Warning: This is long and rambling and may not end with a point. But I still felt like sharing it.
I have been doing something very important with my maternity leave, besides taking care of my baby (now toddler!). I've returned to writing.
Writing has been a passion of mine pretty much ever since I could eek out letters with a pencil. But after moving to Bulgaria, I lost my drive for several years. I'm not sure if I was overloaded emotionally from adapting to a new culture or if I just didn't have enough intimacy with the place to write, but I had a solid five years or so of writer's block.
While I started writing a little when Peatuk was born, it wasn't until Jojo was born (a year ago) that I really sank into it again. Since Jojo was born, I have finished a middle grade (8-12 years old) book and young adult book. I have edited them extensively, to the best of my ability, and I am now querying them with agents, hoping to get published one day.
But publishing is a long, slow process, and since I am serious about it, I decided to add a few other irons to that fire. I started writing short fiction and creative non-fiction, with the idea of entering contests and seeking publications in magazines.
One of the contests I wanted to enter required the winner to attend the award presentation, which was in the U.S. Also, as part of the award it offered a one-month residency at a high-desert artist retreat. Awesome, for people who can leave their obligations for a month.
Unable to afford to fly to the U.S., and being the mother of two small children, I can't really go away for a month. Well, I can. But I don't think I want to. And that is what this is all about.
The other day, while lamenting my inability to apply for that contest, I said, "But you would never let me go," to my husband.
He got quiet and serious in a way that made my stomach jump and told me he wished I wouldn't say that.
I had to sit with that for awhile. I didn't understand what had turned him sour. I went over what I had said. I was just complaining, letting off steam, surely he couldn't be mad at that?
Later, it clicked. It was the "you" in the complaint. That I was blaming him and my children for not "letting" me dream about doing something I wanted to do.
In that statement, given without much thought, I was blaming my husband for holding back my professional career. I was telling him that I wanted more and he wasn't "allowing" me to reach it. No wonder it rubbed him the wrong way. If my husband ever complained that I wouldn't let him go to a conference or take a business risk, I would be pissed that he wasn't taking accountability for his own life-balance. That he was putting it on me. And that is just what I was doing to him.
Of course, men and women are set up by different social expectations. Women are expected to take on more housework and child care. I was projecting those expectations on my husband, who may benefit from them, but has no problem stepping up and shoving them off.
To be clear- when I first told him about this contest he told me something along the lines of, "Yeah, it would be tricky, but I would take the kids to my mother and move to Varna for a month, work remotely." As in, he was already coming up with solutions. His first instinct was not to hold me back, not to think about himself, but to support me and figure out ways we can make my dreams happen.
But I wasn't able to see that. I was blinded by the social pressure for me to stay with my kids mixed with my own natural desire to be with them.
After reflecting I realized I couldn't leave my kids for a month. But it wasn't my kids holding me back, and it certainly wasn't my husband not "allowing" me to go. It is my own choice. They are my priority right now. And that's okay. No one needs to take the blame for that, and month-long residencies can go to those who make that their priority.
That being said, I am also starting to open myself to the idea of leaving my kids behind for a weekend or week. To putting them in daycare so I can focus on my writing (when the time comes). Because now that I know- really understand- that I am the one who "allows" me to focus on my career or not, I am going to start making those hard choices with a different perspective. One where I balance my life in the way that works for me without apologies.
Okay. That was a hot mess. I guess I still have some transitions in me.