At this moment, I sit typing with a 2-year-old on my lap. He is humming and wiggling. I am his grandmother and the tug is constant: give him my attention or give my writing my attention. I try to find a balance: I read to him, take him on errands, prepare meals and clean up together. He loves to play in bubbles while I do the dishes, and he sweeps the floor energetically with his broom. Of course I have to re-do everything, but I don’t mind. I appreciate the fact that we are doing it together.
I gave up writing when my children were small because I lived in a commune that took in the homeless and fed the poor. I didn’t have time for creative writing with meals to prepare, rents to acquire, children to care for. It was a busy and fulfilling time, but when betrayals and disillusionment happened, I took refuge in words.
“My responsibilities are supposed to end when the parents come home – but you can’t lock the door on your grandchildren.” – Wendy Brown-Baez
I began with my memoirs. Always there was the tug: cook a home-cooked meal for my sons or send them out for pizza, attend the football game or my writing group? As a single mom, I had to work. When I reconnected with my oldest son’s dad, things improved financially, but because he was bipolar, my energy and attention were consumed with his well being.
Inspired by Joseph Campbell, I tried to follow my bliss, taking that leap of faith over and over again. But each time I sacrificed a regular income, I found myself drowning in debt. After my son’s death, I could not pull out of debt even though I worked full time as a preschool teacher. I didn’t have the energy to follow through with events I had planned for promoting my poetry and for a while stopped writing completely. I didn’t know if I would ever write again.
I now live with my oldest son, exchanging child care for room and board. My responsibilities are supposed to end when the parents come home-but you can’t lock the door on your grandchildren.
A woman will tune herself to her relationships. It is how our brain works. But the privacy to brood is how my writing is composed. To ruminate, to find the touchstone of one’s inner being-these seem impossible to find when someone needs you physically, emotionally and spiritually. To catch a glimpse of what you want to write and not have the quietude to think it through is the most frustrating experience a writer can have. One more time, I will take the leap: a room of my own, time to myself. My next act of service will be for myself.
Wendy Brown-Baez performs poetry nationally and in Mexico, and is also the creator of Writing Circles for Healing. She says being a grandma is her greatest thrill yet.