Motherhood: A Place to Begin
If I am being totally honest, my main motivation for creating this site was to give myself space to engage in work that is separate from my children. I crave proof that I can do other things, that I do do other things. One of the many shocking revelations of motherhood was the degree to which it seeps into every aspect of your life so completely; everything from my dreams, to my Facebook feed, to my every conversation seemed to inevitably revolve around my children and the realities of parenting them. Frankly, it is all a bit exhausting. So, this was meant to be a space where I could document my efforts to be a whole, separate, adult human being. And yet.
And yet, as I began to brainstorm about what I could possibly write about week after week, my pesky children began to creep back in. Every time I had what I thought was a possibly post-worthy, child-free idea about a recipe or sewing project or a room in my house, there they were, waving back at me. It finally struck me that I am not really interested in talking about food, or textiles, or anything else in an objective way. I am interested in exploring and documenting the storied ways that such things give my life shape and meaning. I had to come to terms with the fact that, for the foreseeable future, my creative life is tied to my children and my identity as a parent. I cook and sew and draw and paint for them and with them. I design spaces in which I think they can flourish emotionally, intellectually, and creatively. They are always present, even on those precious days when they are not at home and I have the freedom to work as I wish.
I also had to admit to myself that, as much as constantly reading and writing and talking about parenting drives me crazy, it is something I feel compelled to do. The nature of mothering is that it is relentless--relentless love, relentless work, relentless exhaustion. More and more, I am realizing that, for me, the need to reflect on it is also relentless. Parents can never rest on their laurels, because there is always something else to figure out. As soon as you feel like you have developed some sort of a routine or a system, your kid pukes in your bed, or refuses to go to kindergarten, or whatever, and it is right back to square one. It can feel like you are constantly starting a new job, and you have no idea how anything works, and you are afraid that any moment someone will discover you are totally unqualified and demand that you leave. I have found that it helps me me to step back from time to time and try to make sense of how things are going, and what it all means, even if I would rather just go take a nap.
What this all boils down to is the fact that this blog is going to have a section on motherhood, despite my intentions to the contrary. This means that I have had to give some thought to what that would look like, and what kinds of things I do and do not feel comfortable talking about publicly.
The internet is forever. I never want to post anything about my children that I will live to regret. I never want to write anything that could one day be hurtful or embarrassing to my girls or my husband or my own parents, or any of my amazing mom friends. But I also want to speak to my honest experience of motherhood. I don’t want to write only about diaper rash, or how to get your kid to eat kale smoothies, or Pintrest-worthy ideas for enriching every moment of your child’s waking life. I do not want to create only jokey references to memes about moms drinking a lot of coffee and stepping on Lego. It's not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just that there is a lot of that everywhere I look. It is necessary, it is helpful, but it is also, at this point, covered.
And so I arrive at that cliched conundrum of any writer, who must decide to what degree their calling as a writer justifies the telling of truths at all costs, and whether or not art trumps the feelings of others. My answer to this question is a complicated ‘no’, both hesitant and emphatic. When it comes to speaking and writing about my children, my marriage, my family, the stakes are that much higher. And so I will aim, always, to exercise restraint and caution in how I speak of them here (or anywhere). I will inevitably fuck up. I will say things I should not. I may also pull my punches when speaking a fuller truth would have been more useful. But I will do my best to strike a balance we can all live with.
In the end, I think that the best approach for me is to think of this as a mostly a place to speak to and about my own experiences of mothering--the verb, the job. This is not a place to vent about my children or my husband (who are seriously straight-up amazing), but rather to try to unpack the delightful mess that is the process and the practice of being a parent, particularly one who is also a woman, in 2017. Fair warning--I plan to post a lot of pictures of my super adorable children, to gush about their every minor accomplishment, to quote them liberally. If that is something that makes you gag, I apologize in advance. But I will also try to balance all that with reflections and admissions that I hope will have some sort of universal-ish resonance. Having said that, I am also totally aware that there is not one singular experience of motherhood, and that there are many, many ways to be a great parent.
Mothering has been very different from what I expected. It is much, much harder, and the nature of the hard is so totally different than anything I could have foreseen. I knew there would be problems, but they are so much less epic and romantic than Younger Me had stupidly assumed. Parenting requires grit and stamina and self-compassion. It requires a very strong support system and a razor-sharp sense of humour. More than anything, it requires an ocean of patience and compassion--for your children, your partner, strangers who give you advice in the grocery store, and, most of all, for yourself.