Sunday, July 22, 2012

I just couldn't write what I wanted to write

I should have known that baking cookies would do it.

I've been quiet around here for the past month. Some of that has to do with our big move to Toronto, not an easy feat with two young children. (We say that a lot, don't we? That things are made more difficult with the addition of young children. It's true that little ones are pure chaos sometimes, and their schedules often make planning life a challenge, and their whining can drive you to madness. But I do want to come right out and declare that life is made infinitely better when you throw young children into the mix, and I wouldn't have it any other way.) I've been busy readjusting to how this new life fits. So far I'm happy with our choice.

I've also been busy teaching again, an online course at a nearby university, and this just makes life very full. I'm learning a lot as I reintroduce myself to my course after two years off, including how to run a course in between all the events of my days at home with the girls. It looks something like this: get up and return emails. Read some posts from the discussion forums. Make breakfast for starving children in my kitchen. Return another email. Take children on new city adventure. Eat a popsicle. Do a tiny bit of grading during Shira's nap. Unpack. Chase children around park. Tuck them in after dinner, collapse, and then peel myself off the couch to start actually working for the night. Rinse and repeat.

But I'm always busy. We're all always busy, yet we still find time to do the things we love. I love writing this blog. What's stopped me from finding the time hasn't been all this other stuff, busy as I am. I could post three times a week instead of five, or one time instead of three. There are always ways to readjust (and I'm already doing a lot of readjusting this month). Nope, I'm quiet because I'm afraid. I'm suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable here on the internet. I love the internet, love it a lot, but all of a sudden I'm feeling awfully open. A big part of this comes from my return to teaching. I know some of my students have read my blog, and this kind of exposure is a first for me. I've always been an open person and it's translated into my style of teaching. When I teach in-person courses I learn about my students quickly, and they learn about me. I don't hide my love of cooking, or my enthusiasm for Sookie Stackhouse novels, or that my American husband just doesn't get the CBC. But my academic mentor always taught me to keep a distance from my students, even when you share parts of yourself as you teach. I remember when an undergraduate student asked her religion, and she emphatically explained that it was None Of Their Business. Her interaction with the inquiring student left a mark on me, because my mentor shared so many things with her students, even her home sometimes, inviting us over to share a meal or an extra lesson. But there was a line, she taught me, and it was critical. The space of the classroom, it seemed, had boundaries.

On this blog I write very explicitly about breastfeeding, my religion, how it feels when I lose my patience with my children, and the devastation I felt when I wasn't accepted into midwifery school. The space of my classroom has changed a lot from the days with my mentor. Of course blogs don't reveal everything. I am always choosing to tell a very particular story in my posts and details are overlooked (I hope, the very boring and the parts that involve another person's privacy). But when I write I'm not trying to deceive anyone, and at the same time I'm intending to share some very honest, and traditionally private, feelings and ideas. It's this kind of exposure that makes writing and reading blogs both so exciting and so overwhelming.

Teaching and blogging, at the same time, has forced me to think about what I want to share on my blog. As soon as I realized that students were reading I felt paralyzed, caught in the act, if you will. I would jump up to write a post, or be brainstorming in the shower, and instead of wondering how I would tell a story in a way that was honest and interesting, I was worried about how a student might think of me after reading it. I immediately began censoring myself. If I wanted to write a post about how much my breasts were hurting because my two year old was enjoying yet another renewed fascination with nursing every two hours, I held myself back. No one wanted their paper graded by someone who had just moments ago complained loudly about her breasts. Or if I wanted to write a post about postpartum depression, my own included, I withdrew the idea before I could even consider how to write it. Writing about how to cope with the stress of multiple deadlines while parenting two little ones? Forget it. If I'm not perfect, I'll lose their respect. Or so I thought.

It turns out that I have no interest in writing about my life if I can't be honest. I don't want to write about my trip to the museum if I can't also write about how many times my toddler pulled my shirt up to nurse. I can't share with you how hard it is to balance all the competing demands of my wonderful life if I can't permit myself to admit that re-learning how to fit in grading papers is hard sometimes. If I was so concerned with censoring my posts, I felt pretty sure I didn't want to blog anymore.

Nah. I won't stop. I just don't want to. And I've reached a decision about how to manage my concerns about exposing myself to my students: they'll get over it. Or they won't. Either way, it's fine. I'm not doing anything scandalous here (hardly). I'm not inappropriately discussing my course or students. I'm just writing honestly about how I spend my time, how I choose to carve out this life of mine. I'm a parent. I want to be a midwife one day. I want to be a doula right now. I love to teach. And I bake a lot. Nothing too crazy.

So when I was baking today with Alyce and Shira, the first real baking adventure in our new kitchen, and Shira's first time as sous-chef, I wanted to share it with you right away. I took their picture, the two of them bickering over who would sprinkle the baking soda into the bowl, and I wanted to share with you how glorious it feels to have our own space again. I wanted to tell you that I felt comfort baking with my girls, while Matt chatted with us from the other room. I wanted to tell you that adjusting to our new life in Toronto, as happy as it makes me, is sometimes hard, and that some days I spend a lot of time worrying about how we'll make ends meet or where we'll end up a year from now, but that no matter how much I worry, that baking with my daughters makes everything ok. That makes me human. I think my students already knew that. You already knew that, too.

So, I'm back. Let's get this going.

See you back here tomorrow. Let's make it a good Monday.


  1. First of all, I want that red gingham dress in my size. Maternity, L-XL.
    Secondly, being a teacher in a small town, I totally get what you're saying here. When I created a classroom blog, some parents cleverly figured out how to get to my personal blog. And then the pressure began, to hide my impatient moments, to not talk about marriage frustration, to not show photos of my house unless it looked perfect (and definitely no photos of my bookshelves!)...then I reached the same conclusion you did. My personal life, as unscandalous as it is, does not reflect my ability to teach children unless you value HUMANITY and imperfection in my humans. I've had a lot of parents warm up to me considerably when they see that I struggle with many of the same things they do in my day-to-day life.
    So. Go for it! I would miss you if you weren't being your real self.

  2. Yes, it is quite a dress.

    Sometimes I think I'm ridiculous for complaining about feeling exposed when I'm the one who started a blog :)

    Humanity is good.

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