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This Stay-at-Home Mother Needs her Fantasy Romance Novels, OK?

by Jessie Waddell 2 months ago in gender roles

I know the greats are out there, begging to be read. Just… not right now.

Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash

People read for so many reasons; I read for many reasons—To learn, for fun, under duress… but mostly, I read to escape.

Escapism has been my coping method of choice for as long as I can remember. Be it film, television, music or books, I always found ways to ensure my mind was absorbed in anything other than reality. If none of those sufficed, I’d slip into the depths of my imagination and make something up.

I’ve always been a daydreamer—The kind of person who easily tunes out of conversations and has to awkwardly try and put the pieces together from 3/4 of the way through. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the circumstances or the person. It’s not a measure of enjoyment or interest. It’s just that no matter how hard I try to stay present in the real world, my mind always takes me elsewhere.

That is, it used to.

Then I had a baby—Nothing quite sucks you firmly into the reality vortex like a tiny human completely dependent on you for survival. Being too lost in your thoughts as a parent can go bad way too quick.

These days, I need to be a little more intentional with how and when I escape. I have to because too many days spent with my feet planted firmly on the ground makes me restless. Because a lot of my ‘when’ is restricted to nap times and bedtime, I had to choose ways that gave me the sensation while physically staying put.

Reading and writing seemed like the obvious choices. The caveat was that I had to get picky about what I was reading all of a sudden. The feeling that I’ve wasted precious ‘me’ time reading something disappointing grates at me. I used to have the luxury of reading whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could read one book for an hour, decide it wasn’t for me and jump into another because I had hours.

Having time to kill seems like a luxurious distant memory.

So as hours became hour—singular, sometimes less. I learned early I needed to get smart with how I allocated my time.

A sure-fire hit? Fantasy romance.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a book that would be considered great literature. It’s not for lack of wanting; it’s a necessity. You see, something happens the day you accept the stay-at-home mum identity. It’s a new chapter, wonderful for many reasons. But there’s a little part of you that dies, and that part becomes a void that needs to be filled.

I look in the mirror, and I see a face that used to be meticulously made-up, hair that used to be tended to with care, eyes that didn’t need glasses full-time, a belly that used to be firm, a bust that sat just a little bit higher… A girl that was once young and desirable transformed into something weathered, mature and responsible. There’s a beauty in the new form, but not the kind that fills you with confidence. It’s an appreciative beauty born from respect and achievement. Not the awe-inducing beauty you once held—the kind that caught the eye of that guy at the bar or turned heads as you walked down the street. The kind you didn’t know you had until you didn’t have it anymore.

That’s my escape—the guaranteed storyline where the unassuming yet desirable girl reluctantly meets the man of her dreams. Sometimes there’s the meet-cute, other times the enemies to lovers trope. The ‘will they/won’t they’ sexual tension. The curveball that threatens to break them up for good and, of course, the happy ending.

The nostalgia of the first-time feelings you’ll never feel again. The first touch, first kiss, first time… Remembering the butterflies and the anticipation before a first date. Vicariously reliving a youth long gone.

Then you add the fantasy element. Vampires, werewolves, witches… doesn’t matter, as long as there’s something in there that gives it a hint of adventure and magic. The fantasy element serves the little girl that always wished she’d get that Hogwarts letter, or who wished she’d wake up one day to find she was secretly a fairy, adopted by human parents (why else would she be so much smaller than everyone else?) or better still, the girl who would turn sixteen and have a mysterious old guy show up at her school telling her she was the one girl in all the world chosen to fight the forces of evil and slay the vampires.

It allows the girl who was always the dreamer, who grew up to be the woman who, despite her best efforts, kept getting dragged further and further from Neverland, to remember the previous versions of herself.

So, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll let you keep the literary greats. And they can stay on my list for when the day comes, and I find myself with hours to kill again. Until then, I’m going to stick with my favourite escape—the most predictable, repetitive and downright trashy fantasy romance novels that I can get my hands on. And I might just survive this stay-at-home mum gig after all.

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gender roles

Jessie Waddell

I have too many thoughts. I write to clear some headspace.

Instagram: @thelittlepoet_jw

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