I think I’m at my happiest when I am writing, surrounded by books and papers and browser tabs, knee-deep in the answering of an interesting question. I heard from a friend on the weekend who was working on an essay at her university library and I immediately felt a jolt of envy: I miss that. Early motherhood is, for all intents and purposes, manual labour. If academia develops the life of the mind, parenting, it seems to me, is much more about the life of the body – my body, and the little bodies I am responsible for. There is a beauty in that, for sure, and a rhythm and a primacy that’s missing from more abstract concerns, but boy do I miss those concerns.
Envy and longing are instructive emotions, don’t you think? They have a way of showing you what needs to change. In this case envy made me realise I’ve barely written a word in the last three months that wasn’t on a shopping list. That needs to change. I’ve put off writing here because I feel like blogs should have beautiful pictures. And then I realised the other day that there is no actual law about the photos, and no blog police, and really, it’s quite funny that I’ve let an imaginary rule put me off. I do feel like it would be BETTER with pictures, so when I do have some I will share them, but in the meantime there might be just words. If they were good enough for Hemingway…
I have plenty of time to mooch around the internet while I’m feeding Jamie. “Schmoogling” is the word we use in our household, and I’ve done plenty of it lately. Most recently I’ve fallen deep down the online rabbit hole of Maura Grace Ambrose’s life and work (honestly, if you think quilts are boring or think quilting is not for you, do have a look at what she does. Her company is called Folk Fibers and everything is done with such care and skill and attention to beauty).
Anyway, Maura made a comment in an interview when she was talking about the way her work processes have changed, and slowed dramatically, since giving birth to her daughter in 2014. She said (I’m paraphrasing here) that parenting means her hands are full a lot of the time, when she would like to be doing her work, but having your hands full at least gives you the time to think about what exactly you will prioritise doing with your hands when they’re empty. (In her words, “Asking myself, ‘When I can get my hands back, what will I do with them?'”.)
I loved this sentiment: children are valuable because they eat up so much of your time that with what is left over you discover what truly matters to you. When I get my hands back, what WILL I do with them? I don’t think I know, yet.
It helps, somehow, knowing that there are others out there whose minds are busy, though their hands be full. It makes me feel better about the fact that my greatest achievement today was getting dinner on the table. A good dinner, but still, just dinner.