Death of a Writer Mama

This past week, I took Daniel to get registered for kindergarten. It hasn’t really hit me yet that come September, Daniel will be going to big-boy school, as we’ve been calling it. It hasn’t really struck me yet that within a few months, I’ll no longer have a preschooler on my hands, but an honest-to-goodness school kid. That means he’ll be doing homework, coming home from school later (although the school district’s idea of "full-day kindergarten" doesn’t quite match up to my definition, i.e. "What do you mean they’ll get out at 1pm on Mondays? That’s no different from what he does now.").  And it means I’ll probably be writing less and less about Daniel as he starts to gain his own identity.

The thing is, though, when was the last time I wrote about him in the Cafe anyway?

It’s not because I don’t have anything to say. Daniel’s been growing by leaps and bounds, and he amazes me everyday with what he says and does. And it’s not because I’ve been blogging less due to time issues (which, given the choice between blogging and working on a story that has a definitely deadline, which do you think I picked? Hmmm…been awful quiet at the Cafe, hasn’t it?). Actually, that is a good thing because it means I have been writing, which is always glorious. And yes, I have started actually writing out the 2nd draft of Willow as of this week. And boy oh boy, just the prologue alone is turning out GRRRRREAT!

I guess I haven’t been writing about Daniel because, well, I’m not really defining myself as a stay-at-home Writer Mama anymore.

When I first started writing seriously, I just had Daniel and was getting used to staying home without going out to the job or speaking to another adult about grownup issues. Where I lived, there really wasn’t much of anything else to do except do the whole ‘stay-at-home’ thing. Join playgroups, attend MOPS, go to parks, libraries, open gym, anything to get some sort of variety in my life. And at some point, I realized, hold on–I’m staying at home, raising our son. Didn’t I always say I wanted to do that and be a writer? Well, I got the at-home part down pat. Where does the writing part come in?

So I started taking workshops and going to writer groups and most importantly, I wrote. I wrote about everything I could think of. When I wasn’t writing stories, I wrote essays. When it wasn’t essays, it was blogs about my son. And since I was doing the whole Mommy thing, I considered myself a "Writer Mama", because at the time, it was my profession: writing and mothering.

But now, my profession has expanded to that of HR Assistant. In fact, ever since we’ve moved to Madison, I’ve gotten involved in a whole number of things that’s outside motherhood. I’m a co-worker, Wiscon book club member, scifi/fantasy writing group attendee. And a lot of what Daniel and I used to do, like going to the library or out to the gym to hang with other kids, is pretty much covered by him going to preschool. And Daniel is getting to the point where I do want to limit what I write about him, to protect his privacy (I can hear him now in 10 years—"Yeah, but what about all those potty training things you posted?" And I’ll tell him, "Kid, after all you put me through, be grateful I didn’t post pictures, you stubborn little—" and that will shut him right up.)

I haven’t stopped mothering. Oh, good gracious, no. I’m still involved in teaching and disciplining him. We still go to the park, and the library (though not as often as I like). He’s my pride and joy, and I take great delight in watching him play and work, when he isn’t getting on my nerves.

At the same time though, I’m finding that I deeply miss the community of Mommies I connected with because I had nothing else to do. Granted, if I hadn’t started writing, there would’ve been many, many days I would have been bored out of my skull. And I haven’t found the same kind of community here yet, though I’m sure they’re out there. In fact, I should start actively looking for a group that has working mommies in their midst.

And I know what you’re thinking. If I like doing the stay-at-home thing so much…nope. Not gonna finish that. Let me just take the liberty of rolling my eyes and saying, "Yeah, yeah, I know…"

In the meantime, I guess, "Writer Mama" doesn’t work for me exclusively anymore. Instead, I’m a "Part-time Working Writer Mama"? No, that sounds like I do it all part-time. "Working Writer Mama"? No, that implies that I’m a full-time worker. "Part-time Worker, 3/4-time Writer, Full Time Mama"?

Hmmm…gotta work on that….

End of a Stay-At-Home Era…at Least for Now….

Today is my last day as a stay at home mom. Well, for now, anyway.

