Notes from a someday mother.


This Mother's Day, something happened for the first time: I got wished a Happy Mother's Day.

On three separate occasions. At two grocery stores (before 9 a.m., with my husband, no children in sight) and at our lunch spot (at noon, with my husband, no children in sight).

(Seems strange to me that a mother around my age celebrating Mother's Day would not have her children with her. Might mean that she's not a mother, eh? Context clues: they really can help in social situations.)

No hesitation from those who wished it, until I gave a brittle chuckle and said faux-brightly, "Not yet!"


My husband and I don't have kids, but we want them someday, and what someday means is up to us—except, you know, not entirely.

Now that it's September, I can officially say that I'm turning 30 next month, and I'm excited about it. (Get pumped, readers: I've already been working on my 30 things to do before I turn 31 list.) I'm not feeling the need to say, "It's my second 29th birthday!" I'm genuinely looking forward to a new decade.

As I finish up my twenties a married woman, and women my age are starting to have children, it feels more and more like maternal instincts are expected of me. Instincts that are (evidently) supposed to be "natural." That bothers me a lot more than the idea of turning 30.


This spring at small group, one member brought her beautiful new baby for us to meet. Apart from me, most of the others are already mothers. They passed the infant around the circle easily, cooing and giving her a bottle, giving the new mom some time to breathe and vent.

When it was my turn, I took the baby somewhat awkwardly from the person next to me, and paused. I wasn't sure how to position her. Should I tuck her head in the crook of my arm, or try and lift her up to my shoulder? She had just eaten; was she going to spit up on me? I don't know how to burp an infant. I loved reading The Baby-Sitters Club but I always hated actual baby-sitting. I don't know what to do.

In that moment, it felt like every woman in the room was watching me.

It felt like they were expecting me to feel something I very much didn't.

It felt like I didn't even want to try and hold the baby the right way (sorry, baby, I'm horrible), so that I wouldn't satisfy (what I interpreted to be) their expectation.

Then someone said something. Exasperated, short.

"Come on, Claire, you know how to do it!"

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm basically the opposite of a rebel, in the traditional sense. No curfew issues, no groundings as a teenager. But I've learned that one of my biggest sources of rebellion as an adult is to be passive aggressive. To not try.

I didn't want to try and hold the baby the right way, especially after that comment. Even though many of these women are my close friends and role models (and people I’d want to emulate as a mom), this moment spurred an internal and external rebellion against showing the mothering tendency that it's assumed I even have. Because if I show that I do have it, then I'm conforming to what women are supposed to be in the eyes of our world, what has been seen for millennia as a woman's highest calling.


I don't love that I'm a passive aggressive rebel. But I do recognize it. It happens in other scenarios, too. And I'm working on it. Slowly.

Granted, there are some ways that I "rebel" against what society thinks a woman should be by I don't like makeup, the idea of a having a wedding hashtag made me cringe, and it took me forever to understand the appeal of skinny jeans (finally got there on that one, though). Most of that is because I'm incredibly low-maintenance, always have been (what's this hairdryer contraption you speak of?). But a bit of it is that proactive sense of... wanting to be different. Not wanting to be told how meaning should come into my life.  


How meaning should come into my life.

Because that's what it's really about, right? Children equal meaning, the greatest meaning there is, at least according to our "family values" society (remind me how that works again, no-paid-family-leave, anti-insurance-for-all, I-could-go-on U.S. government?). Raising a human to be, well, human (or their particular brand of it), and to see how they grow and learn and start to find meaning in their own lives. I certainly agree—that whole journey is chock full of meaning.

But that doesn't mean that's all there is. And I think my fear is that I will narrow myself down in meaning and purpose. To sound like the incredibly selfish almost 30-year-old that I sound like right now, I don't want all of my meaning to be wrapped up in someone else's. I want who I am as a person, not just a mother, to still matter when I'm breastfeeding and running after toddlers and picking up middle schoolers. And I don't want to lose value now, when I'm not a mother.

