There is this dreamy idea that we separate parenthood from other work and that we can figure out how to be "on" in different ways in different spaces. Those of us who attempt to pay the bills with our creativity are encouraged to make space and time for solo-making. Those of us who teach are encouraged to make that alone time to prep and prepare. And while I value and am refreshed by an empty, quiet studio and a blank notebook, many of my choreography sessions are with the kids underfoot, me ignoring and refocusing again and again.
I heard the poet Elizabeth Alexander quote Lucille Clifton saying, "The best conditions for me to write poetry are at the kitchen table, one kid's got the measles, another two kids are smacking each other. You know, life is going on around me" (Listen here - you won't regret it). We steal these moments for making when we can and although I wrote last weekend on the beauty of space, especially space without intention, I am honoring work with kids in tow always.
I believe our desire to separate parenthood from work comes from a loving place of wanting to devote our best attention to our children when we are with them. But let's remember how compelling it is to have kids witness what work is and for us to model parenting that is not just responding to their needs but engaging them in our many efforts.
Our fear of interruption is warranted. Getting back into the flow of forward motion in our work is challenging. And some work is more engaging to children than others, but even that seems to shift as our children grow older. Working with a baby strapped to my chest has been quite different that carting around an almost five year old.
I am currently smitten with the power of observation present in the young child. I recently taught a movement program at the local library and assumed my daughter would jump at the chance to dance with other kiddos in a space that she regularly frequents. Instead she found a comfy spot in the corner of the room and watched her mother in action. I could see her working through her own ideas of who I was and what I was doing, how I was relating to these other children and what my relationship to them was in this space. Although she could claim me as her mother, finding my hand after the program was over, I could see her playing with a deeper idea of who I was and what I did in the world.
Early mornings have become a part of my routine. An attempt to gather, think, write, and work before the demands of family life with three young children come barreling at me. This alone time is grounding but is occasionally interrupted by my son, the one who seems to have a sensor tuned to my movements. After catching my disappointment to have company during this time, I have tried to refocus and find ways to welcome and be grateful for a little time with only him. If my notebook is in hand, he is learning to settle in on the couch, knowing breakfast will have to wait until I am finished. For my little man whose needs often seem urgent, this has been a good lesson.
Let us keep making that space to be alone, to make and to work with ourselves, but perhaps we can keep encouraging ourselves and others to welcome the young along as well.