Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When Writing and Parenting Don't Mix

Being a parent and a writer can be complicated.  Sometimes the two things seem mutually exclusive and, indeed, impossible!  I often wonder how I ever finished writing a book when these small creatures need every iota of my attention.  Kids, especially very young ones, are an all-consuming responsibility. Granted, a blessed responsibility, an adored responsibility, but still an all consuming one. Writing is especially difficult to manage because it requires such intense focus and distance from reality.  

Since my oldest was a power-napper, who topped out at 20 minutes per shut-eye, any attempts to write during that time led to frustration, followed by anger at myself for being frustrated.  It was difficult.  I finally had to come to terms with the fact that, at least for a while, writing wasn’t going to be part of the picture.

So, during daylight hours I learned to accomplish other things that fulfilled my need to create, while still retaining my ability to interact with my baby. 

I started tiling a picnic table when my first son was 6 months old.  I propped him up in his wooden wagon with some toys while I worked. Slowly.  Sometimes I could only place one tile before I had to abandon it for the day. That first summer I finished a bee:


The summer after, whenever my little one played in his water table, I painstakingly tiled a ladybug:




The June of the following summer brought baby boy #2 and a butterfly was barely begun:


The year after, I accomplished even less but it still felt good to get outside, and snag a moment to draw (copying from google images) and erase several creatures on my backer-board.
I kept the finished bugs covered with plywood to protect little fingers from sharp, broken tiles and whenever I stopped for the day, I carefully slid the board back over to cover the whole thing so we’d still be able to use the table.  It was a sanity saver for a writer who could rarely write.


This summer I think my older son, with his big-boy fingers, might be able to help with the tiling.



I have high hopes we’ll finish the table soon and I know the first meal we eat on it--after giving it a good scrubbing--will be a celebration!  It may end up taking four years to accomplish, but then it took me nine to write my novel.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from these mama-intensive years of parenting it’s to make the absolute most of my alone time when I get it.  The final third of my book was finished after my boys began attending a twice-weekly mom’s-day-out program last September.   By December it was accepted for publication.

If you’re a new parent wondering how you’re ever going to write again--or do anything else outside of child-rearing--take heart.  Just keep at it, and focus hard when you do get the chance.  I believe good things come not to those who wait, but to those who finish what they start, no matter how long it takes.

 

7 comments:

  1. How very, very cool that you do tiling work and it's gorgeous! I wrote most of the poems that I sold to the Cricket Magazine Group when my kids were babies and toddlers, so it can be done. :)

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  2. Alina, it's amazing to me that you get more done having two kids than I get done having only a cat. I have ample time to sit and fret, but sometimes that makes the writing/creating that much harder. I like your method, though. I will approach my dissertation as you do your table, and perhaps we will finish around the same time. It can be the slowest race ever.

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  3. Teresa, I'm impressed! I really do find it challenging to write with young kids around. And that was my first experience with tiling. Seriously, by taking things slowly and thoughtfully--and finding good pictures--one can do anything. :)

    Leah, I know what you mean about fretting making writing more difficult! Definitely take that dissertation slowly and methodically. You'll get there, my sweet! And we will celebrate with an expensive(r) bottle of champagne.

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  4. I'm with Leah. I spend way too much time planning and fretting and researching and fretting some more before I dive into new projects... Having lots of time to get something done really can be a drawback (I'm sure it's a drawback you wouldn't mind at times ;)

    Love your tile creatures!

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  5. Yes, Lalove, I used to do that, too. Then I realized that I learn better by jumping in and possibly falling flat on my face. There are such few things that you can't go back and fix after messing them up the first time. It's so freeing to research just enough get the gist of how something is done and then, immediately, try it! Unless it's something that could kill you...then please do more research and fret. ;)

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  6. Hey there! Well, the Juggling book/kit is yours, so email me your address at some point and I'll mail it to you! :)

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  7. After hearing the more recent story of your table, I cracked up at the extra-appropriateness of this entry's title. Ahh, life.

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I never bite the hand that comments

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