexual orientation. We can try to relate, we can be compassionate, we can respect their feelings, but we can never truly understand them.
What I learned, that I wish someone had told me before I had babies, is- you will be judged every minute of every day from the moment of conception until your child is an adult and even then, they will STILL judge you for that child’s behavior, lifestyle and how you react to it. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I have a physical deformity – I was born with a clubbed foot and dislocated hip. I spent my childhood in leg braces, back braces, shoes with lifts on them and I walk with a limp. I am lucky because I learned in early childhood how to ignore those who judge. I learned early how to trust myself, believe in myself and not allow those who would judge to alter my course and change my choices. I trained as an opera singer and spent years performing in community theatre, despite my leg and discrimination from directors who refused to take a chance on someone who did not fit their ideal. I kept doing it anyway, showing up and defiantly out-singing everyone else and now, I am a mother of two, gorgeous children. I am a stay at home mother who still breastfeeds her toddlers unashamed. I am an attachment parent who welcomes my babe’s whispering requests to climb into bed at 2am asking for milk and hugs. I am an advocate for parent’s rights and I speak out against the people who would seek to hide away a nursing mother and shame her into conformity. I went from being a girl who knew more about how to mix a drink than she did about cooking a casserole to a homemaker mom who fiercely fights for mothers who are shamed for nursing in public.
THAT is where my children have taken my creativity- THAT is where my voice is heard. I’ll paint later. I’ll perform later. I’ll get back to the zombie writing… later. I’ve got time and the world will still be there when they are older. My children will only desperately need me for a few years. I must continue to see this reality and fight for my, and every other mother’s right to act upon that reality without feeling shamed into a lifestyle that is unfair to these tiny lives who only exist because I chose to make them exist.
So, yes- the reality is – The art may suffer for a while- simply because you are so wrapped in love and the joy of every moment that you want to breathe in those moments that pass so quickly you can barely blink. You have a right to take a step back from the needs of fans to focus on the needs of your child. You may ask for that respect from those who will not understand and you might even lose fans over it. But more likely, you will make the time because the art will flourish with new and bursting power, full of all the things motherhood brings; love, pain, worry, grief, anxiety, joy like you’ve ever experienced and the gravity of the realization that this tiny person- who will one day grow and leave his own footprint on the Earth’s soil, looks to you for his life, his breath, his nourishment both physical and emotional. You have enormous power to create a monster or a hero and that realization can be terrifying, joyous, overwhelming and above all- forever from now on- your reality.
An artist draws from the world around them to create the magic of their craft. Creation is nothing new to you and I have no doubt that you will thrive in this new universe of inspiration.
Try not to fear the change. I know it’s terrifying- I went through it, too. Embrace it with all you have, as you have every other creative scheme you’ve planned. Remember, you have a choice in every step, every action, every word from here on out. The choice is to BE MOTHER, or to just be a woman with a kid. Not all people who have kids become parents. Not all who breed become mothers. Only the brave ones embrace it. You are nothing short of one of the bravest women I have seen in our generation.
Be brave, Amanda. Show them it’s possible. Show them you can BE MOTHER, allow the maiden to pass gracefully into the night and give us all a hero to look to, to show it can be done without losing your power, your passion and your light.
If anyone can, it is absolutely you. Welcome to the circle.
A mother who believes in you
PS- If you do get “boring”, we will understand.