I didn't want that group of women to look at me cradling that baby and think, "Wow, someday Claire is going to be even more valuable to the world than she is right now—when she becomes a mom."

Reality check: They love me. They most likely didn’t think that. I am probably projecting that thinking onto them. Why take the time to think that about me when there’s a cute baby to focus on?

I'm going to be getting lots of concerned looks at church next week because of this blog post, aren’t I?


Maybe not concerned looks, but I do imagine that mothers are reading this and shaking their heads at my limited view. I promise: I know I can't even understand a fraction of motherhood right now. That’s probably why I’m coming off defensive and passive aggressive—because I do hold some fear and apprehension about the whole concept.

While I'm happy with my current life, if I look forward down the road and see us without kids, I feel deep regret. As a child of two amazing people, I have a taste of the joys and rewards that a positive parent/child relationship can bring. I want to see my husband be the fantastic father that I know he’ll be. I want that next adventure with him.

But I don't want it to be assumed or expected of me, just because I'm a married woman about to turn 30. Or a woman, period.

Does that make me a walking, talking, writing contradiction? To announce that I want something, but then demand that it not be assumed of me? This is getting complicated.

(I should also note strongly and with much gratitude that my parents and in-laws are wonderful, non-nosy and supportive human beings when it comes to someday grandchildren, not to mention in all other aspects of life. Any pressure I feel comes from the outside—society, or people who don't know me very well.)


A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of me holding my new niece. She'd had trouble settling down, but she was on her way to a nap when I took her, and I knew my sister-in-law was snapping photos, so I smiled. I posted one of the photos on social media and got the comment, "You look like a natural with that baby!"

Full disclosure: I adore my new niece, and I love the person who made this comment very much. But I wondered:

Why do I look like a natural? Because I'm a woman, holding a fairly calm baby, and smiling? Is that all it takes? And I felt the rigidity of my internal rebellion flare up again. What if I don't want to be a natural?

Well, that's where my passive aggressiveness gets a bit absurd if it hadn’t already; of course I want to be a natural. That makes child-rearing sound simple, right? But just like the truth behind the photo, I know that's not the case (I replied to the comment, "Looks can be deceiving!").

I imagine every mother wants to be a natural, and doesn't get that wish. Or is a "natural" in some ways, but not in others. Either way, what gave me the qualifications to even look like a natural to begin with? I certainly don't feel like a natural now, and I'm guessing that feeling will go even farther south as soon as we bring our first child home from the hospital. With that, I'm not declaring that I'll be a terrible mother—I'm just not expecting, from all firsthand reports, for it to be easy. 


I haven't even broached the fact that this takes on a whole new level if you struggle to have children or have lost children. The irrational, overly-sensitive part of me who takes far too much lucky/unlucky stock in "be careful what you wish for" fears that even writing these emotions out to process them will make my uterus reluctant. Another absurdity I pray I won't hold too close, blame I pray I won’t assign. But I can only imagine the heartstrings it tears to hear a carefree "Happy Mother's Day!" (at the grocery check out, of all mundane places) and not be annoyed, but devastated, because you so desperately wish that it were true.


I wrote this post over a week ago, and have sat with it since. I'm not sure my wordiness has captured what I'm trying to say. I'm certain that I’ve missed other perspectives that are just as valid. But all I can authentically share is my own—and what else is writing for but to process these moments so that they yield not regret, but growth?

Part of me feels like I should keep this tucked away in my private journal. That’s because it’s perhaps the most fraught piece I’ve ever considered delivering into the world—and I deeply don’t want it to be taken the wrong way, especially by the people I care most about. My best friends are starting to have kids, and I’m thrilled for them. I do, indeed, adore my new niece, and already relish seeing her grow. My husband will be a wonderful dad and I’m excited to be a parent with him. And yet here I am, writing this.

Who cares what I think, anyway? It’s just adding another voice to the din. 

