I’ve been out of the habit of writing. Even down to how it feels to hold a pen or strike a keyboard without mechanical deliberation. So I’m just starting you, this document, without knowing your purpose. Maybe you’re a letter. You sound like one now, at least your subject pronouns do.
So, I haven’t been writing lately for a lot of reasons: a rash of computer problems, mostly of the keyboard variety. And I haven’t made time for it, and that’s even more critical now that I’m a stay-at-home mom.
I hesitate to wonder how to keep this interesting after that last admission. Isn’t that funny? Guess I fear “stay-at-home mom” sounds boring. That’s why the article I saw the other day, “The Four Words Stay-at-home Parents Dread The Most,” got so much of my highly divided attention. (They’re “what do you do,” the dreaded words. They really are.)
I suspect, in fact, that that’s the principle reason for my writing pause: staying at-home while momming. For one thing, after the baby, there’s an abrupt forced austerity (or at least, strict funneling of) those critical resources of time, energy and mental agility. So waking up early to tease out a poem, or carving time out of an afternoon to tinker with an essay idea — these things don’t occur. Not to me.
And, though a professional writer, and though an American living in Belgium, I haven’t been able to construct a blog persona that I can get along with over the long-term. I don’t want to be a mommy blogger, or a conspicuously ex-pat blogger. But as a stay-at-home-mom or SAHM (I don’t know if I like or hate that acronym — pronounced “Sam” in my head and never in conversation.), I haven’t mustered the tenacity to interest myself deeply in, process, and write about a whole heck of lot else right now. Also, I am in Belgium now. Even conspicuously.
Also, I’m just going to say this up-front, because I’m not sure how to craft it gracefully into a gradual reveal: I don’t love being a SAHM. Maybe I don’t even like it. Some days I straight-up hate it’s guts. I miss jobs with grown-ups. I used to juggle them like torches. Now I can’t technically get a job in Belgium while we’re here on my PhD candidate husband’s student visa (it’s been four years; this is the fifth and last). Volunteer-teach or finagle an editing job, sure. But assemble the facts and arch of a story and write it down? I can’t even manage to keep up a baby book.
I include these details in an attempt to legitimize my complaints about SAHM-hood. You know, to explain why I get to complain about the fruits of a life choice. We’re not supposed to do that. We’re supposed to be happy with something, or change it, or at least not complain. Still, we make enormous, even irreversible, life choices all the time without knowing what the Hell we’re doing. And when that happens, not wanting to complain can mean silence.
As a writer, I misplaced my voice when I had babies and commenced to raise them full-time. Because making the decision to stop living for myself and instead subjugate my will to that of a tiny, helpless, barely communicative tyrant (and then, right away, do it a second time), was really confusing to the old sense of self. And that abrupt existential turbulence was aggravated by the fact that there’s barely any time to process or even fully notice it. Because babies have a way of drowning out other data. I don’t think I suffered postpartum depression, but I recall Googling “postpartum rage” to make sure that was a thing. Because it was new to me.
So I’m trying to untangle the thread here, by this letter to a letter. Or whatever it is when you’re writing to writing. It’s hard to find the audience when you’re not sure who’s talking anymore.
*Sigh.* Or maybe you are a blog. A threadbare online journal of a new mom living abroad while shifting from full-time work to temporary full-time mommyhood. Just like thousands like it. Or not…
Or not! Yeah. You ARE a blog. Yes, I shall name you Sahmurai. (Get it? SAHM-urai. Eh? Eh?) No seriously, Wikipedia tells me that translator William Scott Wilson defines “samurai” as “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility.” And if by “nobility” we mean those goobers who refuse to put on pants but sometimes try to wear underwear on their heads, then I am that all over. At least, I’m definitely not a ninja.
This is my attempt to take enough serious interest in myself again to be able to not shrink away from the phrase, “What do you do?” I haven’t figured out a good response to that yet, but I mean to get there. Come along if you like.