Mother Hats

The other day I opened a document on my computer (OK, this document is called “motherhood memoir notes,” which alone scares the crap out of me) and started reading through said notes (because that’s what I do when I feel too afraid to write. I just obsessively read over what’s already there on the page, not a productive by a longshot. )These notes were kind of jumbled. They contained snippets like,

“I wait in line at the cafeteria for a soggy English muffin with microwaved egg plus bacon;”

How long can we keep this going, I wondered to myself as we snaked through the evening commute;”

“The bank letter comes;”

“Everything I need in one place, online moms’ chat board, food, giant plastic water bottles, everything but sleep. That night I think about the airport;”

and, “Yellow notes go here.”

I looked for threads, scanning through these remembered scraps of my mother life. Anger, belonging, obsession, strength, ceasing to be mothered just as I began to mother others. And it hit me how many mother hats I have worn over the past six-ish years. I worked as a full-time newspaper reporter through two pregnancies, and later with two babies; I held my breath through two risky maternity leaves, hoping the money we saved would  stretch and my job in a tanking industry would be there when I returned; I jumped out of the rat race and tried to morph into what I thought was the image of the ideal “stay at home mommy” — baking, crafting, home-schooling the ABCs, and flunking miserably out of the co-op preschool sorority circuit. I then worked from home as a mompreneur running a business aimed at helping other mothers; I freelanced; I came full circle again when I went back to work full-but-flex-time.

Whoa. WOHM to SAHM to WAHM and back again, sort of; at least five mother-worker hats in six years. It is no wonder on some days I feel breathless and whiplashed …

In the beginning, when I was working full-time with two little girls in daycare (at a place that was so very loving but, I liked to call it, Germland, U.S.A.) the SAHM grass seemed so much greener to me. Stay-at-home moms had it good: They spent quality time with their children, make homemade Playdough and marmalade in pretty hand-decorated jars. The creative ones probably even wrote stacks of successful novels, like I dreamed of doing.

hatshopWhen an unexpected opportunity came around (and saved us from near-bankruptcy) I took the plunge, leaving the outside work world for what I termed a “sabbatical.” I could now spend every hour of the day with my beautiful, and very needy, 18-month-old and 3-year-old. But suddenly immersed in the domain of library story times, wooden Waldorf dollhouses and growing worries about my own sick mother, I felt puzzlingly less happy. I enjoyed the girls, I did, but I also began to obsess over hand-knit sweaters, grinding my own flour, finding the right mommy friends, and whether my own marriage would drop dead like those around me seemed to be doing at a rapid clip.

I feel like I am only just now starting to come out of that motherlife crisis, to a place where I might soon be able to qualify the intersection of motherhood, career, creativity and identity. The theme of my writing these days, the central heart-beating theme, seems to lie somewhere smack in the middle of that magical/scary/mystery of an intersection, right flat on the pavement. It wants to be rescued by a kind and kindred driver, my theme does, like a young hitchhiker on her way to somewhere great; it is hoping not to be run over.

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