My mom arrives this week; I’m excited and nervous.
I’m excited because I haven’t seen her for half a year, and I can’t wait to sit at the kitchen table chatting about not-much-in-particular, with Little M crawling underfoot and clinging to our knees.
I’m nervous because it means I have to start working.
I have two rather important projects that need time, energy and creative spirit. So far I haven’t been able to concentrate on them, and having my mom around means I’ll have live-in nanny for a month. So… no more excuses.
What I’ve realized is that, in order to succeed as a stay-at-home/working mom, I need to completely re-imagine my writing life.
My old writing life
I used to stumble out of bed just before M left for work. I kissed him goodbye, made a cup of decaf (always and only decaf), opened the curtains just enough to let a shaft of light in (but not to much to pierce the morning dream-state), crawled back under the covers, pulled my laptop onto my knees and started writing. Or, if I had pressing illustration work to finish, I would hunch over my paintings at the kitchen table, still in my pyjamas and with my decaf in hand, to complete the day’s quota of illustrations. In the afternoon I would switch, either writing or illustrating depending on which I had done in the morning.
The new routine
This is no longer possible; my mornings are unrecognizable.
Now, I jump out of bed at 7 am sharp while M is still in the shower. I fetch Little M, who is often already awake and playing with her stuffies in her cot. I change her diaper (usually poopy), make breakfast, pour her bottle. I try to coax spoonsful of porridge or fruit into her mouth. Meanwhile, I jump up to brew my cup of decaf in between her complaints at not being able to wield the spoon herself, and wiping mush off the floor.
I roll out the yoga mat and attempt a few serene sun salutations and other stretches while Little M climbs under, over and through. She touches my face while I’m in downward dog, she fiddles with my pony tail or climbs over my legs while I’m practising the splits, and she sits underneath me while I’m in the bridge, making getting down very challenging.
Then, I re-roll the yoga mat and open my computer and dayplanner to focus at the tasks at hand.
Little M roars around on her hands and knees, trying to explore any undiscovered corner or piece of fuzz on the floor. She bangs empty water bottles against the fridge. She watches the sudsy laundry revolving around in our front loading washing machine. She pulls her books off her bookshelf and pages through them, examining each page to see if any new characters arrived over night. (This means I need to read her a story, of course).
I take a deep breath and make another cup of decaf. Sometimes I clean something. Little M watches with fascination, thinking my scrubbing and spraying is some sort of game.
By 9 am Little M is ready for her morning nap. I snuggle her into her blankets and deposit her gently into her cot. I close the curtains and sneak out the door.
Finally. An hour and a half to write/draw/think/read/try to be creative.
And all I want to do is make another cup of decaf and stare at the victorian rooftops and swaying plane trees out our window. The hurly-burly morning has exhausted me.
Novelist Roxana Robinson wrote a poetic article about her morning writing routine in the New Yorker in 2013. She talks about how, if she answered emails or looked at the news, the delicate membrane of her early morning imagination would be pierced. She wants to keep the mysterious and limitless post-sleep dreamlike state alive as long as possible.
I can’t do that any more. I have to try to recapture that penumbral state hours later.
The new writing guidelines
So, for the next month, while I have a little extra help at home, I’m planning to adopt a few writing principles to help me through this transition…
Write and draw daily.
Even if it’s one line or one tiny gesture with the pencil. The ultimate goal is 500 words of either fiction or journalling every day and 2-3 spreads, sketched (even roughly).
Close the door. Turn off the internet.
I need to give myself permission to seek solitude. Little M will be fine with my mom. The internet won’t collapse without my attention.
Page through the dictionary.
Words are our resources, we need to know how to use them wisely.
Read everything else with reckless joy.
(Fiction, poetry, self-help; it all inspires)
Feel proud of what I am able to accomplish, even if it is less than my (probably) impossible expectations.
Being a stay-at-home/working mom is challenging… and amazing.
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For this post I was deeply indebted the post my good friend Ayla wrote on her blog.