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You As You

Cell phone. Internet. Baby. Cropped-out unflattering picture of self. You mean there's more to life than this?

In a fit of laziness brilliant outsourcing, I asked the regular crowd over at Amalah Proper for topics they might enjoy seeing discussed over here. Bekki asked the following:

Personally, I’m trying to figure out who I am, aside from Mama. I’d love to hear about stuff you do (aside from work) that satisfies or enriches you as you, not mom or writer. Or maybe, you struggle with that too? All I know is, I thought hard for weeks and could barely come up with 1 hobby that I am excited about. It was kind of sad.

That is sad! Everybody needs non-mom and non-work hobbies and enriching activities in their lives! Like me! And…um. I mean, for example…

Huh. Does Angry Birds count? No? Well then. I’m out.

It was a sobering exercise, to say the least — just about every hobby or activity I could think of was subsequently eliminated for violating the no-children-or-work parameter, or was simply something that I don’t do much anymore, now that I have (so, so many) kids.

I like cooking and baking…but I am mostly interested in cooking and baking for my children. Homemade baby food, hidden veggie tricks in the mac-n-cheese, reverse-engineered frozen fish sticks, the endless quest for Healthy Crap That They Will Eat. All the really amazing and strictly-for-grown-ups meals that we’ve had recently have been cooked by my husband.

I like running and exercising, but I would be lying if I made it sound like I consistently make time for either on a regular basis. I don’t. I took a free trial kickboxing class last month and loved it, but when it came time to sign on the dotted line I decided that the $100 a month was too much to spend. Because the babysitter (who watches the kids while I work) asked for a raise, you see.

I like reading, but don’t do as much as that as I’d like, either. Books are too much of a commitment. I’m super into Instapaper, though, and my Read Later archive is quite impressive-looking, full of great pieces of Real Journalism that I totally seriously intend to read at some point. I read something about monkeys eating people the other day! It was kinda gross. I took a break and went back to Dr. Suess after that.

I don’t sew or knit or craft or scrapbook. I recently looked at sewing machines and thought it was high time I taught myself some basic skills beyond reattaching buttons and safety-pinning hems on my kid’s too-big karate uniform, but it’s mostly because I think it would be cool to make my own cloth diapers and covers.

YEAH. I JUST SAID THAT. I JUST CALLED HANDMADE HIPPIE-CRAP POOP-CATCHERS “COOL.” SEND QUAALUDES, PEOPLE.

This question used to be an easy one for me: Writing. Writing was always the answer. It was my hobby and my true love and ambition, even when I spent 40+ hours a week doing something else and was too exhausted to write for pleasure once I was home. Even when my personal writing portfolio consisted of a bunch of abandoned first and second chapters of novels I would never complete and a couple first-person essays I’d hesitantly submitted to magazines and sites like Salon…only to have them promptly, yet graciously, rejected.

Even then: Writing. That’s what I loved to do.

Then writing became blogging. Just a hobby, a creative outlet, something to hold me accountable and stop using the “I’m too tired/busy/into-playing-Hexic-online” excuses and just publish SOMETHING every day or two.

Then blogging became writing again, somehow. And writing became my job. At least enough of a job to let me quit my old one and stay home with my baby. And then continue staying home. And then hire a babysitter a couple mornings a week. The idea behind that, as I recall, was to help me finally carve out a distinction between “work” and the rest of my life. (Not to mention having a better option for my children besides our daily dance of “can’t you just play quietly for a few minutes because Mommy has to just get one little thing done today GAH OKAY never mind I’ll just turn on the TV again.”)

There are days when I wake up and groan at the list of writing deadlines in front of me. Days when I feel like I have nothing else to write about and cannot wring out another word. There are days when I wish I was the one taking the kids to the pool, dammit.

But there are also days when, after the bedlam of breakfast and shedding pajamas and cries of MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY I NEED I WANT MOMMY MOMMY, I’m back in my room staring at the wide expanse of an “Add New Post” screen, I am so happy. Enriched, even.

And then I put my fingers on the keyboard and write about being a mother, about my children, and all the ways they make me happy. Enriched, even.

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