on hold

This weekend I took Anya with me to Borders so I could drink a chai latte and space out. Daydreaming over a hot beverage is not such an unusual activity for me these days, but at least I had a change of venue and no toddler running loose to distract me. While I was there, I ran into someone I know in the piano accompanying/teaching scene in Madison. It must have been about three years since we've seen each other, because she didn't know I have a two-year-old at home, and I'm not even sure she knew I'd started a doctorate, much less finished it. She asked me if I was still playing and I surprised myself by saying "Not really, no." The conversation limped along for a couple more minutes while she told me she couldn't practice because she'd strained her wrist shoveling snow and I told her that I can't practice because I have no time and no gigs and then we had a rather awkward good-bye and that was that.

I feel like I'm putting myself on hold. I don't just mean my "career," such as it is. I mean ME. Don't get me wrong. I love my children more than I thought possible. Before Anya was born, I was afraid I couldn't find room in my heart for the joy and pride of a second child, but like all parents of siblings, I found all the room I needed and more. But I am staying at home to take care of Daniel and Anya because it is what's best for them and best for our family as a whole right now, NOT because it is best for me. I spend most of my waking hours doing whatever it takes to keep my children clean, freshly diapered, fed, and reasonably happy. My most significant goal every day is to have the dishes washed, the toys picked up, and Anya bathed by the time Daniel goes to bed at 8:00 so that I don't have to spend the rest of my evening cleaning up the house, only to do it all over again the next day. Except for my five piano students (none of them terribly advanced), I am doing absolutely nothing to further my career as a musician or as an academic. The only reason I'm not having a bigger identity crisis is that I'm too sleep-deprived and physically exhausted from carrying my kids everywhere to invest the emotional energy into it.

I know it will get easier, but it's hard right now, especially when I think about it too much. I miss working with other musicians. I miss talking with other musicians. I miss having conversations about things other than poop schedules, the effectiveness of time-outs, and baby gas.

I don't really know what I'm trying to say here. I hesitated to write about this at all, because people have kids all the time. What on earth makes me special? What gives me the right to complain?


katie said…
that last line is exactly why so many women (and probably stay-at-home dads, too) suffer quietly. you are working an underpaid and under-appreciated job. i know it's hard to put yourself up there on the priority list, but feeding your own needs is also a way to take care of your children (i know you know this, but sometimes you have to hear it again and again!). i have had days when i feel, "why is this good for them -- to have an irritable, cranky mama picking at them?" then there are the days that are so worth getting through the bad days. it's definitely a balancing act, and not and easy one. you're right -- it gets better and then, even better.
I know how very little time you have. But, a simple suggestion for a way for you to be able to "talk music" and interact with musicians on your own schedule might be to start a blog about music. This would attract other musicians when they do a blogger search for other like-minded individuals, and you'd be able to respond on your own time table. Does that help any, or should I just shut up now?

I'm sending you big hugs and lots of encouragement!
Animal said…
Hi Suze,

I REALLY like Jenn's idea about a music-specific blog. I know you belong to some sort of knitter's blog too, but a separate music-related one really could bring out a lot of discussion that was centered on that subject. Then you can share all your poo stories on MM! :-)

You HAVE made a career sacrifice, at least in the long run. I've only just learned in the past few months EXACTLY how much time I've given up to devote to raising Roz and all the ancillary stuff that goes with it. Frankly, I don't know what I'd do without daycare: we're required to pay for 2 days a week minimum, so I take her there on Friday mornings even though I'm home, just so I can get some professional stuff done. (And, yes, clean the house!) You ARE doing the right thing, though, and I remain fairly confident that time will see you through, and prove that the decision WAS in fact the right one.
Animal said…
Sorry, Suze! What I MEANT to say was that you'd made a career sacrifice in the SHORT run! Sheesh. Nothing like raining on somebody's parade! Sorry about that.
Mrs. Allroro said…
I like her idea, too! Maybe some doors of opportunity would open through something like that, too, that you wouldn't otherwise have access to.

Here's another thought...my dad and I were in a community band in Lexington, and his high school band teacher (imagine that!)invited me to join the community band in the Nashville area just a couple of weeks ago. Do they have something like that for pianists? (Pardon my ignorance. Just trying to help.)

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