On Not Being Everything & Writing

Early this week I wrote—I think too harshly—about struggles over a particular bedtime. In the piece, I wrote about how much I worry that what I have to offer my second guy—the one we like to call Bunbun the Middle One—is not, ever, never enough.

From that moment-in-time—solo parenting this week, physically quite uncomfortable with a giant sty in my eye, overtired—I didn’t shine the best light on him—or me. I felt queasy all day about it. So, I deleted the piece. I hope this makes it evaporate into the cyber-ether.


Here’s what made me put it up: I love him and I love being his parent and I struggle mightily with that feeling of not being able to do right, at that moment it was by him, but it’s a larger feeling, the one that wishes to be everything or at least enough for my children. I want to meet their needs.

It’s not my job to do that all the time.

Remembering that is—for me, at least—really, really hard.

I really like how in family life we get to try anew. We get so much practice messing up. We get to push past our less-than-finest moments to better ones. We get to slide back to harder times and again, better ones.

That’s why I decided I could be too honest and desperate and then more or less take it back.

I also realized, with a little sleep and a little time to think about the hardest moment there that in fact it’s okay that I hold the line and set a limit, even when I am mixed about this tack. Doing so is hard and I hate it sometimes, but it’s okay. It might even be better in the long run, although I must ‘fess up that I pretty much never want to; I always wish that somehow there would be enough of me to give and give some unnamed and probably unreal something that would satiate my child’s wish for whatever it is that child wishes for and that would be that. In that moment with my second guy, I feel that hurt and frustration he was experiencing and I’ve felt it at different times with all of them about different somethings.

Honestly, I feel it for myself, too. It might be a really ancient sensation. It might not be; it might just be that disappointment—however it comes—is difficult. And that holding the space for disappointment is also pretty challenging.


One aside, about writing: a friend stepped in and voiced her concerns about what I’d written—and that was helpful. As a writer who does write about personal issues, I’ve sat with some discomfort after putting something out there plenty of times. This was a queasy-inducing kind of vulnerable, though, one that didn’t—I felt—serve me—or us.

I hope that as a writer, I can listen to that well. When I write about things that are sensitive—for me and for others—I try to gauge whether I am 1) being respectful to all involved and 2) making sure I am honest about my experience, because I am not trying to second-guess anyone else’s experience. Do I try to understand or imagine someone else’s motivations or feelings? Sure. But finally, as a writer in this realm what I can share is my experience. That’s really what I’ve got.


Postscript: just before I read him exactly two pages of Little Town on the Prairie before he conked out—and after getting the little gal to sleep at 7:54 PM thank you very much, with her hair mostly brushed and no longer channeling Lady Gaga’s do only for free—the eight year-old said, “Things are going pretty well without papa here. Not the first day, but since then.” That we are, more or less.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our daily newsletter!

You don't want to be left out, do you?

Sign up!

You have Successfully Subscribed!