Petite Anglaise author Catherine Sanderson explains how an online diary helped her reclaim her identity and reinvent herself.April 29, 2008
Petite Anglaise and me
With the benefit of hindsight, I think it’s unsurprising that the personal blog I began writing just after my daughter’s first birthday came to play such a central role in my life.
Since her birth, and my subsequent return to work, four months later, my sense of self had been all but lost. Rushing from home to nanny’s to work and back again, I played the roles of mother and secretary from dawn until dusk, caring for my daughter single-handedly while my partner became increasingly wedded to his career. The independent, adventurous Catherine I used to be had become submerged under the weight of my routine, and rarely came up for air.
When I looked in a mirror, the post-partum body reflected back at me didn’t even look like my own. Who was this harried-looking, overweight, carelessly dressed woman?
Writing an anonymous blog and building a small but fiercely loyal community of readers began as a substitute for the social life I’d reluctantly put on hold. During the long evenings home alone, while my partner worked and my daughter slept, blogging filled a void. Virtual friendships I struck up online helped quench my thirst for adult human contact.
But my blog became more than just a hobby that enabled me to reach out across the Internet to communicate with like-minded souls. The time I devoted daily to writing was utterly selfish me-time: the ultimate guilty pleasure. I fell in love with my new hobby. It gave me a creative outlet, a place to flex my new muscles.
My self-confidence grew in proportion to my swelling readership, and I began to draw a real sense of pride from my online achievements. I wasn’t just a mother or a secretary any longer. I was a blogger too—a writer with a readership of thousands.
And by writing, not as Catherine but as Petite Anglaise, I’d unwittingly set about the process of reinventing myself. Petite Anglaise was a subtle blend of aspiration and nostalgia: she was the person I wanted to be, the person I wanted to write into existence, but also, in many ways, the embodiment of a Catherine I’d lost sight of since I’d become a working mother.
I’ve been writing as Petite Anglaise for nearly four years now and we’ve been on a roller-coaster ride together, she and I. Writing the blog precipitated the demise of a long- foundering relationship, introduced the prospect of new love into my life, and, when my employer discovered Petite Anglaise and unceremoniously fired me, brought about an unexpected career change. Nowadays writing is no longer a hobby or a guilty pleasure—it’s my bread and butter.
People often ask me how I differ from my online alter ego. It’s an increasingly difficult question to answer, because Petite Anglaise is an integral part of me. The character traits which tend to come to the fore when I write Petite Anglaise are not necessarily those you would see if you met me in the flesh. But all are part of the same whole—we are one and the same.