Motherhood & Words

Beware: I’m a downer today.

I’ve been feeling low the last few days—sensitive. The kind of sensitive that makes my feelings easily hurt, the kind of sensitive that makes it difficult to fall back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night. The kind of sensitive that makes me read too much into e-mail messages or a look from D. The kind of sensitive that makes me snap at my children.

Is it a delayed reaction to Stella starting kindergarten? A couple of people have told me that often a new kindergartner will revolt after a couple of weeks, after the excitement of the school bus and the new teacher has worn off. Am I going through this kind of thing? Maybe, or maybe my heaviness has to do with the fact that half-day kindergarten means that my juggling of schedules and calendars and snippets of work has become even more frenzied than usual.

Or could this heaviness have to do with how fast Zoë runs, and how funny she thinks it is to dart into the street? How amusing she thinks it is–a huge smile on her face–when I jump up from the front steps to dash after her, my heart in my throat. Hilarious. (But it keeps me awake at night, this image of her getting hit by a truck. It plays over and over in my head, and I can’t stop it.)

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that the reality of the troubled economy is inching closer and closer to home, and this financial insecurity sizzles under the surface of our lives. Or maybe it has to do with how hard I work—how very hard—and how this doesn’t seem to matter. Or maybe it has to do with how often D is out of town these days. Or maybe it has to do with my computer, which froze on me yesterday, and which just cannot break right now. Cannot.

These are the times, I suppose, when a little meditation (or a long run or a heavy dose of Paxil) would go a long way. But none of these things is going to happen. Instead, I’ll continue typing away and hope Zoë will take a longer-than-usual nap so I can get a little more work done before we have to walk down to the end of the block, where we will wait for Stella to descend from the bus after her two hours and forty-five minutes of kindergarten.

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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. Sara on September 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Meditation and a run would be delightful, wouldn't they? They always seem most out of reach when you need them most.

    I hope things get lighter–and that your computer hangs in there (but back up often, says she who has been burned).

  2. Elizabeth on September 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Yes. It's all of those things. And they will pass and you'll feel better again. But I hope your computer doesn't freeze.

    Love to you and support…

  3. Mary on September 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Ugh. I understand.

    Just before I opened the computer I stood staring out our front door at the beautiful day OUT THERE, while inside the house I'm exhausted, impatient, and snapping. I asked myself, out loud, "What is it about Fall?". I think you are right, transitions are hard for all of us.

    Hope you do get some time to take care of yourself and that pressures and worries lift soon.

  4. kristenspina on September 9, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Yes, it is all of these things. Any one of them enough to bring on those heavy feelings. I hope you feel better soon, and I hope your computer cooperates. Hang in there.

  5. cath c on September 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    i understand completely. can you throw onto the heap the hormonal changes and grieving process of recently stopping nursing the truck dodger, too?

    this is about the kind of week where i open the bottle of wine, and dig into the bar of dark chocolate…hey, we all meditate in our own ways….

  6. Andria on September 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Oh Kate. Hang in there. You are so awesome and talented. EVERYTHING you do makes a difference in the long run — your mothering, your writing, your hard work. (When Dave starts to tell me things like this, I wave my hand at him and say, "Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm building my little cathedrals or whatever." I read that phrase in some e-mail forward from a sentimental mom friend…)

    BUT, it's TRUE. It all does matter. I know there are a lot of pressures on you, not the least of which is the pressure you put on yourself. And, you know, the not wanting your kid to get hit by a truck thing. Parenting can be SO hard. Writing can be so hard! You haven't picked easy life-work, have you?! You are doing so wonderfully, but I can see why you'd be stressed about several things right now. Hope you can find a way for some relaxation and "you" time….and that you feel better soon.

  7. Erin on September 10, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Please know that 2 hours and 45 minutes is not Kindergarten. It is breakfast dishes and a shower. No wonder you feel heavy.

    Also, my 18 month old is similarly intent on playing in the road and I can concur that it is exhausting and annoying and terribly frightening.

    From what I can see, you are doing a great job at a great many things. I am wishing you all the best.

  8. cath c on September 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    i realized my comment earlier may have come off as snappish, i thoroughly didn't mean that i was just looking at another emotional component….and then i seem a little flip but meant it funny as in what do i do when i feel that way? i eat chocolate, sip wine, try to appreciate a little of the finer things in life, even if it may be indulgent of me to do so.

    mainly, kate, breathe. transitions are hard. harder for some than for others, and this is a big one. i try to remember that the only true constant is change.

  9. kate hopper on September 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks everyone. I feel a little lighter today, and partly this is because of your supportive words. You make me feel less alone, as always.

    Cath, you didn't sound snappish at all. And I think wine and chocolate are wonderful.

  10. The Blue Suitcase on September 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Oh, man. I felt and felt and felt for you..and in the end, the thing sticking with me was TWO HOURS AND 45 MINUTES. Ditto Erin! Hugs…

  11. Ines on September 10, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Oh Kate! Your life is very full right now. I hope you could get someone to help, even for a little bit of the time. I also want you to know that things play on me the same way. If something happens during the day that was 'almost' an accident. At night it becomes a nightmare. I can even go as far a grieving for whatever didn't happen. I think some rest might help. And, chocolate and wine too!
    For the record, and because you were my teacher last semester, you are very talented. Hang in there!

  12. Kara on September 12, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Me too.

  13. Brenda on September 27, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I seem to do this a lot, too, Kate. Aware enough to know something's off kilter. Knowing enough that I should do something about it. Trying to balance everything else. And just ending up pushing forward anyhow. I wish you some time off or some new shoes, whichever helps. 🙂