"We suppress many aspects of our personalities in order to conform to the perfect image we try to live up to. In this way, there is rarely—if ever—a democracy inside of us, but instead a solid oligarchy where some voices reign over the rest." Elif Shafak. Black Milk #unboundeq
— ℳąhą Bąℓi, PhD مها بالي 🏵 (@Bali_Maha) October 6, 2019
I was thrilled when someone recommended to me Elif Shafak’s book, Black Milk. When I learned it was an autobiography, I realized quite quickly how black milk was something about ink/writing and milk/mothering. I was drawn to it and started reading it right away(thanks for recommending it, Tuka).
It’s coincidental that I started reading this book early this morning, because just yesterday, I did something with my kid I used to do when she was a baby, which I really like because it’s a kind of two-in-one parenting and at the same time, a decision to stay ONE person, not to constantly choose between being a mom and a writer. As with Elif Shafak’s quote above, I always felt the struggle, the pressure, to conform to what society viewed as the perfect image of a mother or a career woman… or even the perfect image of a working mom. There’s enough of us now that this is probably a thing, too.
Here’s what we used to do when she was around 18 months old. I was in the final stretch of writing up my PhD thesis. Most of my writing, I did while she was at part-time daycare or when she was asleep (she woke up a lot at night when she was that age, so this was interrupted writing mixed with parening).
But occasionally, I really needed to read or write, and she was with me alone at home, so we would sit in front of my computer or holding my iPad, and nurse her with one side of my body (she was old enough to seat herself) while I read with my eyes and used my other hand to take notes. As she got a bit older, sometimes I would sit her on my lap to watch something on YouTube while I split the screen and wrote on a Word document on the other side of the screen. To some people, this is poor parenting. To me, it was bliss. Physical intimacy with my child so my body reminds her that I am here, that I love her, that I want to be close to her. But still, appreciating that we each sometimes want to do our own thing with our time.
Of course I still do many activities with my child. We play games, we cook, we watch TV shows we both like, we take walks, we read, we talk. And sometimes we need to be far apart.
But yesterday, she needed to do some work on this software called Mathletics for school. It wasn’t a particular homework she was doing, but practice using a game she discovered while doing homework. She’s 8 year old now. She sat on my lap and started playing this math game, and I was doing some reading and writing on my phone… and occasionally she would ask me a question or I would glance over at what she was doing, then we would each go back to our thing. This to me is bliss. We’re together, aware of the other’s presence but not imposing on it. Our bodies stuck together, our minds weaving in and out. Happy to be with each other but happy to also be doing different things.
When my kid learned about multitasking, she used to refer to it as if she and I were one person. So, for example, if I brushed her hair while she put on her socks, she would call it multitasking. I think she understands multitasking but realizes those two tasks relate to HER getting dressed. End result being that she gets dressed faster.
The two-in-one parenting I described is I guess less of multitasking and more of keeping our bodies connected while allowing our minds to drift apart. There are moments when we need to focus our minds together, but not every moment with my child needs to be that moment. And that’s OK.