Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Can mothers think?

In her essay, Can Mothers Think?, Jane Smiley talks about the dearth of great literature written from a maternal point of view. She points out that much of the celebrated books written by women have been written by daughters, women who have never had children. Of course, much of that has changed. Jane Smiley, Alice Walker, Ursula LeGuin, Toni Morrison. All daughters, all mothers, and all fabulous writers. In fact, Smiley talks about how motherhood actually improved her creativity and thought--added urgency and richness.

Of course, it helps if you start out being Jane Smiley.

This happened to me as well. The first year or so of Madam's life was probably the most creative time of my life. I was writing again, after years of only thinking about it. I could play with ideas and characters while I tended to her. I started this blog. It was good.

But the title of the essay continues to haunt me, though, because I've been having a bit of trouble thinking myself lately. Madam is so active, so engaged, so fully PRESENT that it takes all of me to deal with her—my energy, my body, and especially my mind. I find myself missing those drowsy (well, comparatively) infant days where I could be with her even while I daydreamed about my latest story, or blog post. Now, every nerve strains with attention, all of the time. Life has become a tense, operatic thing, like a war, or a flood.

Madam: Where Doggie? Doggie? DOGGIE! (prepares to fling herself on the ground to protest this cruel separation from her Beloved).

Doggie is produced.

Madam: Ah! Doggie! Kiss! Kiss! (falls into rapturous joy. until the next crisis.)

It's like she's gunning for a toddler Oscar.

And I am tired. Sleep, never easy here at Chez Madam, has become naught but a distant memory.

Mothers...share your secrets. I seem to have forgotten how to do this whole “balance” thing. I ADORE my Madam, and I am thrilled at everything she is. In fact, sometimes when she is finally asleep, I catch myself using this precious non Toddler time to think about...well, her. And how much I am enthralled by her. Trust me, I know how lucky I am to be with her as much as I am. It's great, exhausting, all-encompassing fun. So much so that even when I am not with her, I can't seem to transition back to myself. And I have a delicious new idea taking shape—a new story. But...I can't ever seem to work on it. Late at night, I have to remind myself to think about it, at least. And then I feel guilty, like I am abandoning my little brain people, and possibly myself.

I miss my mind. And I miss your minds. At the end of almost every day lately, I barely have the energy to lift the lid on my nifty laptop. So I am horribly behind on every blog I love. But there is hope for the future...TEG is toying with the idea of taking some much needed time off. I can barely contain my excitement—writing time! blogging time! Coffee with Jessie (and possibly even Emmie or herbal tea [finally] with Kate)! Sleep, sweet blessed non-toddlerized SLEEP!

Oh, and maybe TEG and I will even get to spend some time together. It could happen.

So...this post doesn't do much to further the idea that THIS mother thinks, although obviously I agree with Jane Smiley that mothers can think.

After the toddler years.

(PS: I started this post last night after Madam went down. I was interrupted five times in an hour, and finally finished it now--at 1:03pm CST)

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8 Comments:

Blogger Melissa said...

Oh, I know what you mean! She'll grow out of the mom-intensive toddler stage, but until then it's really hard.

My kids have a quiet time after lunch every day where they get to play quietly-ish without my help, but that was hard to institute when I only had one toddler. It really came together for me when she was about 3.5. No help, really, I know. I'm sorry!

3:38 PM, January 08, 2008  
Blogger Jessie said...

Hey, I thought you said that you didn't write anything good today! Granted, your characters might be acting up or acting the wrong way...but it is obvious that your brain is still functioning just fine.

I hope that I get to see you for coffee, if not tonight, then soon. Sometimes the best medicine for a blechy mind is just switching things up and getting into a new environment--if even for a few minutes!

love you and thanks for making me laugh on the phone today.
j.

4:12 PM, January 08, 2008  
Blogger Becca said...

Oh, I have so been where you are -
as a matter of fact, that's where I was when I first read "Gift from the Sea" and started thinking about the whole issue of balance.
(BTW, thank you for your nice comment today :)-when you think that you'll never have an intelligent thought again, and despair of ever being able to carry on a normal conversation with yourself or anyone else. Above all you fear that your brain is turning to complete mush and will never perform properly again.

Oh, but it will! In the long empty days when Madam goes to first grade, you will wander your house with empty arms for a while, but one day your brain will click back on and begin humming again.

Try to be patient, grab the minutes you can, and continue to enjoy being enthralled with her.

10:41 PM, January 08, 2008  
Blogger Amber said...

Oh dear GAWD do I KNOW!!! I had my first coffee shope time today, when g was at school...And I couldn't even focus my freaking brain!! I tried. Maybe it will get easier. Maybe it's like riding a bike? *sigh*

We need to set up that phone call and talk/bitch about this. Maybe when you have TEG home. :)

:)

11:38 PM, January 08, 2008  
Blogger bubandpie said...

Having children killed my ability to think in the evenings. It's the whole up at six (and two and four, some nights) that just zaps me. If I have work to do (like preparing a lecture) that requires my brain, I have to do it in the morning while the kids are at day-care.

6:39 AM, January 09, 2008  
Blogger bella rum said...

Oh, those days are long over for me. I wish I could give you some sage advice, but I will tell you that there will come a time when you can reclaim yourself, you mind. In the meantime, enjoy as much as you can each day.

I enjoy your blog.

9:00 AM, January 10, 2008  
Blogger kate said...

I would love to have tea!!!

For me, the only way I can work on a serious writing project is to have a couple of hours in the morning when Stella is in pre-school or with D. or my mom. (And I have to leave the house.) I get progressively stupider as the day goes on, and by evening it's hard to even read. I have no energy left. Is there any way you can get a couple of hours a week to write?

4:25 PM, January 10, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

Surfed here from Lisa's blog...

My daughter is 7 - will be 8 this year. It just floors me that she's growing up so fast - and grieves me. I tried to hold fast to every moment I could when she was a baby, then a rambuctious toddler, and so on. But it's true what they say - when kids get into school, BAM, the time flies.

Don't feel guilty for enjoying the moments you have with her - and for thinking about her when she's not there. I think that's completely normal. But also allow yourself the time to be "you" again - don't lose yourself and who you are. I think that kids appreciate a mother who is her own person as well as their mom. Does that make sense?

My daughter knows that I'm a writer. She will even ask me what my stories are about sometimes. To her, that's just part of who I am. And I gotta say, I love it when she asks me those questions. It's like she knows and respects the fact that I'm not only her mom, but a writer and my own person, as well.

3:13 PM, January 11, 2008  

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