Different motivations compel mothers to put pen to paper. For Jamaica Ritcher, writing sprang from a desire to avoid being just her two-year-old’s personal laundress:
Midsummer — I am wallowing in an oppressive heat and a morning sickness that lasts all day. Maia sits on the back step with her dad eating popsicles. Through the screen door, I hear Asaph say, “Maia, be careful how you eat that. You’ll get berry stains all over your shirt.”
Says Maia, “That’s okay, Papa. Mom will wash it.”
From the kitchen sink I call out, “Me? Why me?”
Says Maia, “Because you’re the mom, and mom’s do the laundry and stuff like that.”
The apprehension I often feel because I don’t have a career, because I could never decide what I wanted to be, becomes panic. I am an empty vessel appropriated by my family. I am a two-year-old’s personal laundress.
It is this moment, or the culmination of moments like this, swarming with feelings of isolation and unimportance, that moves me to pick up a pen. I have written before but never without an assignment as impetus, never independently. But now I do so on the verge of implosion, trying to keep some modicum of calm. I vent, let my stream of consciousness brim and spill onto the page in lines. Poetry? Not good poetry, but it’s something that I can read back to myself and sort out. When I get up from the table, I feel as though a window has been opened, and stale air has finally been let out.
Read more of Ritcher’s journey into writing, from procrastinatory cracker-baking to being shown up by her daughter at a poetry reading, in “The Two-Year-Old’s Personal Laundress, the Writer and the Mom.”