Motherhood, Writing, and the Necessity of VulnerabilityPosted: February 5, 2014
Before I became a parent when mothers shared stories about their children’s first day of nursery school, their eyes glistening, their voices catching as they described walking away from the school building and leaving their children behind, I tried to empathize, but truly, all the emotion over what is essentially, a part of life, befuddled me. Until, of course, as with most things parenting related, I had children of my own.
Though my eldest was signed up for nursery school just twice a week- and half days at that- seeing him drive away with his father to school for the first time felt like an emotional sucker punch to the gut. Yes, I wanted this for him. I wanted him to have consistent playmates and to learn some school routines before official school began. I trusted his teachers, the school’s philosophy, and the parents and kids I met were wonderful. And yet- watching him leave, taking in the quieter house and wondering how he was, what he was doing created a strange free-floating feeling that rattled me.
It was the feeling of vulnerability.
Letting my son go to school, his first time away from me, was putting my heart out there. Because as my child, he is a part of my heart, the most precious part of me there is. And by giving him this new experience, I began opening myself up to beginning the lifelong process of letting go, it left me worried for him. It left me vulnerable.
And so too is vulnerability an ever present fear when writing. I’ve written for decades. Since I could put pen to paper I’ve written stories, letters, journals, poems, and articles. I’ve blogged for going on ten years and I’ve written numerous freelance articles for magazines and newspapers and websites. And yet- when editor Ayesha Mattu sent out a call for stories for the Love, Insh’Allah anthology many years ago, before I even had children, I remember hesitating. I remember feeling unsure if I wanted to share my story. On a logical level this made no sense. I loved writing and like most writers, I wanted to see my work published. Here was an anthology seeking a piece for which I was qualified to share a story- and yet- I hesitated. I stalled. I wrote through the nerves and submitted my piece, but in doing so I undeniably felt nervous.
It took having a child to help me fully understood why. This was my first deeply personal narrative piece printed on paper, bound and given to the world to see and to evaluate both the quality of my writing and perhaps the merit of my relationship. Some were surprised when I expressed this concern- my story is traditional in desi culture- but in American mainstream culture it’s anything but. In sharing my writing I opened myself up to the vulnerability that comes with writing honestly.
The relationship between a writer and their work is of course different than the relationship between a parent and a child, but both relationships do share one thing in common: to do it effectively you must put everything you have in it, you must be willing to let it go, and you must accept the unknown. My son loves school, despite the occasional disagreements with his peers and the sloppy-paint pants he comes home in. He’s happy to be out there in the world. And I too, am thankful my story is out there in the world for others to read, thankful for the kind words of support and e-mails from perfect strangers who could relate and empathize and from those who said my story helped them see this cultural marriage process differently. And despite the criticism and the heartache that also came from sharing my story, as with parenting– as with anything that we put our sincerest selves into- it was worth it nonetheless.
Whenever we venture to share a piece of our hearts, we must open ourselves up to the possibility of pain, and we must do it anyways. When writing, when parenting, you lay your heart out there, you leave yourself open, and in doing so you leave yourself both vulnerable and open to living life fully and truly.
Read more by Aisha on this site, here.
Aisha Saeed was born and raised in South Florida. She writes YA and is represented by Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary. You can read more of her writing here or follow along on Facebook or Twitter. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons.