Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Claiming Space

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A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...

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My Own Room

In a shady corner of our back yard sits a cedar playhouse. My husband and I built it several summers ago, the dreamy kids’ cottage for which our sons had long begged.

It boasted a small porch, working windows and lights, shelves and even a mailbox. We mounted pegboard along two walls and from it hung tool racks and storage bins. It was so cool, but once theirs, it was quickly neglected. I was crushed.

Photo by Amanda Morris

Photo by Amanda Morris

Maybe I just hoped it'd be a space they'd make their own, allowing us some distance on occasion. My sons and I are tightly connected, but they sometimes want more of me than I can give, and I'm on a perennial hunt for independence.

Watching the playhouse gather dust and cobwebs and the love notes I'd hung inside fade away in the sunlight streaming through those real windows, I began to see it as a reflection of me as mother. I am grateful to be able to stay at home to raise my boys. I adore them. But the past nine years have depleted me in unexpected ways, and I feel pale, creaky and in need of tending.

Without telling the kids, I bought a cheap but sturdy desk and a handsome rug on deep discount, moving them into the house to replace the tools and Batman chairs. I hung a portrait I painted when I was pregnant with my oldest, an oil of a faceless woman in repose, and mounted a bulletin board I'd made from the corks of special wines my husband and I had drunk over the years, relics of a different time.

Reminders of the children were everywhere. They painted the walls one day when I'd sent them out to "play in that house!" and be creative; Best Friends Forever is my favorite bit. Stickers printed with gibberish and their names memorialize the day they snuck away with the label maker and went wild decorating. Broken bits of colorful chalk still sit in the chalkboard's concave rim. But sitting in there for the first time, I felt giddy. The humble room was my own, a place for my imagination to soar and my pen to fly.

Several weeks passed before the boys discovered my changes. "Hey! Mom got us a new rug and a desk for our playhouse." Gently I corrected them. "Sweeties, the house is now for me. You didn't use it, so I turned it into my writing spot." They seemed surprised, curious that I'd take back something I'd once given. But the reclamation felt powerful and right, a gift for myself.

My husband and several family members were amused by my glee. The playhouse? Wasn't it small? Weren't there bugs? I blushed momentarily in the face of those queries, my cheeks hot with self-consciousness. But determination to sate a true need stands strong in the face of skepticism.

I couldn't be happier with my compact studio. I'm at home, in my yard, lulled into peace by nature's quiet hum. The children are near and yet far, and in that space I can think, create and be Emily, the woman who is a mother but also much more. In there, I flourish. Independence becomes me.

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Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects. 


Emily Nichols Grossi is a stay-at-home mother of two spirited sons and a canning and preservation instructor who can’t stop cooking. She also writes and photographs Em-i-lis (www.em-i-lis.com), a sassy mishmash of all things motherhood and food. Her work has been featured on Mamalode, The Huffington Post and all4women, the largest South African online women’s journal.


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The metaphor of you as a "pale, creaky" playhouse in need of (self) care is so powerful, Em, and echoes right through me. So wonderful to read of your very necessary tending in this way and in this beautiful space. Brava, dear friend and writer and so much more.
The painting of the faceless woman seems like such a beautiful choice of art for this reclaimed space. I love picturing you in there writing and being Emily.
Thank you, Nicki and Jena, so very much for your lovely comments. I am grateful!
Love this one, Emily!!! I've got a shed attached to our garage out back that we not so lovingly refer to as "the stinky room." It would be a great hideaway. Maybe someday....
Oh, Liz, the stinky shed has great promise as a secret getaway. Here's hoping! And thank you!
A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you, Gay, for reading and responding. I am so appreciative!
Emily, I'm so excited to see this beautiful piece here! I loved all the details and watching the metamorphosis of the house and you! Looking forward to reading more of what you create in your own room.
I love being a mother too, but I didn't want to be defined as only a wife and mother. There is a lot more to me, to all of us. As you said, we are much more and I'm glad you are finding a wonderful way to take back some of you. You go girl!
Mimi and Linda, I so enjoyed your comments and appreciate you taking the time to both read and respond to my piece. Taking back all that we give out isn't easy but I find it to be important and worth it. Thank you!! Emily
Love how you are taking care of you, and sharing your truth and wisdom with the world. <3
Thank you, Allison! So very much!
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