Writing gives me an exit. Sometimes parenthood is overwhelming. The tantrums in Safeway, disgusting diaper changes, arguments with my husband and career stagnation all became more bearable if I allowed myself to sometimes observe rather than be enmeshed. Taking time out to write allows me to escape the minutiae of daily life. I don’t spend enough time contemplating the mystery of my existence or that of my fellow human beings, who are also occasionally reflecting on what it all means. I take a step back from all my responsibilities, and appreciate the beauty of the world and my life. I try to make sense of my ever-changing relationships, and the continual unfolding of my children’s lives.
Ten years ago, I finally took a couple of writing classes and got feedback from other writers about my pieces. Writing my observations had always helped me process my life and make sense of the world, but I realized the power in sharing my words as well. About eight years ago, I joined a mothers’ writing group who manage to escape their families one Sunday evening a month to encourage each other, listen to speakers, and read their writing out loud. It was wonderful to hear other moms snicker when I read my essay about how I attended traffic school to escape my visiting in-laws. When the group was silent, like when I read a piece about the camping trip where everybody but me vomited, I discovered when a piece was pointless. The group morphed into the Write On Mamas and has helped me with specific tips to improve my work, which I scrawled on the margins. I loved hearing the stories the other mamas wrote. I laughed when I heard the story of how one mama’s son made a macramé penis. Mothers broke into tears as they read essays about the daily challenges of a disabled child, and the break-up of a marriage. We were far more honest and open with each other than if we met on a playground bench. I was also happy to notice that giving feedback to others improved my own writing.
Inspired, I started carrying around a tiny notebook. I wrote while I waited for ballet class to finish, and while I was waiting for son’s prescription. I edited pieces late into the night, and was dazed the next day at work. On a family vacation, I documented the weird yellow block faces of the fairy tale ride at Lego Land as I sat on the wet floor of the Motel 6 bathroom, which was the only place where the light wouldn’t disturb my sleeping family. I described a trip to Yosemite, where my daughter shined a flashlight through her Crocs shoe and declared that she made stars.
Over the years, my fellow mamas (and one papa) wrote essays about adoption, weaning, talking about sex, and children going to college. I read essays about losing my job, and my adoring son becoming a distant teenager. We shared our successes, and lifted each other up after failures. Several mothers in the group have written books, and when I see them sitting on bookstore shelf, I feel proud to be a part of their creation.
It has been wonderful to get a couple of my essays published, and to know that my work is finally out in the world. My desire to write comes from my introverted side, but I’ve learned that the best writing comes from connecting with others. I am grateful I found such an inspiring, supportive group.
Beth Touchette’s essay Two Mermaids appears in Mamas Write.