I play with dolls all day. I also play with large-piece puzzles, coloring books, I run a mean game of chase, and I can throw together an impressive meal from a pink plastic shopping cart filled with wooden food. This is, mostly, my work.
Of course you know. Of course you understand. I expect many of you live here too. But do you respect this? Do you see this as real work? Is this a job that deserves credence, credibility, and admiration?
I ask 'you' but really I mean ME. Today, playing actively with my daughter in front of a woman about to head to her academic job, I felt- embarrassed. I thought, what is she thinking of me right now? No, that's not true. I assumed what she might be thinking. I assumed there was amusement, a little sympathy, pity, perhaps a touch of contempt. This is how she spends her day? This fulfills her?
Well, yes. Of course. This is my child. Spending my time with her is fulfilling, enriching. Mostly.
Of course I have other passions. Doing this- one word after the other, watching a page fill up- in a flow, it thrills me. I love it. I stopped caring if anyone reads it. Currently, I'm not even concerned with content or rhythm, simply the exercise of putting one word after the other, flexing these muscles again after a season of dormancy. This is a passion for me.
I have always said, I could read forever. I could read away most of everyday, probably everyday, and never mind the scenery around me never changing. Look at this book! Look at these words! Look at these thoughts, these ideas. Breathe them in.
What might, in olden days be called domestic work interests me. Not cleaning so much. Ask anyone who's been to my house. Ask my parents. But cooking, knitting, learning about a garden, there are little delights here.
And most of my day is motherhood. And most of my devotion given is playing. Most of my day is on the floor, shifting around, holding some small inanimate object- a doll, a stuffed animal or maybe the flat one-dimensional puzzle piece Dory's given life and personality and breath to by bringing it into her game- and speaking in funny voices. I play 'baby', I play 'mommy,' I play 'Dory,' I play her best friend 'Lily,' I play 'daddy.' She wants them all in there and I mostly oblige.
For reasons I will not go into now, it is important to me that Dory be home, that she's been home with me these last few years. We have worked- oh we have worked- to make that a possibility. I do, actually, work even now, a nanny-for-hire, you might say, taking her with me, as watching another person's child affords me the luxury to spend time with my own.
Yet even as I feel inspired to this, I work to value it. I learn to see this time as worthwhile. I learn to regard our interactions, her play, as important. I write these words as no lecture, no higher ground attained, simply a message of what I hope to one day know. Here is the divine understanding I hope to reach: being with my child is important. Playing with my child is important. So much happens right now, on this subterranean level, bits and pieces of a soul and character and spirit taking shape. I will only know the fruits of this labor, and even then only a fraction of them, after she is grown and gone.
Louise Hay's affirmation today feels fitting: My life is a mirror. The woman, academician from earlier, the one trying to convince herself to head to work, the one openly dreading getting into her office, she is nothing more than a mirror. Her thoughts? Her assumptions? All mine.
I am only reaching, working, trying to remember: my child is important.