Recently, I found myself filling out a form.
Side note: Honestly, adulthood seems to be a never-ending line of visits to the grocery store, the doctor, the gas station, the pharmacy, school activities, and filling out forms. None of it is fun. I wish, instead, that adulthood could be a never-ending succession of chocolate, visits to the beach, and quiet rainy days with books and friends.
You know how it is. No matter what the reason is for the form, the top is always the same. Name, address, birth date, social security number, race, sex, and occupation.
As a 12-year veteran of the stay-at-home-mom set, that one word can fill me with a mix of anxiety, shame, pride, frustration, and regret. Our American society simultaneously values and belittles those of us who choose to stay at home and raise our children. We are told that to be mothers is to have the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. Meanwhile, commercials tell us to go out, further our education in the wee hours of the morning through on-line universities, and our families ask us, “So now that the kids are potty-trained/sleeping through the night/in school, what are you going to do with yourself?”
Whenever this question is asked of me, I smile on the outside, but inside, I’m seething with irritation and silently screaming, “AFTER I GET DONE TAKING CARE OF THE KIDS AND THEIR NEEDS, I BARELY HAVE THE ENERGY TO EVEN BRUSH MY TEETH! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO THINK ABOUT A CAREER?!?”
So, for twelve years, I’ve paused over the “occupation” line, waiting for inspiration to hit, and then begrudgingly written “Stay-at-home-mom.” It’s not that I’m ashamed to be this, but I’ve always known I’m supposed to do something else, something just for me. But what? And when?
The writing bug hit me ten years ago. Friends of ours were living in Germany and they had started a blog in order to keep family and friends back in the US updated on their lives. I was the mother of twin two-year-olds and a baby and I was itching for adult interaction. And so, I started a blog of my own and then naively expected the readers to start pouring in. They didn’t. Shocking, right? It was crickets and silence. So, after starting my blog and writing a few posts, I finally started researching what went into gaining readers and discovered that if I wanted people to see my writing, I needed to go out and read. And not just read, but also comment, because blogs are a two-way street. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. You read my blog and leave your two cents, I’ll come over to your corner of the blogverse, read your intimate thoughts, and leave a comment.
And that’s how I became a writer with friends from all over the world. Except, I never admitted to myself that I was a writer. I still filled out the occupation line with “stay-at-home-mom” and never admitted to myself that I was writing upwards of 1,000 words a day. I was a writer, but because I wasn’t getting paid, it didn’t count, right?
Not when I wrote the 54,000th word of my book did I consider myself a writer. Not even when I created my author social media presence with this web site, a Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter did I consider myself a writer. It wasn’t until last night that I allowed myself to type “author” in the occupation line of a form I filled out.
You see, one of my favorite bloggers… ahem. One of my favorite writers died yesterday. I first met her eight years ago when I was a baby writer and blogger and even though she was one of the OGs of our online world, she was so very welcoming, funny, and irreverent and I immediately fell in love with her. I started reading her words on a regular basis, commenting, and seeing her at blogger meet-ups. I watched as her daughter struggled through a cancer diagnosis and ultimately won and I ached as she herself suffered a catastrophic stroke and yet came back fiercer than ever before. When Anissa passed yesterday, I was reminded of her daughter’s cancer fight and how she was supported by a Chemo Angel. I immediately looked up the organization and decided then and there that for Anissa, I would do this. I began filling out the volunteer form and there it was. Not necessarily an “occupation” line, but a “tell us about yourself” box. It was staring me down, daring me to type “stay-at-home-mom.” So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do.
I flipped that box off and typed the words “I’m an author.”
And it felt great.
Anissa was an amazing writer. She kept me in stitches each and every time I visited her blog or whenever I would get to see her in person she made me laugh. She inspired others and fostered the writing bug in upcoming writers/bloggers she met. She gave so many the opportunity to write for pay for her various web sites and when her name is uttered, she is spoken of in joyful tones. She was unapologetic and nuts and she was a writer. It’s because of her that regardless of my book being in a purple Office Depot binder or professionally bound on a shelf that I have officially announced to the world that I do this. This is my job. This is my life and my passion.
My name is Heather Dobson and I am a writer, an author, a dilettante, a scribe, and a word-slinger.
Thank you, Anissa. Thank you for this gift of clarity. I will never forget you.
Heather I too struggle with that box. Hopefully soon I can conquer it like you did.
You will, hon! I have so much faith in you! XO