I received an email this morning from a current student at my alma mater. She was putting together a Where Are They Now? newsletter piece about some of the graduates who are continuing to work in their fields of study. Mine was creative writing. I wrote out the blurb she asked for, but I was pretty loose with the details. And with the definition of the word “working.” I write and edit, but I don’t actually get paid for most of it. And when I do, I take a picture of the check for posterity, which tells you exactly how rare those checks are. I told her about grad school and some of my publications, and that I’m juggling my writing life with my stay-at-home-mommy life, because writing with a five-month-old daughter in the picture is hard McFricken work. I didn’t actually use the word McFricken in my blurb. There are many things I didn’t tell her.
I didn’t tell her that, about a week ago, I had diarrhea and a very clingy baby. I put her in her bouncer, and she screamed. I put her in her swing, and she screamed. It was the perfect storm that led to my having Madeline on my lap during what used to be the most private and personal of bathroom moments. The darkest side of Attachment Parenting.
I didn’t tell her that I don’t read anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I read Jane Green and the new Sweet Valley Confidential series. They’re the sweet potato casserole of literature. You know it’s dessert, but you pretend it’s dinner. That’s the crappy metaphor I’m making, here. I read Parents Magazine and Family Circle, and I read all of Beatrix Potter’s greatest hits. Lots of Eric Carle. Lots of Tasha Tudor. Someday I’ll pick up an honest-to-God novel again, but at the end of every long, exhausting—and yes, fulfilling—day, I want to veg out with some fun reading. Or with an episode of Vampire Diaries. (It’s entertaining. See for yourself.)
I didn’t tell her that this is the third (third!) time Madeline’s gotten thrush, and the third time I’ve had to search the house for toys that may or may not have been in her mouth so I could sterilize them. It always feels like I’m playing out that sick scene from The Velveteen Rabbit in which all of the little boy’s toys get burned in a big terrible fire. I mean, I’m not burning anything, but Madeline doesn’t know that. To her, a pacifier in the dishwasher is about as heinous as a teddy bear in a bonfire.
I didn’t tell her that I was still unshowered and in my pajamas, and planned to stay that way until 4:30pm or so, when Madeline took her nap and I couldn’t justify being grungy anymore. I didn’t tell her that I spend the last few hours of every day looking forward to Madeline’s bedtime, only to miss her the minute she falls asleep, and creepily watch her on the video monitor off and on until it’s my bedtime. I didn’t tell her how crappy it is to be crapped on more than once in an afternoon, and I didn’t tell her how awesome it is to wake up to a five-month-old who flails around in total joy the second she sees me every morning.
I didn’t tell her those things. I told her that I’m trying to write, and I am. I’m writing as much as I can. But the rest of it—that’s where I am now.