Laura El Alam
How one stay-at-home mother found inspiration at the kitchen sink
Updated: May 10, 2022
Several people have asked me where I came up with the name “Sea Glass Writing & Editing.” As with many of my inspirations, it came to me at the kitchen sink. Something about the mindless task of washing dishes, the warm water, and the peaceful view into our backyard makes dish washing a particularly fecund time for my creativity. My body might be in the kitchen and my hands full of suds, but my mind is often a million miles away.
I had been searching for the perfect business name for days, playing around with words, concepts, and things I love. I always feel inspired by the colors blue and green and I suspect that’s how I remembered our sea glass collection, which has been stored in a little wooden box, gathering dust for many years.
Over a decade ago, my son and I shared a hobby of hunting for sea glass at every beach we visited. At the time, we lived in Southern California, home to some of the world’s loveliest beaches. We also had the opportunity to visit beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean. At every location, we scoured the sand in the shallows, looking for colorful glimmers of treasure under the waves. We collected dozens of beautiful pieces, most of which were vivid hues of green or turquoise. They were smoothed and polished by the waves and looked like magic pebbles glinting in the sunlight.
Hunting for sea glass, I should point out, is not for everyone. It requires patience, focus, and optimism. Some beaches have a lot of sea glass, and others have very little. Either way, the colorful little nuggets can be quite hard to find among the sparkling water and mottled sand. A determined sea glass hunter will prowl the beach with an eagle eye to the ground, intent on their task, while everyone else runs right over the sand and jumps into the waves.
It occurred to me, while washing the dishes a few days ago and pondering a name for my business, that the right words could be like sea glass: polished, colorful, found only with determination, and a little bit magical. The name jumped out at me from the depths of my subconscious: Sea Glass Writing and Editing: Home of polished prose and colorful content. But that analogy is just part of the story of why sea glass is significant to me. It has even greater meaning in my life, and I think many other women will be able to relate to my story.
Twenty years ago, I started my career as a Development Writer for a private high school. It was an enjoyable job in a comfortable and positive environment, and I felt I had found my niche. But that was not all I found there! I also met my husband, and after two years of marriage we found out we were expecting our first child.
Like many other women, I faced a choice: put my career on hold to raise my child, or to try to juggle both career and childcare? Some women do not even have a choice, but I did, and after some deliberation I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I figured I’d be out of the workforce for about five years, until our firstborn started school, at which point I would reenter (I assumed) with ease. That might have been the case, but I’ll never know because his little sister was born two years after him and then, surprisingly, our family grew exponentially over the next decade, culminating in a total of five children. That’s a lot of kids. I know.
The five-year hiatus that I had imagined morphed into nearly twenty years of stay-at-home motherhood. During that time, I was extremely busy with the tasks of raising children and running a household. For a few years I homeschooled our children, and other years I was a frequent volunteer at their school. Always, though, I was filling various roles: caretaker, chauffeur, social coordinator, scheduler, cook, cleaner, errand runner, and of course, Daydreaming Dishwasher Extraordinaire.
As busy as being a SAHM made me, I still craved an outlet for my creativity. I missed using my brain on a deeper level and I especially missed writing.
One day I wrote a guest column for a small local newspaper. It was well received and led to me writing a monthly column. That job helped me get my foot in the door at an online magazine, and from there I picked up skills and confidence and started writing for various magazines. Bit by bit, friends and acquaintances who knew me as a published writer and a Grammar Nerd started contacting me for help with their own writing. Over time, I became an established copyeditor and proofreader, helping others polish their work while diligently honing my own skills along the way.
Although I love my children deeply and believe in the value of stay-at-home parenthood, writing and editing have always helped me feel more complete. Many women who have chosen to put their career on hold will understand the conflicting desires to care for their children while still having professional or creative fulfillment.
We SAHMs are like sea glass hunters, in a way. While others are jumping enthusiastically into the sea of career and personal development, we are often on the sidelines, diligently performing our unglamorous work. The ocean can look so tempting from the hot beach. The antics of the swimmers can seem so alluring. But those of us who choose sea glass hunting know that our toil is worth the effort. We might only dip our toes in the waves, for now, but those beautiful nuggets of sea glass that we uncover are true treasures. Our investment in our children and the memories we create with them are priceless and will stand the test of time.
And now I can tell you, my fellow stay-at-home parents, that one day -- whether five or twenty years down the line -- if we want to, we will be able to jump into the sea again.
With the creation of my website, I am launching myself from the shallows into the sea. It’s been a leap nearly twenty years in the making, and I am both eager and nervous about the plunge.
So, please join me here at Sea Glass Writing & Editing for tips, words, reflections, and a little bit of magic.