For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Jennifer Case’s essay On the Silence of Regret.
Jennifer Case begins her essay with an anecdote about a time another mother told her how great she looked shortly after the birth of her son. Case wanted to tell the other woman just how far from great she felt; that she had, in fact, spent a good part of the night resenting the baby who kept her up and who, as we learn later, was unplanned. But rather than speak up, Case shares an awkward silence with the woman, unable to express this painful truth.
Case ruminates on why women are so reluctant to talk to each other about the regret and resentment they sometimes feel when motherhood interferes with career, with writing, even with the desire to be alone. She argues that this silence perpetuates feelings of guilt and inadequacy among women when they don’t measure up to the ideal of a mother who dotes on her children all the time:
We all feel regret. Regret needs to become part of the story. Not something that defines women, but something they can admit to without fear of judgment, and thus move through. If I silence my regret, hold it deep in my chest, it burns and it grows, and that is no help to anyone. If other mothers, on the other hand, told me, “yes, I’ve felt that, too,” the regret would lighten and leave, and I perhaps could look at my children in those moments without judging myself as a mother.
Case concludes that it’s not the perceived ideal mother that we can learn from. Instead, the mothers who feel regret for the sacrifices and trade-offs that motherhood has required, but love and care for their children just the same, are those who have the most to teach us.
Can you think of a time when you’ve broken what Jennifer Case calls “the silence of regret” regarding motherhood? Perhaps you confided personal or professional sacrifices to someone or spoke frankly about resenting the time and energy your children require. What happened? What made the moment significant?
Read Case’s essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by May 6, 2018, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “April Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay but paste the response in the body of the email.