Your creative calling claimed you before your children did.
But when that calling takes you away from your kids, you never feel quite right about it. No matter how much your head convinces you that your work is right, your heart cracks a little bit more each time you say goodbye.
There is no easy answer to this.
When doing your creative work means being away for long periods of time, it challenges so many perceptions and beliefs we have about parenting, children, about what matters most: quantity vs quality, etc.
And you never get used to your kids crying and begging you not to go.
But you have to go.
Not because you don’t have a choice, but because you won’t be you if you don’t live out your creative calling.
There are things we teach our children that are more important than the comfort of our presence.
Chiefly, how to honor their own callings in life. How to be true to themselves, even when it means leaving people they love.
Children grow up fast. And as parents, we tend to focus on the childhood with a deadline of 18 for us to teach our kids what they need to know. But the reality is your children and you have the span of your lifetimes to be in relationship. And relationships evolve. We need to remember that it doesn’t end when they turn 18. There is grace in that.
There is no getting around the truth that we choose our callings over our children. It sounds horrible, but most creatives are not themselves unless they are creating. And that calling runs deep and is insistent. It’s pervasive. You are compelled to create. It’s Something Greater Than You. Living out your expression of creativity is the expression of your existence in this lifetime.
If you’re like most creatives, you were already well into your career when you had kids.
There is cultural pressure that makes parents feel guilty if anything else in this world takes precedence over their kids. But I think we have to be true to ourselves before we can be good parents.
I think kids need to see their parents making art, being creative, earning an income based on creative talent, doing the things that make them come alive. I think kids need to know that the world does not evolve around them and neither do their parents. Children will by nature consume every part of you. But they grow up to be individuals who need to know how to be individuals in this world.
We also need to remember that in any relationship, it’s how someone feels when they are with you that matters most.
There are plenty of stay-at-home or work-from-home parents who are physically present with their kids, but create a stressful or negative environment. Being physically present does not guarantee that your kids are getting what they need from you.
Being a wise, mindful, caring parent from any distance does.
As parents, we live with a constant fear that we’re failing, that we’re not doing good enough. And this fear can leave you feeling defeated.
When I start feeling like this, I ask myself: Are my kids happy? Are they healthy? Are they learning how to be true to their own talents and interests? Do they speak their minds? Are they showing compassion and understanding for the world around them? If yes, then what I’m doing is good enough.
“Good enough” is key. To be better than good enough, to be great at parenting, we’d have to drop everything else we do and devote ourselves entirely to our children. Even then, it would not guarantee that we’d win best parent of the year award.
Furthermore, creatives are driven to create and we get pretty depressed and crabby when we deny that core part of us. What good would it do your kids if you were with them all the time, but hell to live with?
There is no right or wrong here. We each have to honor our own sense of who we need to be as parents and who we need to be as creatives.
But I do think we need to not let fear drive us or guilt us into thinking we’re horrible parents when our callings demand more of us than parenting does.
There are things on this earth that only you can do. Your creative work is one of them. And so is being a parent to your kids.
But being a parent doesn’t mean your kids get all of you.
You belong to many. Your presence on this earth is meant to bless many.
Children need to know that a life well lived is a life that stays true to its calling. Nothing short of that will satisfy. Nothing short of that is enough.
I know some of this comforts and some can be well argued. None of it makes your heart hurt less from missing your kids. They are a part of you and being apart from them is hard.
Not living out your creative calling would be harder.
Kids adapt. Ever notice that when you finally get home after being away, within 10 minutes it’s as if you never left? Your kids just carry on with their lives.
It’s who you are to them, rather than where you are, that matters most.