It’s school holidays, a shorter summer than we’re used to now that Tasmania is finally going to the four terms system. And what I should be doing is what I have done most other holidays, which is relax, read books, enjoy my kids without wanting to strangle them, and not put pressure on myself to MAKE WITH THE WORDS, MADAM.
But no, this summer I am writing. Not one thing, not a big pressing deadline (that’s for next month!) but I decided that I needed to put something on paper this January, to start as I mean to go on for this year. It’s now the 2nd of January, the first day that my honey is back at work leaving me with the two girls, and it’s already been a balancing act.
I always forget about the cleaning. There’s so much more of it in the holidays, because they’re here ALL THE TIME, and plates get dirtier, and clothes tear through the mud, and oh the toys, the toys get everywhere. Shoes are always underfoot, partly because Jem likes to stand in whichever shoes are closest (the more outlandishly big on her tiny feet the better) and tromp them from room to room until she can leave them in the perfect place to be tripped over later.
The detritus of Christmas is still partly with us – not just the tree and many of the more recently unwrapped gifts, but scraps of paper and plastic, stray ribbons and gift bags. Half open packets, and empty stockings. Sure, I could have tidied it all up by now. But frankly, I’ve BEEN tidying it up since December 25th, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any neater.
I swear, the walls pump out glitter and stray hair elastics across the carpet whenever I step into another room.
So am I crazy to want to write amid this madness, with the children wanting playdates and science experiments and painting activities and APPARENTLY LEARNING TO RIDE A BIKE, IT’S A THING. Well, no. Because if I wasn’t trying to write around it all, what would I have left? The children would still be giggling madly or trying to strangle each other (usually both), I’d still be picking Lego bits and stray Monopoly houses from between my toes every now and then, and chances are I wouldn’t be any happier than I am now, because I’d have all the detritus AND no wordcount down on the page.
Also, if I spent every waking hour trailing my children to tidy the crumbs and feminist action heroes and picture books they scatter from room to room, I’d probably end up yelling at them a whole lot more than I do.
Writing makes me a better mother. At least, I think it does.
So um, today I decided to write a book. Not any of the other many books I am working. A New Thing. A book about the balance of mothering and writing, and particularly the experience of trying to build a professional writing career while looking after young children. While a lot of it is going to come from me, obviously, and the anecdata I’ve been gathering from friends and colleagues for years due to being fascinated with the topic, I’d really like to be able to refer to the specific experiences of as many different writer-parents as possible. So I made a little survey meme!
If you identify as a writer and a parent, and especially if your parenting is of the “I’m the one at home on the front line” variety (though balancing outside work AND parenting AND writing is a mammoth, majorly impressive task, I am very grateful I have so little experience at doing all three at once) I would love it if you could answer some or all the following questions – in a comment to this post, in a blog elsewhere, in a private email (tansyrr at gmail dot com) or by any other means. Letter? Carrier pigeon?
How Do You Get It Done? The Writer Parent Survey.
How does your role as a parent get in the way of your writing?
How does your role as a writer get in the way of your parenting?
How has either of those issues changed as your kids grew up?
When is it hardest to write?
Do you have a separate space in (or outside) your house for writing? Why?
Does your family value or understand your writing?
What most frustrates you about finding the balance?
Are you a better writer because of your parenting? Why?
Are you a better parent because of your writing? Why?
[Please indicate whether it’s OK for me to quote your answers, and if you would prefer to be named or remain anonymous, either in my future blog posts on the topic or The Book]
I’d really appreciate it if you passed this on to anyone who you think would be interested in answering the questions, and that if you answer indirectly (like on you own blog) that you send me a link so I can read your answers!