Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Intersection of Mom and Words

I saw a post on Facebook the other day about a child who had to write about what her mom did.  Her mother is a writer, so she did a job report about that aspect of her mom's life.  I read about how other people's kids put down the word writer as their parent's occupation when the parent has published work out there.

I think if you were to ask my kids what I do, there's a fair chance they'd say, "Referrees fights, loads the dishwasher, and puts clean laundry on the table but never in a drawer."

And they'd be right, kind of.

The first time I actually put the word writer as my occupation was during a doctor's appointment where I was asked to update some paperwork.  My hand trembled and I thought of marking it out, though by that point I'd had six essays published.  When I first said it out loud, I almost puked. Someone I didn't know that well asked what I did, and I said, "I'm a writer."  He nodded politely and did not ask more questions, thank God, because I could have been convinced to change my answer out of fear of being called a fraud.

So it's really no wonder my kids have no idea about my clandestine life frolicking with words.  When it comes to creativity, I seem to still be in the closet.

There are some good reasons, one of them being that my kids have a very negative reaction to me using the word work.  I have worked full or part-time most of their lives and only left my part-time employement at a library in 2014.  They remember that job the most, and though I loved it and they loved the perks of me bringing home new books all the time, their main memories were of me not being home when they went to bed at least a couple of nights a week.  This was a problem for them since kids get emotional during bedtime.  D usually had to try to put weepy, distraught children in bed on his own the nights I worked.

So when I tried telling them that I was going to work at the coffee shop for a couple of hours a couple of months ago, they lost their collective minds.  There was crying; there was full face planting into our concrete floors.  It was bad.  When I explained it would just be for a couple of hours, they calmed down and I made it out the door after peeling them off my legs.  I returned to children who acted like I had deserted them for days, but it was nice to get all the extra snuggles.

The other reason is that I don't let them read my work.  The articles I have had published since August have all mentioned my children or been based around my experiences as a mother.  While I am glad to have these memories out there, I don't particularly want my kids reading them right now. It's not because I reveal embarrassing information; I just want my kids to be able to form their own perceptions of their childhoods and their experiences without feeling like my words define that for them.  One day I will give them these words and all the other ones I've written that have never seen the light of day.  I don't collect family heirlooms or keep objects for sentimental reasons, but when it's time my kids will collect a load of paper, little windows into my heart and mind just for them.  It's just not time yet.

But lately I've been struggling with the idea of my writing being a vocation that I keep from them.  I want to emphasize the importance of this pursuit, how it helps shape me and allows me to do something I love, something besides raising them.  I've never felt like "just being a mom", whatever the hell that means, wasn't enough, but I also don't believe anyone is "just a mom".  I'm a mom and a lover of David Gray's music, a creator of phrases, a decaf latte drinker, a believer in hugs as stress release, a weepy prayer warrior, and a person who hopes all four of my kids will realize the full potential God created them for.

It was a long time down the road before I was able to see my parents as something more than people who existed solely as parents.  I knew they had jobs, but I didn't know much about their passions.  It's only now that I am talking to my 84 year-old grandmother about her life as a girl. She revealed to me that she wishes she had talked more to her mother about her early life before she died, but now those stories are gone.

I don't want my kids to feel like they never heard my stories or didn't know how much storytelling meant to me.

So when I sit down to work on an essay while they have screen time, I make a point to tell them, "Mommy is writing, doing my work."  When I leave for the coffee shop to get in a couple of hours of uninterrupted time working on a piece, I tell them, "I'm going to write now because that's what I do."
I'm not sure the words mean that much to them right now, but it means something to me to say them because I still suffer with insecurities about following this artsy, flimsy career path that contributes very little financially to my family.  I think I'm trying to define myself to me as much as to them.

And that's okay.  Words have meaning, and there's power in just saying them.

For a peek at work I've had published, click the Other Writing Tab on the blog menu.

The little peeps.

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