Yesterday I scanned across a site I often do when I have some free time: Offbeat Home. This is the most recent of an empire of Offbeat pages which aims to make a place in the world for projects, people or ideas that don’t conform to the “norm”. It started with supporting me through my wedding with Offbeat Bride, allowing me to discuss my mixture of tradition and fun with other like-minded people. Offbeat Home edged into the limelight after my wedding was over as my husband and I moved into our new flat; but I have a confession of sorts. I do regularly check out Offbeat Mama too.
Now before you coo and chatter about whether I’m pregnant or are terribly broody, I’m not pregnant and although love kids, my body clock isn’t screaming for attention either. What I find amazing about Offbeat Mama is the beauty and honesty of it. Other child-related sites seem to have this fuzzy glow about them, as if once you start thinking about having children the world is full of candy floss and puppy dog tails (why not the rest of the creature I don’t know). What Offbeat Mama prepares me for is both the awesome moments of pregnancy, childhood and parenthood, but comfortably alongside these are stories of the difficulties, the challenges, the hard decisions, the losses, and the story in progress of many young women and men who love their children.
I don’t always hold the same views as those who post, but I don’t need to. Just the challenge of someone doing something differently is good enough to think more fully about the decisions I myself am making. Would I follow a strict routine with my children? Is the baby industry (like the wedding industry) based on a consumerist driven guilt? What about weaning, natural births, adoption, miscarriage, co-sleeping, disabilities, and on and on it goes. I do feel this is a healthy way of being tolerant. Everyone on the website who takes part has their own individual opinions, and each respects the other, without necessarily agreeing. That’s ok. It’s the challenges and questions that are rewarding and let us progress further.
One particular article I was reading before I slept last night (and before the tirade of #OpMegaupload twitter trend) was a story of a mother continuing with work and finding a balance that worked for her. “Becoming a parent made me better at my job” was inspiring not because of some huge feminist tendencies that claim all women should go to work rather than stay home with their kids. It was instead inspiring to see two parts of her life be influenced and bettered by the other.“My son has taught me so many things. One of the greatest — the one that has helped me be a better partner, professor, and mama — is to be able to ask for that little bit of help. And I’ve come to realize that people are more than willing and happy to give it.”
This hit home mainly because I’ve been thinking about an option I have for my life. A month has passed since I spoke to my husband about my feelings of loss having not had theology academia in my life since May 2011, alongside my need to let my artist side out with again some academic backing. I missed discussing interpretation, text, history, and possibilities; I missed discovering a project in the back of my mind and seeing it come to fruition within a painting, a sculpture, or a piece of craftwork. The problem was I couldn’t find a place, a course, or anything that looked at art and theology in the same way I yearned to. I wanted art to explore, clarify and discover aspects of faith and tradition in new ways. I wanted theology to be practical and look to doing something a little differently in order to pastorally help people.
My prayer was answered when we visited friends, including the minister that married us, in Birmingham on the morning of New Years Eve. They had been involved with setting up New College, which aimed to facilitate the spiritual development for those that may not otherwise be able to study, with an academic standard but a practical focus on learning. Theory was not enough. While talking with them the idea came forth that would allow me to study for a Masters, while teaching art and creativity with a faith/theology basis, whilst also training in some capacity in art therapy. This has been the best offer I’ve had so far but I am still processing the option.
I would love to study theology again. I would love, more than I expected to, to teach people art and to see them learn and develop. I would also love to be closer to our friends, a comfortable distance between our families, and to be able to settle down a little more instead of moving every 9 months to a year. I would also like to have children, and it is this part that make me hesitate some. I wonder how I would cope with being a mother and a lecturer and a student. Would I be able to give enough time to my partner, my children and my work? And the question that the article brought up: would I be able to ask for help? I, like Rachel, often talk about how I can do it, “No thanks, I don’t need help, I totally got this”. I do think I am getting better at this concept and do think that it is something more people need to do to reach a level of community where we can interact, trust and care for each other. I just hope my pride does not get in the way.
So this recent dream of mine is still developing but is much stronger thanks to the inspiration of other women living the dream. It did make me think though: how many of people’s dreams are held back, and left unfulfilled, due to the inability to ask for help?
Here’s a challenge for you: define you greatest dream, then ask yourself whether you’re willing to swallow your pride to succeed. You may well get farther with a little help from your friends.