But then there are the other women that I’ve talked to who nod their heads, eyes full of understanding.


When I talked to my non-Facebook mother about what I had written (after a baby shower, of all things), we discussed how social media comes into play in terms of how I view parenthood. It’s overwhelming, I said, as I tried to describe to her the bombardment of information, stories, photos, opinions, videos, articles—and I’m not even a parent yet. It made me think about how much social media plays into my response to potential parenthood more than I realize. And maybe I need to remember that while I can’t fully control whether or not I’m a “natural” at parenting, I can control how much or how little I want to be a part of the bombardment.

(Maybe it’s easier to say that as a non-parent. That’s a possibility, too.)  


Dear someday children,

If you stumble upon this long-ago post after we give you your first smartphone (so you're at least 18, right?), please know that you were and always have been so deeply loved. This piece is not about not wanting you. This piece is about unpacking thoughts that I need to unpack before you come along, about figuring out how I can be, probably not a natural, but a true-to-myself parent in a world that has a lot of expectations and opinions on the subject. I'm sure there will be plenty more to process once you get here, and knowing me, I should start now.

Because I'm not just going to be your mother. In fact, that’s going to be the newest thing that I am, though I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it together. But first I am Claire, the writer (and thus over-thinker), the introvert, the people person, the alto, the Hufflepuff, the Wildcat, the reader, the traveler, the homebody, the photographer, the God seeker, the daughter, the wife, the sister, the coworker, the friend.


On Father's Day, we went through our normal morning grocery store routine again. "Happy Father's Day!" the cashier wished my husband, then added, "If you're a dad."

I had been granted no "if" on Mother's Day.

World, all I want is that "if." That "I recognize that there's more to you than simply your physical ability to produce offspring and keep them alive!"

Because I'm so much more than that.

And yes: my so much more will feed into my chosen motherhood. It will contribute to whatever element of “natural” parent that I someday grow into.

But, most importantly, that so much more already feeds me now. And I am truly grateful.

Fine Folks//Creative Callings: Harper Addison, Dancer/Choreographer

Well, it's been a yearlong break from this series, and I thought it was high time we got back to it. You can read more about my intentions here, but the bottom line is this: in the midst of our chaotic world, there are good people living out (or figuring out!) their callings in intentional, innovative, and joy-filled ways. I feel lucky enough to know some of these human beings (and always love being connected to more), and thought it would be great to hear from them in their own words about what moves them to live and create the way they do. Kicking us back into gear is Harper Addison, with whom I share a hometown (ATL) and an alma mater (Davidson). Harper is an incredible dancer and choreographer, and I've enjoyed keeping up with her latest creative venture, The Iteration Project (TIP), "an online community of artists and creatives from around the world joining forces and making work." I talked with Harper about her motivation behind the project, and her thoughts on some of the challenges that artists of all sorts face today.


This first question is two-fold: 1) When did you first start dancing, and 2) when did you first begin to see yourself as an artist/creator? Did those two things begin simultaneously, or did your identity as an artist develop more over time?

I actually don’t remember when I first started dancing. Both my mom and my aunt were/are dancers and I grew up with it around me all the time. It was just a part of life. If I have a cousin who is 2.5 years older than I am and we grew up dancing together. She obviously started before me, but we were like two peas in a pod. If I had to put an age on it, I think I started officially taking classes around 3 or 4. Baggy pink tights and tiny ballet shoes. Pretty hilarious.

Even though my mother and my aunt both gave my cousin and me opportunities to create and encouraged our home productions, we never called ourselves artists. Even while choreographing at Davidson or in New York, I never called myself a creator or an artist. The term “artist” always felt so heavy and like this thing that was beyond me. It felt like you had to do certain things to claim that title. It wasn’t until graduate school that I began to realize that we are all artists in the truest sense of the word, without any of that extra fluff of what we think an artist should be, should look like, should create.

