“Weekend With” is a new series that explores the world of design through the eyes of a designer on their days off. Our last installment took us on a tour of Mumbai with Mira Malhotra. This week, illustrator Shawna X lets us tag along as she navigates life (and her weekend) as a new mother.
Ever since I’ve evolved to my next Pokemon level (Mom life), my time and energy is limited and stretched between my five-month-old Ren, work, errands, and any attempts at a social life. Thankfully, my partner has a flexible schedule like me, so we take turns and give each other space to assume this newfound identity. Although the joy of being a mom is unrivalled, I still sporadically hold on to moments of my past lives, whether that’s a dinner out with a baby carrier or getting coffee in the morning. New York is an adult playground, and growing up has been challenging.
I wake up pretty early on Friday since my partner, a photographer, is out for a shoot. Usually morning hours are best spent on my couch, with a cup of coffee and the baby playing next to me. Ren is in a cute mood today and is swatting at these pom-poms I made, hanging from the fig leaf tree in our living room. She’s an easy-going baby, and chunky as hell—95% in her weight class. It’s been incredible to watch her grow into her personality and mobility every day. Every parent on the planet has told me how fast time flies, and before you know it, she is introducing you to her aspirational YouTube boyfriend, so I cherish these hours as much as I can.
After we play, I place her into the bassinet and try to catch up on work. To be honest, I’ve been feeling low work-wise, lamenting the politics of the creative industry while debating my own path in it. On the flip side, I’ve been quite creative personally, enjoying exploration of different visual languages and channeling this new self into my personal pieces, so I ignore the shitty things for a while and focus on what makes me feel fulfilled. I get into the zone and Ren starts crying, so I feed her, put her to sleep. By then I’m out of the zone, and I’m back in Shittown, USA.
Thankfully Collin comes home and we take a walk around our block to air out my frustrations, which is incredibly therapeutic. After 30 minutes of sitting at the cafe counter and venting, we wander into MuddGuts, this tiny art shop/gallery around the block in Brooklyn that’s always featuring talented artists who look like they’re having a blast. This month’s artist is Andrew Durbin-Barnes, who creates classical paintings with poop, strippers, and crocodiles as subjects. Ren really likes the one with the huge butts. Being in the gallery gives me a high, and I realize I’m desperately craving that care-free energy exuded from each painting. Transitioning from a free-spirited life to one with responsibilities has been interesting, to say the least. Everything feels a bit serious right now, but I know this is a phase, and I am a bit impatient with adapting.
Transitioning from a free-spirited life to one with responsibilities has been interesting, to say the least.
My partner and I are starting to plan “breaks” in our weeks for our own sanity, though every time I leave Ren, I linger at the door a little longer. Friday has been what I consider my “weekend” as it’s the one night I have to myself sans baby. We come home, and Collin makes me a delicious early dinner of a cod fish with broccoli, and I’m out for the night.
Lately, I’ve been learning glass blowing at Urban Glass. Today’s class started with a demo. I watched the teacher create a bowl and drinking glass in 10 minutes with a graceful, mesmerizing ease. Hot glass looks like honey, and shaping and forming it with heat is visual ASMR. I am in a trance when she rolls the punty—a term for the bulb of glass on end of the metal rod—back and forth to create the perfect honey Q-tip. Her assistant blows into the rod on the other side, and a beautiful bubble starts forming into a bulb. The teacher grabs a large tweezer tool to shape the bubble into whatever shape she pleases, then passes it back to the assistant to put into the glory hole (oven) to reheat, then back to the workbench.
The process repeats until the teacher is satisfied with the shape, and by then she’s made this perfect glass pitcher. When it’s my turn, I become tense. Working with extremely hot temperatures, while remembering all of the instructions and multitasking is a bit too much for my mom brain—a condition in which I forget everything and have no absorbance of new information. The teacher tells me to chill out at least three times as I attempt to recall her demo and manifest it in my own body, all the while rotating the metal rod, nervous to drop the glass. It took 30 minutes to finally make a small drinking glass, and when it’s placed in the oven to cool, I let out a sign of relief, face sweaty, back aching. I really need to relax.
Class is over and I meet some friends to see Tierra Whack at the Rainbow Room. I’m excited because it’s been a long time since I’ve been out to any shows, which is something I used to do regularly, and Tierra Whack has catchy, one-minute songs that speak to the grown-up generation of awkward, introverted outcasts. The venue is on top of the Rockefeller center, and the circular ceiling is lit similarly to the Turrell exhibition at Guggenheim in 2013. I felt a bit of shock and even out of place as we walk into a crowd of mostly 20-somethings who are dancing and socializing.
I close my eyes and attempt to dance it off, and I realize that it’s just going to be this way for a while.
Tierra comes on stage in the center of the room in a lime green, exaggerated dress with a mask on the back of her head. Standing next to me, two girls wearing large hair clips are smiling so wide even I could feel their joy. The performance was short, but the energy in the room was vibrant, just like Tierra’s outfit and the neon color lights that strobed throughout the show. Everyone is having a good time, eyes glittering, mouthing every word, and I’m here, body stiff, unable to sway naturally. I close my eyes and attempt to dance it off, and I realize that it’s just going to be this way for a while. I’ve been plunged into a new being and existence, with new responsibilities, awareness, and priorities. The best thing I can do is stop trying to be anything else except this, however stiff and tense and serious I may be. I stopped dancing, and just observed the room as colorful lights dance and envelop the crowd. Slowly and surely, for the first time tonight, I feel the tension in my body fall off my shoulders.
It’s the first night of Mother’s Day weekend, and I am officially drunk from one cocktail of tequila and soda. We toast to my first “holiday”—the only holiday that I’ve ever felt a true need to celebrate. Just as I am able to let go a little, my breasts start to feel like overblown balloons, and I know I have go home. I’m surprised that it’s already 1 a.m. (the latest I’ve stayed out in a long time) and mom’s-night-out is officially over. The urgency to go home is a new development, and I hop in a car and say goodbye to my friends, feeling revived. I come home to the sleeping baby, wrapped up in a warm blanket, breathing soundly. Collin is watching Netflix in the next room, so I hop up next to him and hook myself up to the breast pump. In the glow of projector and the robotic repetition of the breast-pump, I feel a deep sense of joy and think: Damn, I am living my best life.