Notes on the journey of motherhood

Women writing on the internet and why it’s important

Blurry boundaries

I have a problem. I try to keep my parenting to myself because I know when in public, as soon as people realise I am a mother, they no longer know how to interact with me. It’s as though my children form a bridge between myself and the real world, and everyone who dares approach me feels they have to do it through those children; as though through giving birth (multiple times I might add) I have forgotten how to speak ‘grown-up’ and everything must be interpreted for me through this new language of children.

Today Mr Karen and I went to a car dealership to test drive a car. Mr Karen stayed at the dealership with our youngest two, and I assumed the driver’s position and took a test drive with the young, unmarried, childless salesman. I admit to being nervous sitting behind the wheel of a strange and relatively expensive new car, but what made it more uncomfortable was the conversation between the salesman and me. He was a perfectly nice person, but I found myself recoiling as I heard myself describe my day to day responsibilities. What would I do with this magnificent automobile?

  • School drop offs and pick ups
  • Shopping
  • Running errands.

*crickets*

I felt myself shrinking into the fine leather seats.

The strangest part is, in performing these daily tasks I (for the most part) feel perfectly useful and productive and satisfied. They also only form a very small part of what I do; the rest of the stuff I do (teach my boys how to be intelligent, caring, responsible human beings) is too slippery to name. It’s only when held up to someone else’s measure do I feel like an infant trapped in the nursery, viewing the world as though through the bars of a cot.

I know my days won’t always be like this. The boys will grow and one day walk themselves to school, make their own lunches and ride their bikes to friends’ houses, and by this stage I will no doubt be working full-time, perhaps from home, perhaps in a bookshop or university or library. When I find myself scratchy, I remind myself that life is long, and when these boys of ours become strapping young men I will look back at these days playing blocks on the rug and wonder at how quickly they passed.

I don’t want to wish these days away, when they are small and dependent and take perfect pleasure in accompanying me to the post office to check the mail box, or to walk through the puddles near the road reserve and collect sticks and pine cones as we roam the neighbourhood.

This issue is amplified by the fact that I write online. As bloggers and writers and website creators, the internet requires us to define our niche – tell the world who we are and what we can offer them. Although this blog is all about writing and storytelling and nurturing creativity, as a writer who spends 90% of their time working from home it’s incredibly difficult not to speak to my everyday experience of being a parent, a carer, a mother. I’ve never really known how to marry the two ideas of writing and mothering  – hence the tongue in cheek URL – and sometimes I wonder if they cancel each other out entirely. I can spend an entire day mothering my children and the whole time I’m writing inside my head. Then I go to bed feeling as though I have achieved nothing, giving half of myself to everything.

I spent an entire semester studying a writing program this year and not once did I show my classmates pictures of my children, not even when an entire table of my peers began sharing photos of their dogs and cats. I barely spoke of the boys, suspecting that if I did I would forever be pigeon holed into that tiny birdcage of irrelevance – motherhood.

I hope I don’t lose readers because I am a writer who speaks occasionally of their daily experience as a parent. The story of the woman at home is often uneventful. It is a pot boiling on a stove; it is a child growing silently over a hundred hours asleep beneath his covers; it is the beating of wet sheets hanging in the wind. It’s uneventful perhaps, but not unimportant.

“ … and if one asked her, longing to pin down the moment with date and season, but what were you doing on the 5th of April, 1868, or the 2nd of November, 1875, she would look vague and say that she could remember nothing. For all the dinners were cooked; the children sent to school and gone out into the world. Nothing remains of it at all. All has vanished. No biography or history has a word to say about it. And the novels, without meaning to, inevitably lie.”

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

If this post resonates with you as a woman or a reader or a woman who reads, you might enjoy this post I wrote for Daily Life a week ago. BYO cup of tea.

Who are your favourite women writing online?

