As I sit down to write this, I feel I am treading into precarious territory — comparing making art with having children. Let me preface this then by declaring my love of children. I do in fact think kids are awesome and love having them around. They are bright little lights that bounce around a room, always adding joy to any environment.
With that said, I am in the 'no-kids-for-me-club' for many well thought out reasons. I will not justify it, defend it, feel bad about it or even, pretend to not feel certain about it when other people can't quite understand it. You say I will change my mind, and I say that's fine but how would you feel if I reversed the question? Is it ok for me to tell a parent that they'll probably change their minds about wanting and loving being a parent? No, because it's insulting. I feel a small rant coming on. I'll keep it short then get back to my point.
I am 33 years old. I have given this some thought. Actually, I've given this a lot of thought. It is not something that I take lightly or have, on a whim, decided wasn't for me. For reasons that I feel are personal, I won't tell you exactly how this decision came to be, but it is not simply because I am selfish and only want to think about myself for the rest of my life. In fact, it has been a strange decision for me precisely because I actually do like kids. A lot. So there's that. I like 'em, but I don't want 'em. So when I get the response that I am sure most women get (I think it is particularly women who get this response) that 'oh, I'm sure you'll change your mind' or 'you might regret it when it's too late' or 'who will be there when you get old' or the plethora of other not well thought out responses, I want to say this: Who are you to tell me who I am and how I choose to live out my life? Do you claim to know me better than I know me? Have you then spent as much time thinking about my life and my choices to come to this conclusion? How can you be sure that having a child will actually improve my life? Because I know as well as anybody that it is a gamble and I'm not taking a gamble on such an important decision.
Being a woman who chooses not to bear children will always leave me with awkward conversations. There will always be a slight tension in the room when any conversation about children or parenting comes up. That somehow my choice to focus on my work and other things in life will never be as worthy as being a parent. That by being conscientious about my right to choose and actually choosing the less popular choice, I am somehow just a little more selfish than a mother. Well, my thought is that choosing to remain childless is actually far from selfish. It is recognizing what I am willing and able to give and knowing that I will be a better auntie.
Which brings me back to my point:
About a month or two ago I was in my studio working on a drawing. I was probably at my table for hours without looking up. Dragging the pen across the page, likely the only sound in the room, like music to my artist ears. I watched the image come to life without quite knowing where it was coming from or what it would turn into. All I did was commit to it, love it, trust it, allow it to move me and believed in its true nature to exist in the world without me. When it was complete, I loved it in a way that I could only compare, in that moment, to loving a child. I've thought about this concept a lot since.
I had a lovely visit with an old friend this past weekend who is also of a creative nature (we all are, yes, but some choose to pursue it in a ferocious way) and I told her about this feeling I have about my art. How I feel that my art is my offspring. That I fantasize about what it will become, I think about it all the time, I only want what is best for my art, I trust it, love it, breakdown when it doesn't do what I want it to do, encourage new ideas, new forms and mediums. That I nurture it, love it even when it has a bad day. It is a part of me like our hearts and bones are a part of us. My art would not exist without me. It is born of my soul, my very being. It sounds corny but what else is art if it isn't a part of our own existence. It is an idea that is born into a physical expression by love.
And then I picked up a book over the weekend and read this in the Acknowledgments:
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny - Acknowledgments, p. vi
And I probably cried when I read it. I'm not the only one, surely, and I'm not selfish or crazy or cold or inhuman for thinking this. Perhaps it cannot be described in any proper way unless you feel it yourself.... just like being a parent, I'm sure. I will never know the love of a child in the way a mother or father does, but then most people will never know the love of your own art unless you too create it.
I create it. I nurture and love it. I tend to it, commit to it, give it space to grow and change, and then I set it free, off into the world.