On Mothering Through Writing
From the time she was little, my mother knew she wanted to be a mom. But that didn't stop her from having other ambitions. She went to school and received her bachelors and masters degrees before marrying my father. I came along four years later. The why behind her “almost PhD,” and the first of four children. Her constant affirmation and support for her children took the place of any hobbies she might of had and, for the most part, she liked it that way. My siblings and I were her priority first and foremost and to this day it is how she operates. As with most people, I believe this is due in part to her personality and to society’s definition of motherhood at the time she joined the club.
She is the ultimate martyr mom, which at best means I can always ask her to look over a poem or essay and at worst, means she will stay up until 2 AM to do this, sacrificing her well-being even though I would rather she take care of herself. Though she believes in the new, but necessary, concept of self-care accepted by my generation, she can’t apply it to herself so easily. I, however, firmly believe that sometimes you need the massage, nap or time alone to recharge and be the best mom possible. Even so, she encourages me to take care of myself as a new mother and it is this undying support which allows me to continue cultivating my passion for writing.
My mom has always fostered this talent, encouraging me to become the best version of myself without comparing me to my engineer-minded siblings. Though she mainly focused her time and energy on us, she always recognized that I felt the desire to be creative long before I felt called to motherhood. And before my son came along, she made sure I knew it was fine to not stay at home as she did. I could choose to be a working mom while also furthering my creativity. Most of the time, I feel balanced, working at a job I love and writing during breaks, before heading home to enjoy some well-deserved time with my husband and son.
But sometimes, the guilt monster rears its ugly head and hisses in my ear that I'm being selfish. That I should be home during the day. Because, after all, time flies and my baby will be in college before I know it. Even so, I try to keep in mind that hopefully, in doing work which gives me meaning, I’m teaching my son an important lesson: Previous passions don't disappear when one becomes a mother. Even if it means typing up ideas on my phone after the baby has fallen asleep at the breast and fleshing them out while pumping milk at work the next day. You must be creative in how to carve out the time, but it is possible to feed the calling that is an integral part of you.
Passions can change and evolve. Some choose to parent full-time and I applaud them for realizing that raising their children is what gives them meaning. Others decide they are better parents to their children by not sacrificing other parts of themselves. A friend once told me we have to keep our passion accounts full and I wholeheartedly agree. Writing fills me with purpose and yet it leaves me drained as well, but in a much different way than taking care of my son.
When I'm with my son, I'm seeing the world more carefully and slowly through his eyes as I appreciate the swishing of palm leaves or a plane flying overhead as he does. His smiles, giggles and the way his eyes sparkle when he discovers something new make time stop, my heart swelling with joy as I try fruitlessly to hold on to each moment. Since he is the passion that means the most (my greatest poem as my husband puts it), I try to be as present with him as I can. When I'm with him, I want to be "with" him whether it’s building a tower with blocks he’ll inevitably knock down or pointing to the lion or monkey or dog in his favorite books for the hundredth time.
I’m constantly looking for ways to teach him valuable lessons like empathy and problem-solving and appropriate ways to express himself, whether it’s happiness or anger. And on top of that, I try to stave off the nagging voice inside that tries to convince me it’s not enough. I do it all because I love him, I want him to be successful and I want what is best for him, just as other parents do.But if I get an idea for a poem and want to jot it down quickly, my husband takes over. Since my son is older now, he can explore and entertain himself while I knead out the knots of a rough idea into a smoother, more polished draft. Though I now have other responsibilities, I must make writing a serious priority as much as time and energy will allow, if I am to continue.
For those who aren't creatively inclined, it can be difficult to understand the call we creatives hear and feel every day. In their minds, writing isn't crucial to survival. It’s only a hobby that probably makes us little or no money. In the context of being a mother, it can be seen as something selfish, a distraction that "takes you away" from your child. But we know it's as necessary as our next meal or paying the mortgage: Writing itself can be a child to nurture, something that makes you come alive. By birthing words and ideas into being, writing is a form of mothering and self-care simultaneously, taking that space to replenish the soul.
After pulling back the layers of husband and child, responsibilities and chores, my essence stands alone, bold and bright, ready to relish time by myself. It is the spirit that comes to the fore when my son is asleep or entertaining himself, that takes advantage of precious time to dive in and create. The person who finds joy in crafting imagery and metaphors after washing dishes, doing laundry and picking up toys off the floor. It is who I was before my family came along, and after taking time to write, I can come back to them energized and rejuvenated.
When I write, I embrace the creative call while giving my audience the space to sit in the present moment through the words I've written. It is the electricity that comes from forging something unique, a poem, essay or novel that no one else can or will write. And if done carefully and intentionally, the end result has the capacity to move and comfort readers all over the world whenever they find their way to your thoughts in black on white, a way of mothering free from time constraints or geographic limits.
I write because it is a calling I cannot ignore, a gift my mother took note of and lovingly encouraged without fail since I was young. She was meant to be the mother I needed, full of lessons, pride and joy, raising me to be who I was meant to be. And so I will strive to be true to myself and my creative spirit, as I show my son the strength in who I am so that he learns to embrace his own gifts, whatever they may be.
Eloísa Pérez-Lozano writes poems and essays about Mexican-American identity, motherhood, and women’s issues. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in psychology and an M.S. in journalism and mass communications. A 2016 Sundress Publications Best of the Net nominee, her work has been featured in The Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, and The Fem Literary Magazine, among others. She lives with her family in Houston, Texas.