Motherhood & Words

Spring is in the air. The determined stems of our peonies have pressed their way through the mulch, the Clematis is twining its way up the trellis on the side of our house, and the pale leaves of our baby Elm are unfurling despite the damn rabbit that snacked on the tree’s tender bark during the dark days of February.

I have forgiven the rabbit because I love spring. I sit on the front step and breathe deeply, grateful for the sunshine. I go for long runs along the river. I take the girls to the park and on bike rides to the lakes, where we watch the ducks and eat ice cream.

I love spring for all of those things. But I also love spring because it means it’s time, friends, for the annual Mother Words haiku contest.

For those of you who are new to Mother Words, I launched the annual contest in 2008, when Zoë was just a couple of months old and I developed a raging case of mastitis. D was traveling, so I was on my own, juggling an infant and a four-year-old. It wasn’t pretty, people. You can read more about that here.

But from my experience with mastitis, the annual Mother Words haiku contest was born. You can read the 2008 entries here and the winners here.

Then last year, to recognize Zoë’s transformation from a sweet, biddable baby into a trouble-making toddler, I hosted the toddler haiku contest. These killed me. (You can read those entries here and here. The top seven and winner are here.)

This year, it will be the “what no one told me” haiku contest. Dig into your story bin and write me a haiku (5-7-5) about what no one told you (or what you wish someone had told you) about motherhood or raising kids. My dear friend Laura will be the judge this year. And, as in years past, humor is always appreciated.

So bring on the haiku. Please post your haiku in the comment field below. The deadline is Friday, April 23rd. The winner will receive a $10 gift card to

Don’t be shy. Haiku!

Posted in


I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Life As I Know It on April 16, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Love it. I'm working on mine right now!

  2. onlyoublog on April 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    What a great idea! And kudos to you for turning a mastitis ordeal into something meaningful and productive. I will have to check out the toddler haikus. Too funny. The other night actually my son wanted to try his hand at haiku…and he wrote one about poop…go figure. Anyway, I'll see what my little brain can come up with!


  3. onlyoublog on April 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Here goes…and honestly, no one, absolutely no one told me about this:

    A kitchen baster
    my vagina becomes for
    bath water so warm

  4. Mary on April 17, 2010 at 1:41 am

    What a great idea! Paul is the haiku master in our family (his family has a tradition of writing silly poetry, new lyrics to old songs, and/or limericks for big celebrations and milestones). But I think if he were to write one on this subject it would be about how no one told him his wife would be so moody and controlling most of the time and so I cannot allow him to give it a try. 😉

  5. Tanja Cilia on April 17, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Chewing gum binds hair.
    Babies don't always smell nice.
    Two more facts of life!

    Tanja Cilia

  6. cath c on April 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    pre and post-partum,
    the dire dangers of laughter
    or sneeze, please be warned!

  7. cath c on April 18, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    oh, and @ tanja,

    peanut butter takes gum out of hair.

    my mother's trick!

    • Tanja Cilia on February 19, 2019 at 4:20 am

      Thank you! So does olive oil.

  8. Ines on April 19, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    No one told me mom
    clean kiss clean hug clean love clean
    all day long always

  9. Julie on April 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Sighs: "No one told me
    Parenthood is ironic."
    Shouts: "QUIET PUH-LEESE!"

  10. Julie on April 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Ooh! Another one:

    Cross an item off,
    Another grows in its place.
    Moms multi-task. Woe.

  11. Laura on April 20, 2010 at 12:28 am

    This entry is from my husband Tony. He came up with it in 10 min over lunch! He even remembered the haiku format from high school. And I say I'm the writer? I didn't tell him the theme until later but he said this still works because he didn't know anything about parenthood before becoming a dad.

    A desperate plea
    Isn't it time for your nap?
    Children paint the walls.

  12. Lisa on April 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Therapists doctors
    don't even know my name now
    I am not your mom

  13. Kaethe on April 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    The dream where she is
    suffocating beside me
    never lasts all night.

  14. Pia on April 20, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Ok, I hope I did this right.

    My heart left my chest
    In tiny jeans and t-shirt
    Walks around, exposed

    🙂 Pia

    (might try for more if that is ok!)

  15. Pia on April 20, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Uterus falls out
    Doctor laughs and says oh no,
    silly bladder fell

  16. Sara on April 20, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Running would become
    my sanity on days of
    no afternoon nap

  17. stace-c on April 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    @Pia, love yours about your heart walking around outside your body!

