I’ve wanted to post some pictures of my newly remodeled kitchen for a long time. The only problem is that I haven’t actually finished remodeling the kitchen. I haven’t finished for a long, long time, and I was waiting to have it all done before I went and slapped pictures up on the Internet. After reading your post, Maria, about hobbies and motherhood, I decided to go ahead and slap.
Interior design is, perhaps, one of my hobbies. I am by no means trained. I am probably not even very good, by most people’s standards. I like reading design blogs and figuring out how to DIY things for little to no money. I am completely attracted to the dreaming part, the transformation part, which is why it is so fun to see an ugly, old space and imagine what it could become. When we were house hunting, I was drawn to the old, pieces-of-crap sort of houses with shag carpeting left over from the 1970s and walls needing to be torn out. Scott and I hardly ever agreed because he was drawn to the, you know, functional houses with cherry cabinets and granite countertops and new beige carpeting.
When we decided last summer to redo the kitchen, I got giddy. I got so bold that I even called actual people on the actual telephone to ask for quotes, which is one of those weird fears of mine that makes me procrastinate like nobody’s business. I read even more design blogs. I took field trips to Home Depot. I painted cabinets into the wee hours of the night (that is, after 10:30, when we usually go to bed).
And then, after the kitchen was in working order again, and after the designy part was over, I stopped.
Here’s the issue: I felt, and maybe feel, some sort of embarrassment that the kitchen isn’t finished. It feels like a metaphor for my life, and maybe it is. I go from one thing to the next, leaving unfinished activities in my wake. I pull out a pile of laundry to fold, get half of it done, am interrupted, and go on to take care of whatever new thing interrupted me. It drives my husband a little batty. He wonders why I can’t just finish what I started. It drives me batty, too.
I heard recently that the greatest enemy to creativity is interruption. That hit a nerve with me because motherhood seems to be one giant exercise in interruption. The kids interrupt my sleep, my thought processes, my sentences, my huge remodeling projects. Since I’ve come to believe that much of my identity is wrapped up in being a creative, my frustration with unfinished projects began to make more sense. It’s difficult to execute creative projects—either new kitchens or new essays and blog posts and books—when you’re being interrupted by people who need things.
Am I blaming my half-finished kitchen remodel on my children? Absolutely I am. Those kids are little joy-sucking amoebas that have turned me into a half-asser.
But then again.
I think this frustration comes back to the “balance myth,” as you have called it. That term doesn’t feel right to me because I believe that balance is achievable—not in each individual moment, as your point gets to, but in an overall sort of scheme of things. Rather, I’d call it the “You Can Have It All Myth.” I don’t believe you can have it all—not on a large scale and not on a small scale. That’s the nature of life, I think: that you make choices. You figure out what is important to you and when, and you give your life over to those things. If you didn’t have to choose, and if there was some way that you could have it all, I’d argue that life would start to seem… flat.
Sometimes, a kitchen remodel is important. It is important because it helps me to be creative. It helps me to remember my strengths and what it feels like to throw myself into a project. It’s fun. It gives me a happy space. It gives me much, much better countertops.
And then sometimes, a kitchen remodel isn’t the important thing anymore. It gets pushed aside for playing hide-and-seek or peekaboo. For eating too many cookies with my husband. For catching my breath on the sofa during naptime.
And I am pretty proud of my half-finished kitchen.