I’m one of the lucky ones to have been granted a European maternity leave — a whole year away from the high school classroom to raise my sons — with the assurance I can waltz right back into a classroom the following year. I won’t get started on the rarity of this in a country that so casually denies mothers of maternal benefits (i.e. the right to stay home unpaid with their children while nursing, not sleeping, and often mothers too young — and untenured — to advocate for themselves). That is a different topic for a different day. But I do want to highlight my overwhelming sense of gratitude–and utter fear:
So, I’m writing to avoid A) my brain turning to mush and B) merely surviving through the year but remembering none of it. In that grain, my hope is to write frequently about crossing the bridge into the parenting of not one, but two small humans, around the clock. I’ve badgered my creative writing students about creating voice, incorporating “show don’t tell” in non-fiction, and writing every damn day — here is a chance for me to put my money where my mouth is. No, I don’t want to write a blog to sell junk, further contributing to the wasteland of internet advertising and self-aggrandizement. But rather produce a more meditative thoughtful living, a mashup between what author Anne Lamott strives to do in her book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year of Life and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, a philosophical journal of deliberate attention-paying amid a materialistic society (as if a hum of a computer screen could ever stand in for the wilderness). As Zadie Smith explains of her own vocation as an author, the goal is “to speak personally, the very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.” Or, quite simply, as Joan Didion puts it, perhaps, “we tell our stories in order to live.” So a blog, however, muddled and meager as a form of wakefulness, it is.
As an older parent, I have the luxury of having a million friends I can pepper with questions. This at first seemed to my advantage, until, time and time again, I routinely got the perfunctory response — “I don’t remember” or “not sure, it went by too quickly”. Perhaps this common amnesia is good for the health of the human race as the early baby years are tough and caring for small babe who can only communicate via crying & pooping can get mind-numbingly dull. But to what extent is the amnesia a self-induced state of mind bent on merely surviving? I hope to attempt in the next long year amid the swirl of new parenthood to step back, note, wonder, and, on good days, relish. So, here goes it!
Thanks for reading.