    Here are my entries. 2 funny, one serious 🙂

    beautiful music
    has the pow'r to cause let down
    had to change my shirt

    my good old aunt flo
    turned into a raging flood
    no pad can contain

    butterfly dancer
    in one moment you have changed
    how i define love

  18. cath c on April 21, 2010 at 7:52 am

    pia, having just had prolapse and bladder corective surgery 2 years after my last child's birth, i can totally relate to your uterus poem!

  19. Emily on April 21, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I had to go to wikipedia to find out about haiku's…but what a fun exercise! Here goes…two of them, I got carried away!

    For years I pondered
    Meaning of Life. Holding you –
    Simple: Survival

    Meet Anxiety
    Here to stay. And your chest? Like
    deflated balloons.

  20. Pia on April 21, 2010 at 9:17 am


    To Stace-C: Thanks!!!

    To: Cath-C: Thanks! That one really IS one no one tells you!

    Kate: I just pimped your contest on my blog…. hope you get even more entries!! 😀 This is FUN

  21. The Empress on April 22, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Here goes. I've always loved haiku. It cuts out the excess.

    Computer keys click
    My words sent out to be heard
    Someone hear me please

  22. Anonymous on April 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Ok Kate, here are a few tries:

    No One Ever Told Me

    Time morphs, replacing
    day and night with three small hours:
    our life on repeat.

    No One Ever Told Me

    Hands are for pumping
    foot rocks baby and toe holds
    stray paci in place.

    Thanks for the assignment!
    Michelle JK

  23. Sara on April 22, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Your doctor visits?
    Go alone—instant nap. Hope
    they keep you waiting.

    Some night you will sleep
    for five hours straight. Next day you
    can do anything!

  24. Elizabeth on April 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Here's mine:

    What no one told me?
    I would become my mother.
    But that is o.k.

  25. Life As I Know It on April 23, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Vomit in the night
    Awakened from dreaminess
    I wash sheets. A lot.

    I had no idea
    three boys, one arthritic dog
    could fit in my car

    He refused to eat
    Bagels became a food group
    I scratched my eyes out

  26. Jennifer on April 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Older brothers OR
    Nonviolence. You can't have both.
    Baby has a gun.

  27. afromama on April 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Most recent thoughts on my almost 2.5 year old daughter… hair woes and of course trying to leave the nuk… dad just had to find one!

    Curly hair. Snarly.
    Cute afro puffs through some tears.
    Moisture is needed.

    Nuk. Nuk. No more Nuk.
    Threw in the street with tantrum.
    Dad finds another nuk.


  28. wifemotherexpletive on April 24, 2010 at 8:09 am

    What nobody told me:

    it would hurt me to
    worry this pretty little
    heart so with longing…

  29. Book Mama on April 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Okay, as a long-form girl, I went a little crazy, but what a fun activity for the last few minutes of naptime! Here are four 🙂 :

    No raw fish, doc said.
    Nine long months–but now? Sushi-
    fed kids write haiku!

    Stocking up on gear–
    cribs, carseats, monitors, wipes–
    no one told me, "Fun!"

    Ahhhhh, effluvia.
    Pregnancy, baby, leaking
    toddler. . . Never dry.

    I'm a writing mom
    with a theory: This balance?
    It brings us all joy.

    Speaking of joy: you,
    Kate. Thank you for the word fun!
    Mothers who write salute you. 🙂


  30. Jennifer Bostwick Owens on April 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Lovely, the breeze while
    watching sisters coloring
    the sidewalk with chalk!

  31. Jennifer Bostwick Owens on April 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I try to teach her!
    She–seventeen, stubborn, bold–
    makes her own mistakes.

  32. Jennifer Bostwick Owens on April 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I'm swept up in it–
    boys, dresses, disappointments.
    My heart breaks for her!

  33. Amber S on April 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    This ride is an e~
    ~motional rollercoast~
    ~er. Who knew? Not me.

    (I took poetic license with that second line: only 6 syllables, unless you say it like you're on a rollercoaster and then it stretches out to 7 🙂 )

  34. Anonymous on April 24, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Summer ash cloud
    I never got my snak
    Horsey cart good

  35. Laura on April 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Very glad the deadline was extended! Here's my entry, boiled down finally:

    "I need my snuggles!"
    Dawn spreads, elbow pokes, couch shrinks.
    My time drips away.

  36. Sara on April 25, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Glad I didn’t know
    About NICU, home 02,
    Surgery, good-bye.

  37. Betsy on April 26, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I'm late, but was totally inspired by a conversation with my (pregnant) sister last night.

    move like a ninja
    to catch vomit in your hands
    gross instinct reflex