Little Engines

It's been five years that I've written sometimes more, often less, on this blog I've called Last American Childhood, finally accepting in that time the end of my own and agreeing to take on the role that will allow me to protect that magical time as best as I can for my children. In the same five-year interval I've been working while also taking care of these young children, often by necessity simultaneously -- literally writing drafts of jello shot recipes or dog exercises or nonprofit surveys or academic papers with crayon on construction paper inside smiley faces and around the edges of trees. 

It was only yesterday jogging on the river that I realized -- I can't do it. I can't continue to work and take care of my kids as much as I do -- taking them to school, Petra home two days a week, every afternoon getting Wally from the bus & hanging with them in the afternoons, most of the weekend, serving as the on-call parent for sick days, half days, vacation days, field trips, class celebrations -- & also work as much as I need to to really get somewhere. I don't know why it has taken me so long to realize this. But still I am enjoying the days and enjoying the noise and the quiet and lying in the grass looking at bugs and committing myself to words on paper whether or not they ever get out.

I thought I could...but I can't.


  1. Rachel, beautiful. With you. In the tangle of raising kids. To-ing and fro-ing. I go in and out of agency past anything more than just what it takes to steward, shepherd, button, unpack the lunches I sacked. So glad to find you here writing. lying in the grass looking at bugs is often where it's at. here, sand. lots of it. every time I sweep, more of it. And gobs of husky hair. She's shedding. sending love.

  2. I so enjoy hearing you sorting these things out. I can still remember the days when my children were still all around me, and how about four in the afternoon I would feel great exhaustion and wonder how I could make it to my own bedtime. Then after dinner was eaten, stories read, children were all settled for the night, I would get a second wind.

    I realized eventually that it was all mental, and actually, the energy that was mine after about 8 p.m. was a result of having "given up" on that day and its demands. I allowed myself to put off until tomorrow all the unfinished business of the day, because it was too late anyway. Then surprise! I wasn't tired anymore, and the hours flew by as I did more contemplative and creative reading and writing.

    But that era followed the earlier one that I think corresponds more to your life. When the children were all smaller and more needy and when I gave up on the day, it was to fall into bed and asleep without the least thought of doing one more thing!

    Why it has taken you "so long" is that these things change slowly, and it's not a smooth progression from one rhythm to another. As long as you are still lying in the grass looking at bugs occasionally you will probably keep your sanity and even your joy. I hope you also can keep writing a blog post from time to time.

  3. Tania - I had thought of you, but couldn't bring your name to my lips, it was hidden in past recesses and I was trying to find you and your feral words when all the while you'd already written this lovely encouraging understanding response last night that was (almost) lost to spam somehow then discovered by chance. To-ing and fro-ing. Sweeping out sand (lots here too, from sandboxes though, alas - you are on the coast?) sending love your way, too.

    gretchenjoanna - Another gifted writer I'm graced to hear from on this blog. Totally totally true how after they're settled for the night that second wind comes, when you're finally allowed to "give up" on those seemingly endless demands. Laughable how endless they feel and then of course it won't be long before they're over and the house will be too quiet and we'll hope the kids will come to visit on holidays. Very wise and helpful words about how "it's not a smooth progression from one rhythm to another". Thank you.

  4. Yes, raising kids is definitely a job in itself, it's a huge challenge to do paying work on top of that...

  5. Every season has priorities. To prioritize truly means to discern what reality is before and above another. Prioritizing your mothering, also means prioritizing taking care of yourself. I am not saying anything that you don't already know, but now you also know that you are further heard.... I hope you really enjoy scaling back to what feels truly doable sanely!

  6. It is so helpful to get this kind and thoughtful advice. I don't think I've really "known" that Jeanette in that I don't think I've understood how to put it into effect. It's happening by degrees--writing it that way makes it sound passive, and that's not right either. But it's really been a protracted process for me. I guess part of it is holding onto an identity (working mom?) that maybe doesn't quite fit.

  7. The endless journey to find balance... and just when you think you might be achieving some form of that elusive balance, the kids get older, the situation changes, and you're back figuring it out again! Right there with you, Rach....


  8. It's so true...just when you think you've found that elusive balance, the situation changes...I'm fascinated by the fact--and I know I've said this before--that everybody seems to feel this way, pushed and pulled and trying so hard to be centered or balanced or whatever but feelings so many demands. Like even when the variables are in place that you think would facilitate it -- working less, homeschooling or whatnot -- it seems to be the same story. Except maybe for people living in a yurt in Montana? Thanks for the comments & understanding.


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