Today we see the third guest post from Phyllis Schieber. I have been honored to have her here this week. Her writing moves me deeply. I've read both A Sinner's Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits and they remain among my favorite books. I hope you have enjoyed these three posts (okay, third one is below). I am sure Phyllis would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.
Many years ago I read “One Child of One’s Own,” an essay by Alice Walker. In the essay, Walker discusses her decision to have a child, but “only one” because more would make it difficult for her to move about with ease. She also points out that it is unlikely that the question of whether or not to have children is even asked of men who are artists, but that is a whole other discussion. Nevertheless, when I was pregnant, I worried about how I would balance my need to write with my responsibilities for my child. It soon became apparent that there was no contest. He came first, and he still does. It is a decision I embraced with no regrets because that is the only way to do anything successfully.
It is true that I am not a real baby-person. Some women just adore infants. I am not one of them. Give me a two-year-old, and I am there for the duration. The emergence of language thrills me. I am intrigued by the surfacing of thought processes; I am captivated by their play, and by their creativity. I invented games to play with my son that involved little more than our imaginations. I grew as a writer because he challenged my vision and my originality as nothing else ever had. As he got older, I enjoyed the time I had with him even more because I knew it was short-lived. I welcomed school holidays and snow days because it gave us more time to be together. I stashed away little art kits that we could do on these days. We baked and cooked. We painted. I introduced him to mishmash. From time to time, I would allow him to empty the kitchen cabinets and pour a little of everything into a huge bowl. He delighted in this game as only a child could. With his sleeves rolled up and a big wooden spoon clutched in his hand, he stirred the ingredients as he explained what he was making. Each time, it was something else. Years later, when he told that he had chosen to write about mishmash as one of the topics for his memory piece during his six-week Language and Thinking orientation at Bard College, I was moved to tears. He remembered. My time with him had been well spent.
My role as a mother has enriched me as a writer. I can go to a place inside myself that understands what it means to split yourself between your own needs and dreams and your role as a mother. Of course, after so many years, I have a better grip on how to balance the two. Clearly, I have written consistently since my son was born. Still, when my son is home, I turn my days over to him whenever he wants me because now there are weeks and months that go by without seeing him. Although I cherish the time I now have to myself, I often miss those endless days of being wrapped in a cocoon with my baby. And like the women in my novels, I continue to create a life for myself that is separate from my child’s life because that is natural and best.
My son came home after college and lived with us for two years. They were busy years, and I recall the frustration I often felt when my work had to be placed on hold. However, I reminded myself that this time with him was temporary, and I found ways to do my work without taking time away from his needs. It was a balancing act, but I managed it well. And, as predicted, after he left, I missed him terribly. Now, he is settled into his own life with a newly earned Masters of Music in Voice from the School of Performing Arts at Boston University. We speak often, video chat, and enjoy his visits when he comes home, as well as our visits to Boston. Technology has made it easier to stay in close contact, but I often miss his presence. I get an urge to hug him, to plant a kiss on his cheek, or just to share a meal. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my time. I got to yoga classes six times a week; I walk, and I go the grocery store much less than I need to when my son is home. I write at all hours of the day without interruption unless I have students to see, Life has a different pace now that he is out and on his own. I would love for him to live closer to home, and I am hopeful that he will return to New York some day. I think he will. For now, we are each exploring our new lives. I am not sorry for the time I gave him when he was home. I got up a little earlier to write, went to bed a little later, and in-between, I relished the time he wanted to spend with me, even if I was only chauffeuring him somewhere. It didn’t matter. We were together, and it was good. His presence enriched my life, added texture and depth to my writing, and simply made me happy. When I look back on those years, I am satisfied with the decision I had made to always put him first. It is a decision I continue to stand by and to encourage. The time we spend with our children as they are growing up and even after they are allegedly full grown is always time well spent. I am more certain of this than I am of anything else.
Join us on the Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/05/04/phyllis-schieber-blog-outreach/ . You can also learn more about Phyllis Schieber and her books at http://www.phyllisschieber.wordpress.com/.