Last month, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Erin Lyn Bodin’s Even In Winter. We asked, “What passions, interests, or activities do you reserve time for amidst the varied landscape of motherhood? How do they serve your personal wellbeing?” Below is Natalie Brandt’s response.
The Sports Mom
“No thank you.”
This is my new refrain when other parents offer to schlep my kids to one of their myriad school-night practices. Once prodigious at dodging such chauffeur duties, I have come to count on baseball and lacrosse practices, which inevitably run late and inexplicably take place far from home. I’m no longer the mom who turns her headlights on or honks when practice runs long.
Until seven months ago, I lived alone—as much as a recently divorced mom with shared custody ever truly lives alone. I had my own house and a lot of free time. There was nobody to judge me for neglecting the dinner dishes, so I could write into the night. There was nobody who got annoyed if I blasted my audio-books from the living room speakers. Some days, there was nobody else to even feed. For three post-divorce years, I relished the solitude and my own space, and I filled them with words—some in a journal, some in print for others to read. I carpe diem’d the shit out my midlife solo climb up Mount Divorce.
But I fell in love with a man who makes me laugh and enjoys doing the dishes. Over time, I craved his humor, habits and silly t-shirts so much that my home, my little shrine to Me Time, started to feel more like just an empty house. So, I bought a new home with my love and my children and my dogs, and his children and his dogs, and we are all together, all the time. So much joy, so much chaos, so much love and food and noise. My love and I work side-by-side every day now in our new house, still enjoying the new world order of COVID-19. We have so much. Pinch me.
But I miss my quiet, my solitude, and my space. I feel guilty for missing them, and yet I absolutely mourn their loss. I cannot write without them. I’ve nowhere to go now to be alone, to think, to write, to be still. Except my car.
I don’t like my car. It’s old, perpetually filthy, and the radio emits a death rattle for 30 seconds every time I turn on the engine. The DNA of cheerios and apple juice are now one with the fabric seats. The noise from all the loose balls in the cargo bay crashing from side to side as I make turns practically drowns out my son’s questionable song choice during his turn at DJ. My car is just a tin can in which I sit for hours waiting in either a pick-up, drop-off, or drive-thru line. It’s an environmentally unsound means to an end, not a destination. And yet, these days, it’s my Xanadu.
From the outside looking in, I’m a dutiful sports mom spending her Monday night parked at a baseball field an hour from home with Cheez-It crackers for dinner. Ironically, I appear to be the mom my sports-obsessed ex-husband hoped for.
From the inside, I’m a crazed animal pounding away on a laptop. I am writing. I am being selfish. Irresponsible. Intrepid. My caged spirit expands and roams free, and the words just flow. For a few hours inside a filthy car with expired registration, I get to be both writer and mom.
Natalie Moore Brandt is a lawyer and legal writing teacher by day and her kids’ chauffeur by night. She is the author of a popular compilation of personal essays, or will be when she finishes it. A lifelong space nerd, Natalie counts a selfie with Buzz Aldrin and a signed copy of Carl Sagan’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors among her most prized possessions. Joan Didion is her favorite writer and Tara Humphrey is her favorite up-and-coming poet. Some of Natalie’s recent work can be read at The Prompt Magazine and Mutha Magazine. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her partner, her kids, a bunch of dogs and a beta fish named Sushi.