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For Some Moms, Writing is the Best Self-Care During the Pandemic
This post was originally published in Parents.com in February 2021. Do you remember that time? That period of deep isolation. The remote schooling while trying to work. The droves of mothers who left the workforce to care for their children.
It was during those deep pandemic times when Scribente Maternum was born. We knew we couldn’t gather in person, but we knew we needed to gather somehow. And so, we gathered online with over 50 amazing moms around the country and world four weekends in February 2021. And nearly every attendee came back each week.
As you read this story, put yourself back in that time; how you felt, where you were, what you were experiencing. And enjoy.
Right now—in the middle of a pandemic, in the midst of a global uprising for racial justice, in home lives that feel chaotic and overwhelming—space feels like a luxury.
Space means being alone. Anywhere. In the shower. On the toilet. In the car on the way to the grocery store. Anywhere we can be where the people from our own household are not.
But as we dig deeper into that idea of the space that we crave, it's not just the physical space we want. It goes well beyond just being by ourselves. We need a room of our own. We need to find solace in a moment's peace, away from the jumble of logistics running through our heads. Away from that ever-building cloud of worry about all the things we need to do for work, while also managing our kids' virtual learning and feeling increasingly saddened and worried by the state of our world.
We need to get ourselves out of that spiral. But we also need the headspace to do it. Throughout this entire pandemic—and, if we're being honest, throughout our journey of parenthood—we've been trying to figure out how to do that.
As mothers, though, there are even more barriers to finding that room of our own. As Maressa Brown's recent article shows, the burden of the mental load on mothers begins before we even conceive our children. From family-planning and concerns about fertility and pregnancy, to the baby and toddler years and through the time our children are grown and off on their own, that load never gets lighter. Rather, it gets heavier as our children grow.
That load is heavier still for mothers who bear the weight of racism or poverty or homophobia on top of the already gendered expectation of the on-call parent. From the moment she even thinks of having a child, a Black mother must not only think of all it takes to meet a baby's needs, but also the historical weight of preparing her child for a world designed to oppress them.
In order to be what we feel we need to be, both for our kids and for the world, we need a radical refocusing inward. We need to understand the pressure upon our shoulders and channel it into action. This is where self-care comes in.
"Caring for myself is not an act of self-indulgence," civil rights activist and writer Audre Lorde once wrote. "It is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."
This concept of taking care of ourselves first, especially as mothers—and even more so as mothers from marginalized groups—is revolutionary. This particular moment in time calls for revolutionary self-care, which comes in the form of collective care.
"Collective care," as Rushdia Mehreen and David Gray-Donald describe in Briarpatch, "refers to seeing members' well-being—particularly their emotional health—as a shared responsibility of the group, rather than the lone task of an individual."
For us, as writers, we channel this radical act of self-care through our creativity. We recognize our maternal roles offer us opportunity for creativity, even in the midst of distraction. And we further recognize creating a space for collective care is paramount to making that creativity happen, even in the midst of chaos.
For us, writing isn't just about work or creativity. It's how we reflect and make sense of the world. From early days spent journaling, it's how we as adult writers organize thoughts and make a sense of connection between ourselves and the outside world.
Writing is also how we make sense of our own lives at home. It's how we cope with endless hours of forced confinement with the people we're supposed to love more than any other, yet who actually drive us crazier than anyone else. We love them deeply. But we need space from them desperately.
Writing is how we coped with the loss of pregnancies so desperately wanted. And how we eventually survived those early newborn days, filled with clouds and isolation. As our children grew, writing is how we managed school and friends, graduations and careers. It's how we continue to manage as grown children return home with babies of their own.
We have intentionally created a space for mothers to create and reflect. A space for moms just like us to sit with our grief of this historical moment.
Because of an unprecedented need to be with other mothers, especially those who move through and see the world like we do, we created something we hadn't seen anywhere else. Something we all felt we needed desperately. We created Scribente Maternum. We created a space where everyone who identifies as a creative mother can join together for the purpose of radical collective-care. Because, more than ever, we need to tap into the strength of other people in the maternal role. Not only to restore ourselves and to find the room of our own, but also to open the door to all mothers around us.
Elizabeth Doerr, Rachel Berg Scherer, and Carla Du Pree are writers and co-founders of Scribente Maternum, a community of writer-moms.