This is me being honest: I have truly struggled with motherhood.
I love my 2-year-old son, but I don’t enjoy the immense responsibility that goes along with being a mother. I also feel overwhelmed most days with my schedule of part time working, writing novels and poetry, AND watching my son. But every day, I manage it somehow. Every day, I learn to keep up with the important things and let the less important things go.
Letting things go that I want to get done and just can’t is so hard for me. I grew up as an only child. I’m used to doing whatever I want, when I want. I’m used to traveling when I want to, writing for 13 hours straight when I want to, and focusing on myself.
All of that changes when you have a child. It’s frightening. I remember reading somewhere that having a child is like having a piece of yourself exist outside of your body, a very fragile piece, that’s new and vulnerable to the world. I get anxious all the time.
I’ve gone through plenty of times of self-doubt and self-criticism, but being a mother exacerbated all of that. I feel guilty all the time when I need to do some work and my son wants more attention. Or when I give him all my attention and don’t get the time to write.
It’s a constant battle, inside and out.
But It’s worth it. I know it is, and every time my son does something ridiculously cute or impressively smart for his age, I get excited and I forget to worry about the precarious balancing of work and childcare that I do.
Two nights ago, my partner went to sleep early. I wrote all day, so I was ready to take a break from writing and focus on my son for a few hours. I realized that maybe he is old enough for markers or crayons, and I realized that I still had 30-something wooden blocks cut for him, that I’ve been planning to paint for him for a year and a half. I took everything out and we had an amazing time drawing together and he drew on some blocks while I painted other blocks.
It reminded me of the time I spent teaching mural painting in an Irish primary school. I loved teaching art to kids. It was one language that I could speak with any child—from the Irish-speaking kids of Dun Chaoin to the Nepali and Indian kids of Kalimpong.
When I’ve taught art, the fact that I can’t hear kid’s voices or read their lips doesn’t matter. My son signs, of course. I don’t have a communication barrier with him, but I have a hard time playing with him in a way that excites me, too.
I am so relieved, and so thankful, to have found a new language and a new way to play with son that makes me forget my work, my writing, and even forget that I’m fully responsible for this tiny person, I’m a mother now, not just a daughter, or a wandering writer and occasional muralist, or a twenty-something-year-old with a passport filled with stamps, or a sailor living on her own boat.
I’ve resisted motherhood for a long time, but sharing art with my son helps me embrace it.
This is a blog post for new mothers—it’s hard as f**k, but if you can share things you love with your children, it makes everything better.
(I am sure this is old news for many people, but sometimes it’s easy to get sucked into our own needs and stressed over also meeting the needs of our family, and I think it can be easy to forget that when you share things you love with the people you love—older people included—life feels more free, happy, positive, and invigorating. And then when we go back to our work or our responsibilities, we realize they aren’t so overwhelming after all.)
If you are at all curious about the Deaf community, I urge you to pick this up. It had great range, from fiction to poetry to non-fiction, and features some very talented writers.
From the introduction by John Lee Clark:
“…this book represents the latest blow to the audist vision of deafness as a calamity, as something that must be fixed at all costs.”
The cover of the book, a dandelion, is a tribute to Clayton Valli, a ASL poet and linguist. His famous ASL poem “A Dandelion”, which is about the persistence of ASL despite oralists attempts to weed it out, is transcribed in the book, though I love the ASL version below:
[A note from Wikipedia:
“Audism is the notion that one is superior based upon one’s ability to hear, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.”]
[A note from me:
Many hearing people are audists without even realizing it.
They are audists when they feel bad for someone who is deaf—because of their deafness.
(Though when they just feel bad about a deaf person being left out, or when they wish to learn ASL to communicate better with a deaf person, that’s not audism.)
They are audists when they see a deaf person as disabled, or hearing impaired, or suffering from hearing loss.
They are audists when they think that person should have hearing aides or cochlear implants, or speak with their voice rather than their hands.
When you are part of the Deaf community or use ASL, hearing loss is not something that is “suffered.” Hearing loss then becomes deafness. It doesn’t include words like “impaired” or “loss” or “disabled.”
I do feel disabled when I am surrounded by hearing people who cannot sign. Or when someone turns on a movie that doesn’t have captions or subtitles. But that doesn’t really make me disabled. It just means I can’t hear English, despite the fact that I speak and write in English.
English was my first language, and Hearing culture was my first culture. Gradually, I’ve become a part of Deaf culture, too, and I’ve realized, it’s okay to be both. It’s okay to feel a part of two different cultures—the same way I feel at home in India or Ireland, but I was not born of those cultures, either.
I love ASL, but I’m not a master of it. I need it, but I cannot sign nearly as well as I can speak or write. This is why—this is exactly why—I’ve chosen to read my writing aloud, in English, because it was written in English. But if Deaf individuals attend my readings, I will always deeply want to sign for them.
I wish to take hold of my own voice with my hands as well as with my mouth. But I don’t feel adept enough to translate my English into ASL. And for a true ASL performance, I would need to read my work aloud, and then sign it in ASL. Not every venue would be open to that (being that it would take twice as long to do a reading), but that is something I might later wish to attempt in the performing of my own work.
Until then, I’m proud to be a part of anthologies like this—where my words can exist alongside other deaf writers speaking about the Deaf experience from their minds and from their hearts.]