I abandoned my family this past weekend to attend a conference for writers. It was in Brooklyn, which appealed to me because I could drive there and back in time for Em's bedtime routine.
I came back home that first evening on fire with inspiration and ideas, wanting to sit at my computer and write. But when Em saw me, she grinned and squealed with delirious excitement. And when my husband picked her up and pulled her away from the door so I could enter, she arched her back and flung her limbs about and wailed, afraid I was disappearing again. I abandoned my literary aspirations for the evening but, despite this show of love and co-dependence and separation anxiety—which made my heart break into a billion pieces—I drove back to Brooklyn the next day.
I am in awe of authors who are also mothers. How do they do it? How do they write entire books when I can barely manage to write a blog post over the course of an entire day? How do they polish an entire manuscript when it takes me three weeks to write the first draft of a single chapter?
How do any of us get anything done? Housework and work work and self-care and parenting? Especially when our children become mobile and we can no longer lay them down on their backs in the middle of a tiny play mat and then proceed to ignore them?
I figure we're all just muddling along, figuring things out on the fly. So in the interest of sharing, here are some tactics I've found to be effective:
Find something that fascinates your child and let her have at it. There are many things I don't understand about my one-year-old. Her sense of humor. Why she fights sleep so much when all I want to do is sleep. Why she doesn't think warm milk is gross. "You do you," I tell her, and I feel the same way about her Bumbo, which she does not sit in, but which she seems fascinated with nonetheless. She will spend an entire hour playing with its straps. WHY? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THOSE STRAPS? I think to myself. But then I also tell myself to quit asking questions and start getting shit done.
Write your book while she is napping. Oh, and those two blog posts, too. And conduct five phone interviews. And clean the bathroom.
Follow your child around with your laptop. Mostly so you can be sure she does not injure herself while you're not looking. Get work done in the small snippets of time in which you are actually able to park your butt in one place.
Bribe your husband to take over. For a day. For an hour. For 15 godforsaken minutes. So you can cook dinner or go to a networking event or finally finish that damn blog post you started writing several hours ago.
Place your child carefully onto her play mat, amidst board books and pianos and drums, and run away. Self-explanatory.
Sign your child up for an activity that tires her out so much that she promptly falls asleep afterward... and stays asleep for a good three hours. Or at least this seems to be the happy byproduct of my signing us up for Music Together classes that take place smack dab in the middle of her morning nap time.
Write your book while she is napping. Oh, and those two blog posts, too. And conduct five phone interviews. And clean the bathroom. Maybe send out some pitches. And schedule more interviews. And take 15 minutes to meditate. And catch up on Twitter so you can feel, despite everything, that you are still a part of the larger world.
Make your home a fortress of safety. Put locks on all of the cabinets except the one containing her unbreakable plates and food containers. Anchor the furniture to the walls. Put up safety gates. Move all knick-knacks to higher ground. Buy new trash cans with lids. Resign yourself to the fact that she loves playing with the recyclables and decide not to care. Let her wander around, secure in the knowledge that she (probably) can't injure herself.
Chain her to the banister. What? A mother can dream, can't she?