03 February, 2011

Career and Mothering

I talked to a friend a while ago, to whom I was complaining that I don’t get enough time to write because my kid is a crappy sleeper, that I have no career, that my writing is in the toilet, and that when nap time comes all I can seem to manage is looking at other people’s websites, sometimes in a research effort but, truth be told, more often with envy and wonder that anyone is blogging out there at all or getting books published or in general doing anything of literary ilk. And she said, “But isn’t being a mom your career now? I mean, isn’t it your life’s work?”
Well, yes, of course, mothering is my life’s work, but my career? Well, no. I love my job as mom; it’s just that in my mind I have another job, a writer. And that writer job is the only really consistent job I’ve done, though not always done well, for the past twenty-plus years. Of course, I’ve had many paying jobs; mostly as a teacher of writing, but also as freelance writer, a violence prevention educator, a natural history guide, a coffee shop worker, a pre-school teacher/crowd control management provider, a literacy tutor, and an editor, all of which lasted various amounts of time from a few months to a few years. But during all of those jobs, I was always a writer – every year I’ve written something and produced some stuff. I’ve sent my work out for the last ten-plus years, and been rejected plenty, way over a hundred times. I’ve also had some pieces accepted (way less than a hundred). Writing has for the longest time been the foundation for my beingness, the reason I get up every day. I do now have another reason to get up, and being a mother is a foundation, too, but I’m sorry to say, that beingness doesn’t feel as foundational as writing does for me. Perhaps my feeling is because writing is actually for me.
To be sure, being a mother is a personal growth process, indeed, more of an enforced growth process than being a writer ever was, but being a mother means mostly being there for my daughter. Writing, however, is lovely, selfish, time to myself in my head and with my heart and with a chance to have contact with another realm; time that, apparently, I need to help me actually function sanely in the world. I’ve tried all other methods for sanity – sobriety, self-help, therapy, coffee klatches, other forms of art, exercise, eating right, juicing, meditation – and myriad others. But the only one that really keeps me sane, by which I mean peaceful, is writing.
Motherhood, I’m again sorry to say, does not keep me sane – indeed, fighting off insanity while, for example, I’m picking up yet another gigantic trail of toys such as playing cards and game pieces from the game cabinet, the new bristle blocks from Christmas, the two-dozen felt fairies that never make it on the felt board but only on the floor, the paper money from the new birthday cash register, and inexplicably, the re-usable grocery bags that have been taken from their confinement under the counter and then scattered around the house after a botched attempt to give the cat, who had inexplicably settled to nap on these said bags, a magic carpet ride across the floor – is an amazing effort each day. My effort to fight off insanity during those moments, or like this morning when I was sure my child would sleep another two hours but woke before I’d even made a cup of coffee, is more like white-knuckling through while saying prayers to the universe about granting me serenity while trying to figure out how, as a parent, I can actually encourage my Dr. Destructo Insomniac daughter to put her toys away after use and then go to bed.
Writing is, to me, a form of getting in touch with the spiritual world I do believe exists, and getting connected with the unity of the universe, without my ego and, even if I end up writing a lot about myself like I do in these pages, I still have the hope that I am helping someone else by telling my story and allowing them a chance to relate somehow. Writing is for me a chance to be in service to something greater than myself, even if I write about myself, because many of us feel the same feelings even if they are expressed differently.
So, what I know today is that my career is in the hands of a power I cannot see but do believe in and so, yet again, I humbly ask for removal of all my complaints, negativity, envy, and other shortcomings. I’ll focus instead on how my life’s work is joyous, both the mothering and the writing.

1 comment:

Judy Allen said...

Lovely piece. I think I had to complete the mothering job before I could even consider being a serious writer--apart from the writing I did for work, which was technical or academic. I wish I'd found a way to write while the kids were growing up--so much material there, daily stories and insights, which now are unfortunately lost to me, to them, and to the world as memory fades.