14 Responses to “Women writing on the internet and why it’s important”

  1. Cat

    I am nodding in furious agreement with everything you have said Karen. I hate being pigeon holed. It really hurt me not so long ago when a very good friend I’ve known for many years now was trying to find a “topic” he considers me expert on & he said parenting. I love my boys and take my “job” of bringing them up well quite seriously but it is not the only string in my bow it is just the one that is loudest at the moment. The same friend would have said I was knowledgeable about books and movies, food and theatre and maybe shoes. I still love those things but with small kids it is all of what you say above in its consuming of my energy and time. I really like your blog and always have. You really are one of my favourites! X

    Reply
  2. gabrielablandy

    I’m not a mother myself, and reading your blog I have never found it irrelevant (as I have found some written by mothers). I think it’s the very fact that you seem to constantly think outside your box, but also the very special way you have of observing: ‘ the rest of the stuff I do (teach my boys how to be intelligent, caring, responsible human beings) is too slippery to name. It’s only when held up to someone else’s measure do I feel like an infant trapped in the nursery, viewing the world as though through the bars of a cot.’ Suddenly, when put like that, I find the act of mothering intriguing. I am drawn in and even beguiled by it. So, thank you.
    Also, I’m not sure about my favourite women writing online, but my absolute favourite author is Alice Munro for the simple fact that she had always written of the everyday and made it like another world.

    Reply
  3. thirtysomethingbride

    This resonates with me. I am proud of being a mother, the practical things as well as the things that are ‘too slippery to name’. I too experience that jarring feeling when describing what I do to others, of suddenly seeing myself as they see me – someone producing nothing of concrete value. Then I have the realisation that much of what I do is transient, gone tomorrow – like sandcastles on a beach. Yet hopefully something of lasting value is produced, in the intelligent, caring, responsible human being you have shaped.

    Reply
  4. Zanni Arnot

    I definitely don’t think your parenting experiences are unwelcome in your posts. Being an avid reader of The Rhythm Method, it was always refreshing to read your take on parenting and your experiences. You combine the two parts of your world beautifully in my experience.

    Reply
  5. Lipgloss Mumma (@LipglossMumma)

    This is such a touching post that absolutely resonates with me. When I first started blogging come hell or high water I was not going to be a Mummy Blogger. I didn’t want to be tallied by the sum of my children. As important, wonderful and special my children are, I am also a woman, a business owner, a person, a writer and so much more. I too sometimes feel I am wishing away those special moments reaching to find myself again.
    For the record, I love the way you write and how you gently weave in your life here and there. Don’t change.

    Reply
  6. sarafoley

    I have always cared for the part of me that is neither mother nor wife, but just me. If I pay this part of me proper attention, I find I can enjoy my other roles as well. It’s all about balance isn’t it? It would be strange if i didn’t mention my children in my blog; just as strange i suspect as if I talked about them all the time. Everything in my life gets a mention, one way or another :). I am relatively new to your blog, but so far – i love your work!

    Reply
  7. Tracey from Central Coast Seachange

    I think we gravitate towards bloggers who we feel some form of camaraderie, those that make us laugh, those that write a great story. Í never think any less of bloggers who go down the path of sharing their home lives, my only concern is to keep it real. Truth in blogging is the key for me.

    Reply
  8. multiplemum

    Karen this is wonderful. I wish I had have read it before I beat myself up a bit today. I actually watch people reassess me when they find out I have four children. I go from being ‘capable’ to being ‘unreliable’ in the workplace. It shits me. I want to be a proud Mum AND a capable employee. I am. I love sarafoley’s comment above. Thumbs up. x

    Reply
  9. Naomi

    I swing wildly from not wanting to be looked at through the mother lens on line to wanting to be. I have no clear thoughts on this, sometimes I take the middle ground too.

    Sarafoley’s comment above resonates with me a lot. There are many parts to me, and the blog I write.

    Reply
  10. Carli

    I struggle to marry them both too. I don’t let motherhood define me but it is a huge aspect of my life and it does tend to weave its way into my blog quite a bit. I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one that feels that way though and thankfully there are blogs out there like yours that resonate.

    Reply
  11. georgina

    This is great! Thanks for giving all of us mums a boost today…. in the many roles that we fill on a daily basis, and the ‘me’ that exists behind the scenes… our voices do need to be heard – and I especially love hearing yours. x

    Reply
  12. ameliadraws

    Ah i was another furiously nodding head… and did the cancel them out thing today. But i did re-find this beautiful poem by Patrina Barson: it sums it all up as well . Amelia

    Reply
  13. Kymmie @ a day in the life of us

    All I have to do is think about how I saw parents and mums before I had children, and I can cringe, and cringe. It really isn’t something anyone understands until you’ve been there. And it’s always more complicated than it sounds.

    So lovely to be reading you again. xx

    Reply

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