You explain on The Iteration Project website that it grew out of your move from California back east to Tennessee--in your words, "I found more space and freedom to create but less community to create within." Is this a dichotomy that you expected when you moved, or did it become clearer after you had arrived in Knoxville?

The short answer is, yes, I expected it, but it also changed and became clearer in new ways after I had arrived. I certainly expected the community to be small, and it is (definitely in comparison to San Francisco). But it is also far deeper and more vibrant in ways that I never expected. There’s also an amazing dance company, New Dialect, directed by Banning Bouldin in Nashville. I knew they were there and doing incredible things, so I thought if nothing else happens, at least I’ll have that resource a few hours away. Banning and New Dialect have proven themselves to be invaluable, but the Knoxville community has also been such a wonderful surprise and welcomed me with open arms.

The other part of the equation is that I didn’t realize was how stifled I was in San Francisco. The dance community there is pretty established. As a new member of the community, you feel you have to fit into one of the many camps that already exist. It feels like it’s hard to strike out on your own or blaze new trails because there are existing expectations from other artists and from audience members. Not to mention, it’s just hard to make work. The city is expensive and rental space is expensive. You exert an inordinate amount of energy surviving, which leaves little time and energy left to create. I never realized how much of a toll this was taking. I just thought that maybe I had already made all the good work I was going to make.

When I moved to Knoxville, it suddenly felt like this massive freedom to have no expectations, no established community, to find a small pocket of wonderful dancers that are aching to perform and make work, and to have beautiful rental space for $5/hr instead of $20. I definitely learned a lot about myself in the move: I need a lot of space, both physical and mental, I need to have enough energy to take advantage of the space, and I need to be doing the creative thing every day.

Was TIP the solution that came to you immediately, or did you think of other possibilities to find creative community?

TIP was it. The idea came to me in pieces over a relatively short period of time as I learned about what my own needs were as a creator. Of course, I dove into integrating myself in the existing Knoxville community, but I didn’t want to get isolated or insulated by it. I knew I had to stay connected not only to San Francisco but to all of my other colleagues and graduate school friends around the country.

By the time I had all of the major pieces figured out—a way to stay accountable to creating, a way to go to the studio with a purpose, a way to stay connected to others—the idea seemed so obvious I had to keep asking myself if I was missing something. Like, why wasn’t this happening already?! Had someone already done this? Maybe they have! I just haven’t found it yet.

Photo: Rick McCullough

Photo: Rick McCullough

I love the weekly prompts you send out; they're so varied and rich. Can you share a little bit about how you've come up with them (if it's not a secret!)?

It’s definitely not a secret, and I’m happy to share! I come up with them on my own from anything that sparks my interest. I personally love using literature and poetry as a prompt, but I try to keep a good mix of literal and abstract ideas so that there’s something for everyone, and everyone is challenged at some point.

When you have the task of creating prompts and you know you have to have one every week, you start looking around for ideas. The more you look, the more you see. The more you see, the more you want to keep looking. Lucky for me, it’s a positive feedback loop. It’s really just the creative process!

How has TIP created more community for you, personally, as a dancer and choreographer? And what have you heard from other participants about how it has impacted or changed their creative habits and community?

In the process of trying to grow TIP, it has forced me to reach out to colleagues and former professors I haven’t spoken to in a while. It has forced me to ask for help and really build a community for myself, so that I can work on building it for all of The Iteration Project's members.

As a member of the community, I love seeing how everyone responds to the prompts each week and finding inspiration in their individual and unique points of view. As a choreographer, you can get stuck in your habits and in your safe space. Getting to see how others move, think, and share, is so refreshing. I’ve enjoyed taking the TIP prompts into rehearsals to explore with dancers, and also using them as a jumping off point in my courses.

Lastly, artists tend to be solo creatures. The focus can be on the individual and how the individual is climbing the ranks in the larger landscape, rather than how they’re supporting it. It takes a village, and I think we forget that in the race to produce work and get our work seen. The Iteration Project is a village, and because of that it’s a continual reminder to reach out, to comment, to like, to support each other. The only other alternative is for TIP to cease to exist.

