Can A Mommy Foster Her Own Talents?

One of the most popular search terms that leads to my blog (besides sheitels, which is, oddly, my most popular search term) is “how to get things done with a baby.”  Lately, I’ve been wondering how to get things done with my three non-babies.  And by things I mean the “extra” things like playing music.  It’s not really an extra, but between school drop-off and pick-up, an extremely adventurous toddler, and the normal tasks of homemaking, I don’t have a whole lot of time to spare.

Writing has seemed to supplant music as my creative outlet as of late.  I love to write, and it’s a great outlet for sorting through things, but music touches a part of my soul that nothing else can really reach.  So I miss it.  But when I try to practice, this is often what happens:

Also, even though we have a house now (and thus, more space), I’m still nervous that my practicing will wake up the children.  It used to be that I couldn’t practice past ten in the evening because I didn’t want to bother the other residents of the apartment complex, but now I’m worried about my kids!  A clarinet can get pretty loud sometimes, and the sound of the piano does travel up the stairs, or maybe through the ceiling.  Also, at the end of the day I’m often very, very tired.

However, I have a nagging suspicion that I’m using these (totally valid) reasons as an excuse.

When it comes down to it, I always practice best when I have a performance looming.  And I haven’t had anything on my schedule since the summer, though there are a few projects percolating, nothing is so urgent as to prompt me to pick up my horn (or sit at the piano bench).

An additional complication is that since my schedule is already so packed, adding another thing onto my to-do list could upset the very delicate balance that I’ve got going on.  So I’m reticent to put any additional pressure on myself because things are working fairly well right now.  But like I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we have to push ourselves to do things even when they seem hard.  And I know that if I don’t keep up my musical discipline, it will be even harder to pull it together when I do have a gig.

These are the thoughts swirling around my head.  I can list all the very reasonable reasons why I’m out of the habit of practicing.  We moved, then it was the holidays, then we took a trip.  Totally understandable that I’m off my game.  But I know myself, and I know that I can keep rationalizing this for a looong time.  And I don’t really want to, but it’s like the same level of motivation for me as getting out of bed without hitting the snooze alarm at least once.  You know?

It’s silly, because the level of pleasure and satisfaction I get when I engage in something musically creative is so off-the-charts.  Like, it really is part of my needs, and it must release some endorphins or dopamine or something because I am usually in a fantastic mood when I’m working on something, be it performing or writing or both.  But that’s how it is sometimes.  Something which is so good for us (cough cough learning Torah cough cough) is the thing we put off the most.

So, fellow busy women, what do you do when you feel yourself procrastinating?  I know my posts are usually more of the “this is something I learned about life” genre, but today I’m asking for your input.  I have been greatly neglecting my musical abilities, and I would love some suggestions for ways to motivate/organize myself to get back into it.

40 thoughts on “Can A Mommy Foster Her Own Talents?

  1. Oh -I make lists, lists, lists, lists. So when something pops into my head that I want to do, but that doesn’t ahve a major deadline but that I know I really really should do it….but it’s the kind of thing that will get pushed off…I put it on this huge and growing list….Then in a day or so I move it up the list…to remind me…..hello? I’m here. Start me….
    So – what you’re describing happens all the time with me! And the older I get and supposedly “less” busy (ha ha – yeah right) because hey, I don’t have little kids at home, right? — I become actually better at procrastinating. In fact, when I was YOUR age, back in the days…. LOL, I used to be pretty good at staying up late till midnight or so and practice away on teh piano (I know it sounds cruel – but I closed the windows and the neighbors didn’t complain…). Also I did much of my writing late at night. And grading papers when I was teaching….etc. etc… Now I hate working in the evenings. I say “oh tomorrow is another day…” (a la Scarlett…) and I figure I’ll do it all in the early morning.
    So yeah – lists, lists. lists. and then categories of lists. Somehow psychologically when it goes on a list, it feels manageable….funny….
    Very interesting post.. love the pic of your son on your lap while you play piano. Can relate!

    1. I used to be a total night owl, but I realized it was also making me a total grinch! I’m still not a morning person though, not really. Maybe I can pick one night and designate that as “creative night,” and then it will be somewhat moderated.

      And I *love* lists. Great suggestion!

