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.