Phase I of settling into Madison is complete. All the boxes are put away, things are somewhat in their rightful place again, we’re not tripping over things–much. All we got left is small things, putting up pictures, finding a system to do laundry that doesn’t involve just tossing everything on the floor, etc. Now that we have settled, it’s time to start Phase II–going back into the work force. (Stage III–finding a writer’s group, will proceed in June. Stay tuned as I figure that out.)

I would love to say that the decision to go back to work was agonizing, soul-searching, deeply conflicting against my inner values. If I so happen to run into any die-hard stay-at-home mothers who shake their heads at my predicament, perhaps I would say that. But really, the truth is, it wasn’t that hard a decision at all. A part-time job opened up at the place my hubby now works, so I decided to apply and what-do-you-know, they hired me. So I start tomorrow. Just like that.

The main factor in all this is the word “part-time”. Back when my hubby and I discussed this, I was pretty clear that when I did go back to the working world, I wanted to do it part-time. Partly (grumble…grumble…using the same stem of word twice. such a no-no…) because I wanted time to adjust to working again, partly because I wanted time to focus on Willow (which I am building back up to. Really.). And partly because, well, I guess I don’t want to give up my status of stay-at-home mom. Not just yet.

But the real reason why I’m going back to work? Real reason? I’m bored.

When Daniel came into our lives four years ago, I felt that the best thing for Daniel…and for me…was to stay at home with him. It was great. Not only did I learn how to care for a baby, but I also got to teach things to him, basic things like eating and walking, but also fun things like singing and playing and dancing. He saw me cleaning and working at home, interacting with other mothers. I took him to the library, read him books, did playgroups and crafts (though the latter didn’t happen until his late threes, considering that he barely sat still do to anything crafty). As he transitioned from baby to toddler to sass-back preschooler, I slowly begin to realize that there’s a limit to how much I can teach him. I can introduce him to new music and new places, but when it comes to teaching skills like putting together puzzles or how to put on his shoes, well, I suck. Immensely.

The problem is, I think I have very little patience for those sort of things. I subscribe to magazines like Wondertime and Parenting, and they’re filled with happy mothers happily showing their happy kids to do happy things. And for three years, I can say that I was that type of mother. But then, something happened. Daniel started getting more independent. I started expecting more from him…perhaps more than he was ready to do. I remember back when we started potty-training him again, and I was trying so hard to get him how to stand and pee, rushing him into the bathroom whenever his dad was in there so he could see how to do it (Hubby didn’t really appreciate that.) Daniel, of course, wasn’t having it.

Sometime afterwards, Daniel went to go spend the night over a friend’s house. The next day, I’m working, Daniel’s playing in his room. I see him run into the bathroom, so I glance in to make sure he’s okay–and he is using the washroom standing up. Flabbergasted, I asked him, “How’d you do that?” To which Daniel shrugged and said, “Drew does it.” (Drew being his friend).

At that moment, I realized:

  1. Daniel’s doesn’t need me all that much anymore.
  2. Daniel needs other kids in his life.
  3. I think I’ve taught him everything I know.
  4. What’s the point of staying at home if all he does is watch TV and play by himself?

Now, obviously I know that there are tons of more things to teach him. I know that Daniel still needs me, will in fact need me for a long time (unless he’s in his 30s and still living at home. Then we’ll have a problem). But I think we’ve reached a point in our lives where Daniel will benefit from being around kids his own age, having an outside teacher, learning to be a little boy without his mother hovering around. The boy is ready, eagerly ready, for preschool.

So I guess this is challenging my view of motherhood. It seems that the idea of being a mother is not being there for your children, but rather, it’s to make your children more independent so they don’t have to rely on you forever. In other words, I think that I just worked myself out of the stay-at-home job. Motherhood seems to be a influx thing. And that’s cool. I really had fun doing it. In fact, I know that when the next kid shows up, I’ll most likely do the same thing. But at the same time, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do the stay-at-home thing forever.

Well, this has turned out to be a rambling post. I think I better go and make the most of my last day staying at home all day. There’s laundry to do, bills to pay, books to put on the bookshelf…

Bleh. Forget it. I’m taking Daniel out to get some ice cream.