  2. Procrastination is such an instinct for me that I almost rotate- I’ll do housework to avoid paperwork, paperwork to avoid phone calls, phone calls to avoid shiurim, shiurim to avoid housework, etc. This actually works for me as long as I have a flexible weekly schedule of what ultimately needs to get done one way or another. Each day has a theme (desk/paperwork day, shopping day, shabbos prep day,cleaning day) separate to my daily responsibilities and work responsibilities. I find that I can’t really box myself in, or my ‘self’ just rebels.

    1. haha, yes! Some of my best pieces have been writing when the biggest pile of dishes is in the sink (and on the counter, and maybe the table, too). I can relate the rebellion of self as well. Very much so. I like the idea of giving each day a theme.

  3. Purging/cleaning my house. Like the waaay back of our closet. I have purged the children’s closets a few times as they’ve grown out of their clothes, but I haven’t done the same with their toys and books recently. I sooo need to do this!

  4. Hi Rivki,

    Mommy HAS TO foster her talents. It’s what G*d wants. (Hey, I know what G*d wants. Great, isn’t it?) Well, at least I’m pretty sure it’s what G*d wants. I can relate to all of the difficulties, of course… :-/ The best solution: find gigs. Even small ones. Or, if not gigs, someone to play with regularly, to look for gigs together or just to have a fun project, to have something you can present on a birthday party. If you start being active and making your interest in playing clear to G*d and the universe, they will respond. You just have to start. That’s easy. Ha. Haha.
    Greetings from someone who hasn’ even unpacked her instrument since the last gig (Friday).

    1. And if you have someone to play with or if you have an offer for a gig, never decline because of housework. The housework will (unfortunately) still be there tomorrow.

    2. You are so correct! And next time I want to know what G-d thinks, I know who to ask ;) Great advice; I will try to get on that! I used to do some gigs for some senior living centers, and those are nice because they’re fairly low-key. That seems like a good place to start.

  5. I will only say this: you know God wants your spark to shine brightly. Music makes you shine, and you must not neglect it. Maybe you could say you are ONLY going to practice for 5 minutes. Set a timer and give yourself 5 piddly minutes and then stop when it goes off. No matter what. See how FIVE minutes feels and decide if that is enough for next time. Sometimes you don’t get an hour or even 30 minutes, but maybe you can start by being content with five. Maybe?

  6. Oh, Rivki, I can soooooo relate to this! I love the idea about the lists. I’m gonna have to take that one for myself :) And also the idea about just booking the gig. Or creating any sort of “false” deadline. That one works wonders for me (what? create a concert for 600 women? sure! no prob!). I got brave this year and started sending out my baby to a babysitter one extra morning a week so I would have time to focus on this kind of stuff. So far these mornings have been supplanted with: cooking for Yom Tov, running errands that I don’t want to drag whiny toddlers along for, and going to the doctor. So when more wonderful ideas come in via your readers, I will snap them up also!

    1. Good idea about sending your baby out one extra morning a week. I might look into that (though she does nap in the morning right now, so I at least get about an hour to do stuff. As long as I *actually* do it, of course!).

    2. I have to second what Renee said about the timer for five minutes thing. I have 2 timers- one in the kitchen and one by my desk, and I set them for tackling any unpleasant, intimidating, or unfathomable task. I know it sounds excessive but I am very easily distracted- having to walk across the apartment to get my timer would potentially derail me from the task itself.

  7. I totally hear you, though I am not in the least bit musical. I do love art, though, as well as fixing things–two activities that aren’t always kid-friendly (toxic paint and power tools…Yikes). I do a lot at night, and there are some nights that I can just sit down at 11 and paint until 2 or hang blinds until 1 and be totally fine. Other nights I have every intention of getting stuff done but just have to admit that I am too tired. Sometime you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. But knowing that I CAN do it helps a lot, and yes, I block off time for it with my husband. When he is off call for a few days, we divide the time. For instance, Monday nights are his. Daf Yomi, the gym, piano. Tuesdays will be mine. Gym, time in the garage to build something, a chance to go to the art store without a child, whatever. That helps a lot. As far as music goes, when Shalom was a resident, we spent our first tax return (after planning and being certain all the bills and such were paid) on a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano. SO WORTH IT. He can plug his headphones into it and pound away at 3 a.m. and no one, not even the dog, wakes up. He can also record on it and play it back to critique himself. Last year I also would have a standing appointment with the sitter so I could drop off the 2 year old and have a couple of hours to myself. You can do it, you’ll find a way.

