Motherhood & Words

Last week, Zoë started “school.” It was awful. I should have known it would be awful, but I didn’t. D and I dropped her off on the playground with Stella, and she was fine until she realized we were going to leave her there, and then she burst into tears—wailing and pointing to the door. Stella was a dear, holding her hand and talking in that really high voice she reserves for Zoë. But as we drove away and saw Zoë screaming, I felt sick to my stomach. Why was I doing this to her?

I thought the transition would be easy because she had been to school so many times to drop off and pick up Stella. She knew some of the teachers. She recognized the other “babies.” I thought she’d be fine because she’s such an extrovert. She thrives on attention and activity and being surrounded by other people.

Who was I kidding? Had I forgotten that I had been with her almost every moment of her 17 months? Had I forgotten that she was a momma’s girl? Apparently.

She cried 90% of the day, and when I went to pick her up, she was standing in the corner on the toddler playground, staring dazedly at the other kids, her eyes red and her face mottled. The poor thing wouldn’t let me put her down for the rest of the day.

But, and here is the flip side—I got a ton of work done that day. I sat in my office and typed away, did research for an article that feels like it will never be finished. I stared out the window, wondered about my little ones. I had a conference call with my co-editor at Literary Mama. (Yes, I’m now on board at Literary Mama, co-editor for Literary Reflections! I’m thrilled!)

I got a ton done that day, and Zoë’s second day was better: down to 15% of the day spent crying. And I’m hoping that soon she will be jumping into the car on school days. (I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath for that one.)

I know I need this time to work, but I do miss the little bugger. And since last week, Zoë has been less into mom. Last weekend we were up north at the cabin, and she only wanted Grammy. Lord knows I’ve been in this situation before. I understand what it feels like not to be the favorite. I also understand that these phases pass. (And then they return and they pass again.)

I’ll be patient with her and patient with myself. Now if I could just tie up all my freelance work so I can get back to my book!!

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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. Ines on August 11, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I am not good at doing this, either. I have not words of wisdom, Kate. I have to work too, so I understand. I understand.

  2. The Blue Suitcase on August 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Nothing makes me write like the wind better than those first days of my daughter getting used to a new babysitter or school situation. So bittersweet…and in fact, I feel that bittersweetness now whenever I work in her presence, or even when she's playing with her dad and I'm holed up at my desk. The second we're apart, I'm desperate to know what I'm missing. But I comfort myself with the knowledge that this is her life, and she grows up on a healthy variety of moments that we do and do not share. Anyway, snif.

  3. Patty on August 11, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    congrats on your new gig! Sounds awesome. I struggle so much with the separation thing too. The first few weeks I left my kids for a whole 20 hours per week, I fretted and worried, then second-guessed my decision to go back to work. Then, the next week I did it a little less. Now I get so busy and engrossed with work stuff during the day that I sometimes (gasp!) forget to worry and regret.

    But then I wake up at 2 in the morning, filled with regret, worrying, and second guessing myself.

  4. cath c on August 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    that's a tough one. it is with each kid, too, no matter how old or young they are. and i think it's worse for me than for any of mine.

    congrats on the literary mama gig!

  5. Elizabeth on August 11, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I remember those days. I think it's wonderful that you're working and know that it'll all "work" out. Best wishes to you.

    Congrats on your new job — it sounds wonderful!

  6. Kimberly on August 11, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I admire the courage it took and I'm glad you had so much time to write! I've begun looking into preschools for my two year old, and I know it will be hard on both of us when she starts one, but I also need the time to write. Hang in there Kate! Here's a hug 🙂

  7. meredithwinn on August 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    oh gosh that's hard. i know that feeling. every day will get a little better, as you know 🙂

    and co-editor?! congratulations! that's wonderful news. i adore literary mama with every fiber of my being. and you being there now just makes it all that much better!

  8. Mummy mania on August 12, 2009 at 3:50 am

    well done you. it's really hard – i remember the first time i took Daisy she cried for the first week – in fact she had to be pulled off me for the first three days clinging and screaming to get back in my arms. I had prepared so well, but it was too much. but it lasted 4 days and then she started running in without saying goodbye! ina few more weeks I have to start all over in a new school, but I'm armed with expereience now and know the first few days of turmoil will end. enjoy the peace to work (i still ahve one at home so not there yet!) – you deserve it.

  9. kate hopper on August 12, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Thanks, all. It IS hard, but it's also amazing how fast the day goes when I'm working nonstop! And when I get into the groove, maybe I can even fit in a little exercise!