My mother-in-law flew home today after staying with us for the last four weeks. The time with her was wonderful because she a strong, loving, and helpful person. Most importantly, she takes in active interest in my children, which has allowed me the opportunity to step back from my role as stay-at-home-mom and explore new views.
For the last four weeks I have been able to write regularly on this blog, journal, read, run, spend leisure time alone, face anxiety and pinpoint some of the cause, and pull back from my regular routine at home with the kids.
Now that she has left, I realize I have to resume my full-time (plus overtime) role as Mommy-in-Chief. It is time and I am ready, but by being mindful about my decisions as a mother and as a writer can help me influence how I allot my time. The obvious goal is to excel at both.
I am on the brink of entering a new territory with my writing. But at the same time, my kids are at fun preschool ages and under my constant loving care. Next fall my oldest will start Kindergarten and our day-to-day nest will look different.
I must not let this time pass me by, I tell myself.
Writing goals can wait, I add.
Today my kids needed me. We all gave my mother-in-law hugs and smiles and happy waves as she got in the car to head to the airport. I hid my tears and followed the kids lead as the car drove away. Not long after she left my son started to cry. The let down and empty feelings surfaced. I cried with him while my daughter, almost three, rubbed our backs and told us not to worry. I let him cry, and I let myself cry. We felt better afterward and busied ourselves with an art project.
For the rest of the day I balanced my availability to them with my own continued wish to carve out time for myself to read and think. Many times I surrendered to interruptions, and I did so with patience and open arms. I came through for my kids when they needed me without the haste or irritation that so easily builds up after the constant day-after-day demands of motherhood.
In the evening, we piled on the couch with blankets and our dog. We watched a cartoon together and snuggled. The kids narrated and filled me in on all the characters on the show. It was a show they watch regularly, but one that I never sit down to watch with them. Because that’s the thing — I don’t watch TV with them. I tune out, I zone out, and I become “distracted” mom while they watch TV. But today I was present and it felt good. They sensed my calm and nestled closer. At bedtime we piled into my bed to read stories. They nestled even closer.
The last four weeks have been a blessing. I am left with some questions that I feel conflicted about, but mostly I am left with one strong conclusion:
I need something else in my life besides motherhood.
I’ve felt it building for a while and I fill that need with running, yoga, friends, dates, etc – all of which is fulfilling, yet there is still a missing piece.
Yesterday at my writer’s meeting, I received some rambunctious verbal feedback about my story. We talked a lot about Daughter and they asked questions about the story. Why isn’t Mother in the story? How did Daughter repair the relationship with Father? Was there a divorce? Tell us more about Brother Ship. Faith in what? God? Yourself? Relationships?
I sat there listening and responding and feeling enlightened as I talked more about Daughter with power I didn’t know existed in myself. I entertained their fictitious ideas to make the story even better, though the story has already played out in real life. Despite the many critiques, the overarching opinion was to keep going with it. They wanted to know more.
For the first time I separated negative emotions from the story — bitterness, anger, self-pity, the aftermath, more untold traumas, all of it. Not only that, I did it in front of a group of people who barely know me. I think that’s why I had to write it in third person. At least for now.
After I left the meeting, I read through their written critiques on hard copies. One woman, who I have grown to respect, called me out on the story. She said something to the extent, You’re a good writer, but you are holding this one at arm’s length. I know Daughter is you. This is YOUR story and you need to write it that way no matter how much it hurts.
She went on and I reread her comments three times yesterday afternoon. I thought about emailing her last night to see if she wanted to have coffee with me sometime, but I never got around to it. This morning when I woke up, there was an email from her in my inbox. We continued the conversation and are going to have lunch together later this month.
I have conflict inside myself on where to go from here. Do I keep digging and exploring and writing MY story that is long and complicated? Or do I put it to rest?
I think a huge part of me knows I need to bleed this out of me to move on, even if I don’t ever publish it, but when? Where? How long? What about my kids? My husband is supportive, but not sure what I should do, other than not self-combust.
I am not sure either, but it is becoming clearer… and I just know the answers are within. The sooner I deal with this, the better, but with intention and smarts. And above all I have to stop letting time and my kids get in the way. The time is there, I just have to manage it. My kids are lovely little creatures and they aren’t an excuse not to explore and write more.
My challenge is how to balance my time/kids without unbalancing my mind.
Not long after I wrote my story, or “parable” as my writer’s group called it, my friend read it and said, “Wow. Writing that must have felt like giving birth.”
Not a bad way to put it. So here I am eleven years later feeling like I am in the eleventh hour with a newborn baby, born the day after Christmas, just begging to grow up.
Now or never?