    1. Ooo, digital piano. It is on my list of things that I want. It would make gigging with a piano doable (As opposed to relying on other people’s pianos, which can be risky). Thanks for the chizzuk!

  8. Sorry, got carried away and forgot to answer your question! As far as procrastination…Yeah. The best way I have found to dodge it is to leave little reminders around the house. I hang unfinished watercolors on the wall so I am reminded “Yo! Look! Finish me!” Or I’ll even put post it notes in odd places that say “Sun Room needs to be finished by Thanksgiving” or whatever. For whatever reason, that helps. I think it’s kinda like having a boss looking over my shoulder. Anyway, good luck!

    1. haha, your other comment was so excellent, I didn’t even notice. :) I like the idea of being our own boss, and also to have a deadline. Like, need to write one song by next month. Etc. Thanks!

  9. This is such a hard balance! I love to write and wish I could do it more, but the day to day always seems to take over:( I prefer to have set times for doing things, but then with kids you never count on being free at a given moment!

    1. Yeah, one of the things that I think is crucial to being creative with kids is being very flexible about when to be creative. Catch it in little snippets here and there.

  10. My husband plays electric guitar, and plays in the basement…while they are still in that in-between, not-quite-asleep stage.

    They seem to get used to it–and go to sleep anyways.

    I love to sing, but I also put it off. No thoughts on how to help build in that me-time. Wish I could figure it out; we need some over here!

  11. What a great topic! I can soooo relate! We moved the last week in July. The kids were out of school/camp for most of August and then there were the ceaseless rounds of haggim in Sept. Since the first week of Oct. I have committed to going to the gym on Mon. & Wed. nights after I put the kids to bed. Growing up I swam competitively and ran and biked and loved how well I felt being in shape. Since having 3 kids in 4 years my physical activity had become almost nonexistent (other than chasing small children around of course). At the end of the day I am SO tired and there is always SO much stuff that needs to get done after the kids go to bed. My answer for how not to procrastinate? 1) Make a commitment for a time & place to do what it is that you love. 2)Remind yourself how great it feels when you are doing something you love. 3)Remember that you are the only one who can make time for you. No one is going to do it for you!

    And if one of your kids wakes up, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s good for them to see Mommy doing something other than being Mommy. Let them listen to one song and then have Daddy put them back to bed.

    1. Wow, our lives have an uncanny resemblance!

      Thank you for the good advice, and for reminding me that if the kids wake up it’s not so bad, and, on top of that, it’s good for the kids to see Mommy being a person. :)

  12. I like to sing along to different music. Like today I am jamming to Fresh Air by Simply Tsfat, Wings of the Spirit by Tirtza Singer, and Lion of Judah by Chana Laila. I also like to sing Debbie Friedman, Heart (the female rock band), and Broadway tunes from musicals like Into the Woods.

    I am very eclectic!

  13. Omg, I’m procrastinating now. And these days it’s always homework. Always. Homework. Did I mention? Always. Homework. What do I do? Usually find something to eat, procrastinate some more, and finally do it. I really don’t have any good advice. I try to psyche myself but it doesn’t always work. :(

  14. When I feel myself procrastinating, I do two things:

    1) Picture how I will feel on the other end of it. A good example is back in college – I remember how it feels to be the night before the paper that I didn’t work on enough and wish that it were earlier – wait, it IS earlier, NOW! Yay! I CAN avoid that feeling! (Thinking about how I will feel in front of Hashem after 120 based on how I make some choice in front of me is also a great motivator to do the right thing, by the way.)

    2) I remind myself how awesome it feels when I just do things and DON’T procrastinate, or of periods when I couldn’t afford to procrastinate and really got things done well. This is possibly a bigger motivator because it is positive, but I had to do plenty of #1 to have successful experiences to base #2 on! (I am a former very bad procrastinator and am always working on it!)

    BTW I totally agree with sending out kids when you need to. I read too many stories of women who take too much upon themselves and then collapse at the expense of themselves and their families – and before I was even married I decided that I was never doing that and I would always take time for myself. (A coworker told me about her mother in law with 15 children who takes a bath for an hour and a half every night.) If you feel that music is something that makes you thrive rather than function, that will spill over onto your family and so it is an investment in all of you. Go ahead and make it a priority!

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