Our first pediatrician told us right before our first child was born, that from the moment of birth, parenting was only about letting go.
I write from inside motherhood.
In the literary world, this is called “personal narrative” writing. I am deep at work on a memoir about motherhood and making. At this moment, my children are 20 and 23 years old. They were my main occupation for 13 years, at which point I began writing and making art in a more grown-up/not-on-the-side kind of way. Which does not mean that motherhood became anything less that a full-time occupation, it was just partnered by a developing creative practice.
I made a platform for the stories of women from inside motherhood with a live event for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, and an ongoing blog series that shares the title of “Out of the Mouths of Babes." I find people eager to dive in to writing from their own experience. Writing fiction seems difficult, but writing about what happened last Tuesday on the way home from the school bus drop-off–we all have stories just waiting to be told.
But the world does not value the stories of motherhood. They are often messy stories that involve tears and frustration, are linked to other people, which requires lots of explaining, and are centered around the basic human conditions. There is often snorty laughter, and they almost always touch on laundry.
Motherhood is not front-page news, unless a woman does something drastic.
I believe that the lack of value we put on the stories of mothers is in direct relationship to the lack of value our society puts on motherhood and parenting itself.
You haven’t heard of someone being paid to raise a family, have you?
So, the change that I seek to see in the world is to raise the value of women’s stories, in particular the stories of mothers. You can read more about Out of the Mouths of Babes here.
How can we value something we know so little about?
You may read this and say, “Suzi, this sounds good but what do you mean? I am a mother. What do I have to say that is so interesting?” I wager that the way you handle the challenges you experience in your life, while unique, share some elements that others could recognize. You found solutions to a problem or you witnessed something that made you know that beauty is possible, even in the midst of difficulty. We are full of stories and yet, our ear only perks up for the flashy news.
Motherhood may be small news, but it is human news. And humans crave the stories of other humans. We want to know and to be known, even if only by our own people.
Inside my motherhood is the reality that my children don’t live at home right now. They are in college. They have jobs. They share a car. They pay for their own extras and we pay for school. They call and text, and come home when they can. My laundry line is their laundry line. But the way that we connect, this is always changing. We have lived in to a time when I get letters from my daughter, the one whose tiny feets are up at the top of this post. She is in the middle of her sophomore year in college. She works on a boat. She is learning to take care of her own car and her own traffic violations.
How all of this change affects my business life is this: I have more time to work. I am less distracted. I am more effective because I have perspective on something that for so long was immediate and demanding and tiring. Which means when I get a letter or a text, I turn to it with fuller attention.
My husband and I used to say that the only thing that is consistent in parenting is change.
Just when you get them napping at a regular pace, one of them sprouts a tooth and cannot follow your well-made regime. Just when you think they are all good at college, one of them decides to move to another city for a job and you have to help them figure out how to do that.
By creating work that is inspired by motherhood, none of these changes go unnoticed. I pay closer attention and teach others to do the same. And I am more and more concerned about the stories of women in places where women’s lives are of lesser value than here in the United States. This is where the Dali Lama shoulder tap comes in. More on that next week.
Until then. Keep your eye open for story. I am sure you are surrounded by it.
I watch the changes closely
and they still stun me.
Here are some links to more writing from inside motherhood: