When I go to the studio, I hang up my coat and put on my studio apron. When I return home, I hang up my coat and put on my kitchen apron. My aprons keep my clothes cleaner, certainly, but they are important for managing that mental shift I make everyday from working artist to working mother. And yet, no matter what I'm doing, I'm always an artist and always a mother and always a little bit overwhelmed.
You've heard the saying, "wearing many hats." That's a bit how I feel as I juggle my life as an artist and mother, except instead of hats it's aprons. In fact, I love aprons and have a small collection of them. When I'm feeling fancy, I wear the one that has a polka dotted skirt, lace, and French poetry scrawled across the top. When I'm feeling silly, I wear the one from the Hofbräuhaus that makes me look a bit like a slim Bavarian girl with some ample cleavage. Some days, I wear the Wonder Woman apron, even if I'm not feeling very wonderful.
(Here I am in the kitchen washing dishes with my Wonder Woman apron!)
Nearly every mother I know is exhausted beyond belief and constantly overwhelmed. She runs from thing to thing, staying up way too late for some precious alone time, drinks too much coffee, and complains about never getting around to this thing or that. I try my best to live intentionally, to be guided by my most deeply held values. I make a feeble attempt at minimalism. I plan my meals. I live in a small house. I can walk to the studio. Granted, I'm only five months out of chemotherapy, but I'm still completely exhausted most of the time.
When most people imagine the life of an artist, they imagine some sort of bohemian scene with unconventional life choices, surrounded by intellectually stimulating events and glamorous art parties. In reality, most artists are just regular people. I take my child to soccer games and dance lessons. I make dinner every night and get on her case about eating a healthy breakfast before rushing her out the door to catch the school bus. I tell her to practice her music. I take my dog to dog-sports and walks in the park.
Granted, I do make it a priority to expose my child to cultural events: art museums, opera, jazz, and the symphony. Having a mom with an art studio is normal to her. I share with her pictures of the Renaissance masters in the many art books that clutter up our living room. I do her portrait on snow days. But, I'm a regular mom, who is up at night worrying about how she's doing in math class.
I work in the studio in those in-between times, a few hours during the school day, in between taking care of my house, going to appointments, and attempting to exercise. Some days I feel like I can pick two: exercise, socializing, cooking, spending time with my husband, cleaning the house, caring for my child, and making art. Two. And if I do too many of them at the same time, I tend to do all them poorly. Apparently, I can only focus on two things at a time.
After becoming a mother and after cancer, my time in the studio is hyper-focused. Because my time is limited, I have to make each minute count. So, I arrive and put my my "Life is messy, wear protection" apron. Then I get down to business and work with all I've got with the time I have each day.