expectant mother parking

Posted by on December 11, 2008

All I can say about my mind lately is that it resembles my sock drawer, which is jammed full but yields precious few wearable pairs when I am in a pinch to get out the door. This is why I haven’t written much for a while. The ideas I collect and toss into the drawer have certain potential, quality and color, but remain strays and refuse to self-organize into a thematic event. I suppose that writing, at its best, is a thematic event for me– a special event. It’s the culmination and choreography of thoughts that I toss into the drawers, boxes, and bins of my mind, according to category. If a category starts to overflow and beg for attention, I must throw myself upon it, which is to say, write about it until it is tidy and purged of disorder.

But lately this is not happening for me. There have been no event-worthy thought groupings, no overflowing bin. My relationship with thoughts and words has lately mirrored my ill-fated relationship with home economics and domesticity, which makes me feel as if I’m spinning my wheels or chasing my tail. My thoughts lately have been bound into the arena of our tiny apartment, where food goes bad and gets thrown out for lack of planning, and toys, books, and puzzle pieces find their way under furniture and remain there for lack of organization, or the simple willpower to pick them up and put them away for the thousandth time. I get so frustrated with myself, and this perpetual feeling of incompetence. Perhaps this is why I write: my words will stay put, and in an order which pleases me. And, for that matter, the process of ordering words gives me pleasure. Not so with housework. It takes me no small effort to torture my home into an order which pleases. Once achieved, I do enjoy the feeling of an ordered living space. But I lack the talent to forge a sustainable system, and so the satisfaction is always fleeting– hardly worth the investment. This is where I find myself.

I snapped this picture recently as I was going for groceries on a snowy day. It is the line in a parking lot designating a place for “expectant mothers.” The sign is equipped with an image of a stork carrying a baby, and is next door neighbor to the handicap spots. I used to feel ridiculous about actually utilizing such a luxury, especially when I tend to feel so well during the second half of pregnancy, and quite capable of walking the length of a parking lot. But this time around, my second pregnancy, I have no problem sailing into it with a sense of impunity. I am a mother and an expectant mother rolled into one, which sounds like a paradox, and probably is. I know what to expect– oh how much more do I now know. But in some ways I still do not know what to expect. If I had to stick to one story I’d say that I still do not know what to expect while I’m expecting, except that, shortly after I brought home my complimentary copy of the book by that same title from the doctor’s office, there appeared copious bright red crayon scribbles inside. I now know to expect that sort of thing.

I think I’m coming to terms with the struggle that ensues when I, combined with a small child and a small apartment, try to achieve a sense of domestic order. I eek out small victories, which yield modest satisfactions. Then all comes unraveled, and must be done again, world without end. I think there are women who achieve order in the world-their-home with ease and great satisfaction, because they possess talent. Where there is talent, there is energy–the work itself is energizing. I have to accept that I’m not such a woman, and that I will continue to struggle with this. I will struggle because I sincerely believe that domestic order is important for family life, and because I want my family to have some measure of that order. I cannot dismiss it as unimportant, just because I don’t excel at it; I cannot utterly succumb to disoder. But I am also gaining insight into the fact that, as evidenced by the sweet symbol of the stork, the essence of motherhood is not domesticity. The essence is in many other, sweeter things. I wonder, for example, at the prospect of a new and different personality in our family, and how the delicate balance will be tipped and re-situated by this new life. I also like to imagine how, years from now, Esme and this girl, her sister, might have the kind of friendship and memories that I share with my sisters. There is this and so much more that transcends petty frustrations with the self as it is subjected to inadequacy.

I think that this is all I can write for now, even though it strikes me as a mismatching pair of socks. My mind is partially stuck at the moment in some kind of slushy, oily, rainbow-y parking space.

  1. anna j
    December 14, 2008

    Dearest Julia,
    well if there is anything other than “small victories” in this life, i for one know nothing of them. especially in the realm of child-care, it is the mundane that makes up much of life, i think. not that this is a bad thing, mind you: it is a comforting, peaceful sort of mundane-ness . . .
    i think my words are coming out sort of muddled at this “late” hour of the night. at any rate, i am happy to read your ever- eloquent words. and i hope to see you soon??
    love, anna
    p.s. the photo is brilliant–intriguing and abstractly lovely

  2. Jenny
    December 18, 2008

    Oh Julia,

    Once again you express so much all that I feel. I just wish I could stay on top if it all, and yet I have to slow down and just be–with my kids and with myself and with God. I have to make myself do that sometimes because there is just so, so much to do and always so much that remains undone.

    Thanks for posting. I had a really funny dream the other night which involved you and I’ve been wanting to call and share it, but the days just keep slipping away.

    I am excited that you’re going to have another girl! My girls love each other so, so much. It is all gift and a beautiful thing to be sisters–I never had one, so I can’t stop marveling at it.