You say on the site, "The key for creativity is to continue to create, everyday." From my writer's perspective, that means consistently sitting in the chair and plunking words down, even if they're crappy to begin with. I'm curious how you as a dancer and performer approach the daily creative process. I imagine it might have some parallels to the writer's (same time each day? same space? etc.), but I'm wondering if there's anything different about the two, especially since the writer's is often more physically sedentary.

Yes, yes, yes. The same is definitely true for me and for dancers and choreographers in general. You take classes because if you don’t, you regress. You make, because if you don’t, you lose your skills. You create because it’s a practice, and you create whether or not what you make is any good. The simple act of making something is what’s important. By making something consistently, you’ll continually get better.

I personally don’t have a set time and space to make each day. But others certainly do. The physical aspect is interesting, because sometimes you just don’t feel like getting up and moving. But as dancers, that’s what we’re trained to do and so we’re used to doing it whether we feel great or horrible. I think the creative process is largely universal. You get up and you get to work. Some move, some write, but ultimately, you make.

Has TIP changed how you create, or how you work with other dancers as an educator?

It has definitely made me realize that making is not like riding a bike. You can’t just get back on after a 10-year hiatus and ride it like you did when you were a kid. Now that I know that, I know I have to do it consistently to feel comfortable doing it at all. The minute I stop engaging in some creative act each day, I feel like the mountain is too high to climb and I hesitate to start. It’s a bit like Sisyphus, in that you just have to keep doing it. You don’t have a choice. Because if you don’t keep doing it, you’ll likely walk away from it with the likelihood of picking it back up diminishing with each passing day.

A piece about The Iteration Project was featured in DANCE Magazine in April, which to me says that you are definitely addressing a need that creative minds besides your own are seeking. What are some of the conversations you've had with others (in dance or otherwise) about this need?

The conversations I’ve had with others have mostly focused on artists leaving the nation’s large art centers either because the cost of living is so high, or because the competition to survive and thrive is too great. We live in a huge country with a lot of opportunity, but for artists, those opportunities tend to be concentrated in a select few places. We have to change the landscape in order for it to be possible for artists and creators to feel like they can truly live and work in the places that inspire them.

I feel like one of the biggest barriers to changing that aspect of the landscape is isolation. As an individual, if you have to make a choice between being isolated or being in an over-saturated market, being in a known community versus uncharted territory, you’re going to choose the known saturated market. That market at least has the community, even if the resources are stretched thin. It takes a lot of work and a lot of energy to strike out on your own and build something from scratch in an unknown market. The hope is that TIP is making that more possible by meeting artists halfway and providing a community, providing inspiration. The only thing they have to do is to take advantage of it and create their own practice.

What would you say to the "closet creatives" out there, who might be nervous about submitting a prompt response, or sharing their creative gifts in general?

I totally get it and I hear you. There are days when it takes all day to muster the confidence to post or to share. But the thing is, once you do it, you realize that there is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad. There just is. If you don’t share it, how will we ever know about you? You are a gift to the community. We want to hear your voice. We need to hear your voice because without you the community doesn’t exist. You are crucial.

The beauty about a community is that it takes everyone. It takes young and old, professionals and amateurs. Closet creatives and weekend warriors. We are all better off because of you. So please share.

As you approach the one-year anniversary of TIP prompts, what are you looking forward to in your own creative life and in the life of this community you've built up? 

Yes! Almost to one year of prompts! I’m looking forward to creating more in my own life. I’m working on a full-length evening performance of my work right now. That feels pretty daunting and terrifying, but I know it’s something that I have to do if for no other reason than to learn some very valuable lessons.

