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
- Running errands.
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
Who are your favourite women writing online?