Having Children has allowed me the time to write.
Not the physical time — I honestly don’t know what I did with all those hours in the days before kids — but the mental time. I’m very lucky in that I haven’t had to go back to full time work since having children, the few hours a week I work are stimulating rather than draining, and that means when I’m spending an hour and a half walking 500m down the road, or endless hours at the park, or doing the dishes, or playing Lego, or cooking, my mind is fresh and sharp and eagerly plotting its way through the next hurdle of my story.
And being short on time means I don’t waste a free second. If the children are happily distracted, or even asleep, I sit down and I write. Even when I’m exhausted and feel like my three-year-old could come up with better material, I write, because I don’t know how long it will be until the next opportunity comes along. And this has been a valuable lesson in what I am capable of, even from the depths of exhaustion. If I write, something eventually will come out of it.
The children are all at an age where they constantly crave my attention.
I keep reminding myself to embrace this period of unconditional love and desire for my approval. I know it’s not going to last. This isn’t always easy, and I’m often not as gracious about it as I would like to be. When my 3-year-old asks me if I need a lie down, I know I have not been winning at the so-called peaceful communication, but I have learnt that if I can give them my attention in full, at regular intervals, I can ask more of them down the track.
For instance, we are a household of book lovers. Occasionally there are rare, glimmering moments of domestic bliss when all of us are bunkered down in the loungeroom with a book — even the 17mo who likes to identify as many dogs as she can in any given book. The girls emulate the thousands of times they have heard us read to them to facilitate their own reading experiences, usually with quite hilarious digressions. These moments last twenty minutes at the outer limit, but during these times I feel so much love for my family, so much gratitude for my blessings, and not a little smug at my household management abilities. Inevitably these moments will end abruptly and catastrophically in a potty-training incident or something broken, or someone in tears, or all of the above, usually before I’ve even properly enjoyed my smugness.
Motherhood is an incredible blessing.
Having this time at home, watching my children grow, getting to be with them every moment of the day is a blessing not everyone has, and I am daily grateful for it. Even when I’m an emotional wreck, even when it’s hard, even when all I want is for everyone to shut up for five minutes. I know how blessed I am to be given this chance.
Also, I am grateful for the pause in my professional working life that has allowed me to give myself permission to follow my creative desire. And I am especially grateful to my husband for all his love and support. He doesn’t necessary understand the havoc my imaginary world can wreck on my day, but he understands that it is important to me, and has been an unfailing support, and a quiet encourager through the slow journey to creative ownership, even if he often falls asleep when I’m nutting through a plot problem with him at 11:30pm (at least I know the story won’t be spoiled for him when the book comes out).
Above all, the biggest thing that my children have taught me is that I really want to do this. It’s hard. Keeping little people alive day in day out is hard enough, trying to carve time out of that to write a novel is, emotional. But I love it and want it too much to quit, so I will make it work — hopefully without turning completely nuts and damaging my children beyond repair in the process.
Last week we welcomed the newest member of our family into the world. Our first little boy, bringing our clan to a total of 3. Needless to say, he is an adorable little bundle, all snuggles and beautiful new-born smells and cute little pops and squeaks.
Which brings me to a massive thank you I must give.
This blog post is brought to you courtesy of my fabulous mother, who has given up weeks of her time to come and cook, clean, wash, mediate, grandmother and basically take charge while I take time out to get to know our little man and create. She is incredibly untiring and it is so wonderful to have this time with her all to myself (and my children) and I am so grateful for her support. Thanks Mum. You are the absolute best.
The all-important question of balance.
I mentioned back in January that I would pass on any tips I had for achieving an elegant motherhood/creativity balance. I would have to say the biggest lesson I have learnt (and I learnt this the hard way with little cherub number two) is that you have to let go of expectations. If I try to plan my day around a certain word count or to do list, I will inevitably end up stressed off my nut, cranky, exhausted and all without having achieved my target. It’s like the kids can sense when you have an ulterior motive and do their darnedest to interrupt your plans. If I resign myself instead to taking all the stolen moments I can and doing my best with those, my mind (and my heart) are free to devote my attention to the kids with more joy. This is the way that works for me. I tried the other way and it was messy, emotional and detrimental to the entire family.
This way, I can still work towards a goal, but in a more relaxed fashion (and it is surprising how much you achieve with those stolen moments), and, more importantly, I am not missing those precious moments of the childhoods that are all too fleeting.
Where I’m at.
I’ve spent the time granted to me by Mum’s visit beginning the first round of re-writes for my manuscript, I’m excited by the direction the story has taken, and enjoying the improvements! I’ve also been doing some research for my upcoming blog posts. Next week marks 100 years since the beginning of the Russian revolution, and I had planned to write a historical post on Russia, but it evolved into a European history post, with a twist of political musing, something a little different from me. To make sure you don’t miss it, or any of my posts, be sure to subscribe to my blog using the box at the bottom of the page. If you’d like to get in touch between posts, or take a peek into the world of my writing, reading and mothering, then you can find me most days on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Happy autumn everyone (every writer’s favourite month), I’ll see you next week!