As far as the community goes, every time someone new shares something, I do a little dance. I love it. I’m looking forward to the community continuing to grow. To helping people find collaborators. To building our own platform where people can share, and developing some new and exciting accountability and inspiration opportunities for members. There’s a lot in the pipeline right now that I can’t say too much about, but that I’m so excited for. I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what’s next!

Summer Favorites

Summer's not quite over, but since I haven't done monthly recaps in awhile, I thought I'd smush them all together with some highlights from the season so far.

We headed to Chicago (my first time there!) in early June for the wedding of my dear childhood friend, and had a great time. Our host, my friend Allison, is a Chi-town native, and it was great to go exploring with her in both the city and the suburbs. We hit up the Lincoln Park Zoo, stood on the shores of Lake Michigan, chowed down on delicious Italian beef sandwiches and chocolate shakes at Portillo's, and explored historic Oak Park/River Forest outside the city. The wedding festivities took us to Hyde Park, the Garfield Park Conservatory (where the ceremony and reception took place--gorgeous!), and a delicious brunch at the Promonotory. We capped off the trip with a visit with Sean's cousins, which included a beautiful skyline architecture tour on Lake Michigan, sailing on the Tall Ship Windy from Navy Pier, the Rolling Stones exhibit "Exhibitionism," and deep dish pizza. Plus, of course, we had to go see The Bean. 

We have a niece! So excited to be elevated to aunt and uncle status and to watch her grow up in the months and years to come.

On Thursdays at work recently, we staffers get giddy: it's Potluck Day, Potluck Day is here! The best thing is that they show up weekly during the summer, we learn how talented our co-workers are in the kitchen, and we end up trying all sorts of delicious dishes, from Indian to Italian, and good old-fashioned sandwiches and salads. Not to mention the time for fellowship!

We've had a number of opportunities to spend time with family this summer--an extended reunion with my dad's side, and several cousin visits from Sean's side to meet the aforementioned new niece. Such a gift to catch up, laugh, reminisce, and greet new chapters with those most important to us.

Speaking of important people, one of my dearest high school teachers and her family are moving out West (watch out for Melissa King Rogers, California poetry scene!). She's taught at our school for 18 years, so a few of us collaborated on a farewell party (thank goodness for social media in this respect) and ultimately folks from the classes of 2002 through 2016 showed up to offer love and thanks. The best moments came when we circled up and introduced ourselves, and were able to express what Dr. KR has meant to us, not only in our high school days but in our whole lives. It was such a meaningful evening and I'm grateful we got to show her how much she's given us. 

I have some sweet new head shots up on the site, and that's all thanks to my friend Kristen. We had a great time traipsing around one Sunday afternoon with the camera, and I didn't feel too crazy awkward pretending to be a model. It's pretty fun every now and then!

Our women's small group at church has gotten together several times this summer for apps, drinks, and conversation that ranges from serious to tears of laughter. Grateful to share life with these strong and fun-loving ladies.

This has been a rain-filled season, and living in Georgia where drought is common, I've savored every pour and storm that has swept through our skies and drenched our city.

July took me to the Writing for Your Life conference at Belmont University in Nashville, which I touched on last week--it really did help reset my writing habits and introduced me to some great people, both speakers and fellow attendees. 

Ending on a superficial but oh-so-guilty-pleasure note: Guys, Game of Thrones is back!! We only had to wait 460something days. Don't get me wrong, I push my glasses FAR down my nose to blur pretty much any time Cersei's in a room with one of her enemies (not to mention the battle scenes), but we have become so connected to these characters (er, the ones that are still alive), and I can't wait to see how it goes down. Also, as a pop culture fanatic, I love reading all of the episode recaps and watching reaction videos. Have y'all checked out Game of Thrones at the Burlington Bar or the Twitter recaps on fan site Watchers on the Wall? SO GOOD.

Jeez. It's August already, and I'd love to know: What's sweetened your summer season?

P.S. I also bit the bullet and launched my professional writer Facebook page. Not gonna lie, a little intimidating, but I'm also excited about it. Thumbs up?