The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The Voices that Reside in Every Mother's Head

For the better part of the last year or two, I have had the incessant and annoying company of a small but loud voice in my head that catalogues every virtuous/maternal/helpful deed I perform throughout the day. 

“Look at me, I’m doing the laundry. Now I’m ordering more diapers and wipes online. Thank God for me. And now I’m remembering everybody’s jackets and hats and snacks as I head out the door, and on my way out I’ll take out the trash and put those letters in the mailbox.  Check, check, check.” 

With each action completed, I itemized all the ways in which my being at home with our children was necessary, beneficial.  How hard I was working!  How much was getting done because of me!  And, yet, no one had ever questioned the importance of my role.  Not one person in my life had so much as commented on the way I have chosen to spend my time: raising our children. 

Was I really feeling so underappreciated that I had to congratulate myself on every single step of my day?   

Sure, every one of us, no matter what our profession, could use a little more recognition, and perhaps mothers more so than others because so much of what we do is invisible, but this harping in my head seemed to involve more than looking for kudos. 

This was my own, internal conversation, with one half of me trying to reassure that other, relentlessly critical half of me, trying to make the point that what I was doing was indeed valid. 

The reassuring voice knows that I like being home with my children and raising them myself.  I waited so long to have them, have worked with so many other people’s children, and now it is finally my turn.  They’re fabulous -- why wouldn’t I choose to be with them? 

But I am not making any money, and I’m not balancing work and child rearing at the moment the way some of my friends are.  So that, in my mind, took me down a few notches.   

Also, there was the fact that I had completely removed all creative and intellectual thought from my life, after it being so much at the core of who I was for the last two decades. 

In the absence of that intellectual and creative richness, my head became an echo chamber, ready to ring with the unhelpful chatter of all the most unreasonable, harsh, critical voices I could muster. 

I hadn’t carved out any time for myself because I didn’t have any reason to justify paying for childcare -- and because being away from my children just for the sake of getting away was ultimately unsatisfying.  The few times I did get a sitter to grant myself some time, the first hour of freedom felt great, but after that, I had to be really caught up in what I was doing to not feel the pull back home.   

Eventually, the internal monologue got so loud and so monopolizing that I realized something had to change.  I took the plunge and squared away babysitting time two mornings a week so that I could write and read and engage that long lost part of my brain. 

That time is something I simultaneously look forward to and dread.  The first morning was hellish, and I made myself cry before the first hour was up.  Everything that I hate about writing -- having this need to write but not knowing what to write, feeling that I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said before -- all of that came flooding back. 

The difference between trying to write four year ago and trying to write now was that this time I was paying for the privilege of sitting quietly in the library, so it seemed clear that I owed it to myself to try and stick it out and make it work.  The words did eventually come a little easier, and I hesitatingly rediscovered the pleasure of creating on the page.   

As soon as I found that pleasure, that piercing voice that was trumpeting every trivial accomplishment of my day quieted down some. 

It didn’t disappear, but it became manageable. 

The writing is still hard, and I still get those flurries of panic when I want so badly to write yet don’t know what about, but I have a little hope that it will get better. 

It will get worse too, I’m sure of it. 

Perhaps if I can manage enough moments of satisfying writing, that will be enough to get me back into my quiet corner in the library on those precious mornings I have to myself.  I have this other, engaging place that my brain can go now -- at the end of the day, when I’m picking up toys and wiping down counters and cleaning bottles.

I have another place I can go, even if it’s all in my head.  

By Eliza Harding Turner 

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