“It’s nice just to get a chance to sit and think.” I distinctly remember that thought bubbling up more than once when I first started coming to Nido over a year ago. As with many mothers—especially those who spend the first part of a child’s life out of the paid workforce—becoming a parent had changed my relationship to my own mind. As a lifelong reader, writer, and thinker, I soon found that being a parent, while wondrous (or, as my three-year-old would put it “funderful”), it was also ... how to put this delicately ... ego-shattering. For someone who’d spent years of her life alone in rooms reading and thinking, first as a bookworm and later as a writer and academic, the shift toward stay-at-home parenting was a seismic one. So, when my son and I first started coming to Nido, we were both looking to make a transition to the next stage. Elias had just turned two and, while very mommy-centric, was and is also extremely social and curious about the world. And I was just wondering how to pick up the thread of writing, thinking, and doing paid work.
When I began at Nido, we had also just moved to Durham, so I was interested in making connections with the community. As I think through my time here, I’m a little astounded at how well I’ve been able to bring together these goals—connection with community and embarking on next steps in my career. Since joining Nido, I planned a community writing workshop, Reading and Writing from Life, then tested a one-day version of the workshop—mostly on eager and engaged Nido members— before launching two six-week versions of the course, which were held at the space on Saturdays last spring. This course was developed with the encouragement and support of Nido founder Tiffany Frye, as well as graphic design assistance from member Ali Rudel. I also launched a new author website for myself, with design help from Tiffany, who also works helping freelancers with social media. I’ve been doing freelance editing for clients in academia and business, including doing work for a fellow Nido member. Additionally, I attended a writing retreat for scholars at Nido, which was held by former member Margy Thomas Horton. Phew.
Honestly, I didn’t fully realize how much this community has been integral to my ability to once again think of myself as a teacher, writer, and editor until I sat down to write this blog post and began think through my experience here. And this doesn’t even touch on what Nido has offered my son. As I mentioned, Elias is social and curious, and these qualities have been encouraged and gently guided at Nido. For example, it’s impossible to describe what it’s like to take a break from providing a response to a draft of a friend’s book of lyric essays to be served really delicious pesto made by preschoolers from basil grown on the premises. (It’s really one of those, “Hey, I guess life really is sort of magical sometimes” moments.) It’s also impossible to describe how excited Elias was about the chance to help make pesto, serve it, and then have a picnic with his friends back in the classroom. In my time here, I’ve also been able to volunteer in the Chickadee room (babies and young toddlers) and to recall just how busy, curious, and communicative non-verbal little humans are. Another time, I volunteered in the Children’s House (“big kid” room), where the children and I talked about trees and moved like trees and then wrote books together about trees. It was then I realized that you really haven’t lived until you’ve taught poetry to preschoolers.
Overall, it’s been invaluable to have had access to a cooperative co-working space with childcare as a way to introduce my son to preschool and re-introduce myself to the professional world. This is a community that understands the odd cognitive and emotional demands of taking yourself seriously as parent to a very small child while also taking yourself seriously as a person with other, non-kid-related contributions to make to the world. Elias and I are about to embark on our next adventure, when he’ll be at a different preschool in our neighborhood five mornings per week, while I work, think, and catch my breath from home. We’re excited about continuing to make new friends, but our time at Nido will always be the “nest” we used to ease our way into the Durham community.
You can read more of Joanna's work here: www.joannapenncooper.net