Yesterday at Sunday dinner, my 26-year-old son let me know that my essay A Reluctant Child now shows up on the third page when he Google-searches his name. It was one of my first parenting essays, written in 2004 for an on-line pre-teen parenting magazine. The essay chronicles my son’s struggles of fitting in at middle school- academics, friendships, sports. Typical adolescent stuff. Back then, running helped to develop my son’s self- confidence. I always thought the piece had a quiet honesty. He never liked it.
My four kids- now adults – have always inspired my writing. I started writing in 1992. At the time I was newly unemployed from my job as a financial analyst when I suddenly found myself a stay-at-home Mom of three boys under four-years-old. My brain was beginning to rot. My husband had just finished his PhD and was working at several universities as a part-time professor. Money was tight.
I have always loved writing. Even as a child, I was forever writing letters to far-away pen pals. I was a diary keeper. It occurred to me that writing would allow me to stay at home with my kids, help support the family and be both intellectually stimulating and creative.
The only problem? I didn’t really have any writing experience. So I bought a self-help book on how to be a freelance writer. I broke into publishing with pieces for my local newspaper, the Newton Tab. My first articles A Persian New Year’s Feast and Markets Bring Middle East to Local Region– were written for free.
My writing career grew even as my family expanded to include a daughter. I was placing articles a few times a year. I eventually bought Writers Market to help me find paying publications for my early service articles like Halloween Candy Overload for Woman’s Day and Road Trip! Drive-in Movies for Parents Magazine. I became a stringer for my local parenting publication and eventually I began writing travel books.
But my parenting essays about my children are among my favorite works. Besides Reluctant Child, I wrote Letting Go Helps Mother Find Harmony for Bijan, With Composting a Family Bond Grows for Camy and Talking about Sex For Her Daughter for Leda (all for the Boston Globe). And there were essays that featured all four children like Poker Party for Working Mother Magazine.
Deeply personal, essay writing forced me to examine my relationship with each child more closely. Writing those essays was cathartic; helping me sort out my own feelings when I was overwhelmed by the isolation and drudgery of child-rearing. From my kids’ point of view, the published stories of their childhood are a permanent record of their lives, whether they like it or not. I think that my kids are mostly proud of my writing career. But I don’t feel that I can write essays about my kids anymore. The boundaries have shifted.