Yes, it’s that time of year again when I go on a partial hiatus to do a really intensive month of writing. Normal posts will resume in November but, in the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy an insight into this year’s Project October.
Week Two: Beginning
It’s amazing how something small and seemingly unrelated can destroy all of a writer’s good intentions. It’s Week 2 of Project October and I should have written between 3,500 and 4,000 words in the past week, a very attainable writing goal. Instead I’ve haven’t written a single word. And the reason is a phone call with my sister.
She lives on the other side of this very big city so we don’t see each other that much. And she’s a mother of four – including a nine-year-old with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a rambunctious step-daughter the same age and two-year-old twins, one of whom has a clear walking disability even though the government refuses to acknowledge it because “some kids start walking later than others” – so she doesn’t often have time for long (or even short) phone calls.
So when she called this week, it was something of a rare treat. As with all of my married mother friends and relatives, she talked primarily about her husband and children. I don’t mind – after all, they’re my brother-in-law and nieces. But something she said really stuck with me. “I never thought it would be this hard.”
Marriage and babies were always at the top of the list of the things she wanted in life. But like most people, she was never really prepared for when things didn’t turn out quite how she’d imagined. Two children with disabilities that mean endless doctors’ appointments and few definitive answers. Twins that mean it isn’t financially feasible for her to go back to work.
In 2015, I wrote and published an article recommending that anyone considering motherhood should read Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. I thought that the story of a mother coping with her teenage son becoming a spree killer was a pretty good metaphor for how being a mother (and a father for that matter) is never going to be exactly what anyone imagines.
I thought about that conversation for days afterwards and came to the conclusion that the reason no one thinks motherhood is going to be so hard is because no one tells you except in broad motherhood (pardon the pun) statements. There are so many stories of motherhood, so many tiny and intimate details that should be told but aren’t because mothers don’t have the time. And sometimes they also think that there’s something wrong with them because they aren’t gloriously happy all the time. Getting what you’ve always wanted is supposed to make you feel that way, right?
My sister has a story that deserves to be told – to help others and maybe to help her in some sort of therapeutic way – and maybe that’s something I can help with.