Filling in the Blank

I was given a questionnaire at my doctor’s office recently that asked me to fill in the blanks on my lifestyle and health conditions. One of the questions caused me to pause, as usual.

What is your occupation?

Although my current activities and those for the past number of years do not provide a monetary livelihood, I am learning to write with growing confidence MOTHER in this empty space.

I am growing used to the blank stares I receive when I fill in the blank in this way. However, I was unprepared this time for the blank pause in conversation that occurred when I explained what I meant by filling in the blank this way:

What is your occupation? Mother and writer

Writing has occupied a good deal of my life, every day in various ways. I received a college degree in journalism. I have recorded and published my writing, albeit not to large audiences. Most recently, I am writing daily on this website.

While I do fill most of my time with mothering and writing, neither is a vocation nor an avocation. What I mean is that neither serves as my source of income nor as just a hobby.

Upon seeing my answers to his questionnaire about occupation, my doctor was curious about what kind of writing I do.

“Do you write fiction or nonfiction?” he said.

“Mostly nonfiction,” I said, “but considering some fiction.”

Then he wanted to know where I write (or was I publishing). When I explained to him that I write every day on a website, his line of questioning went blank.

Now, to be fair to him, I don’t know why he stopped there.

However, I have since wondered if my occupations are valued (and thus interesting for conversation?) by the pay that I receive.

I was inspired to learn something about Margaret Bayard Smith, a woman writer in Washington City during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Her husband Samuel Harrison Smith, headed the first newspaper in Washington, The Intelligencer.

Under her own name and under pseudonyms, Margaret was a prolific journalist as well as a popular novelist. . . Her most significant writing, however, was the huge body of letters she wrote to her sisters and sister-in-law over four decades.

A Perfect Union:
Dolly Madison and the Creation of the American Nation

by Catherine Allgor

The fact that Margaret’s letters were a significant contribution is a meaningful example to our day. She was writing to her own family about the life she was living, and she was actually writing history.

I draw several conclusions from her example:

First of all, what we write and how we write is important, even if it is simply well-expressed insights about the life we live and it is only published from our word processor to our family.

Secondly, we may not (and probably will not) know the real value of our most significant pursuits for many, many years to come.

Certainly, I know that in pursuing the meaningful and purposeful activities of motherhood and writing I will not just be filling time with empty occupations.

1 Comment

  1. Minna Dyer
    Mar 24, 2008

    I love this post. Although I would not consider myself a writer, I do enjoy the writing I do on my blogs and in our journals (mine and the girls’). I think writing is very a worthwhile use of expression, along with photographic images, of course!


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