Writing Motherhood Insanity
I’m a writer. I’m a mother. Recently, I attended a reading by a woman whose bestselling book I really enjoyed, and I admired (still admire!) her greatly. The heart-eyes emoji? That’s me. But I misheard her when she was giving her talk, and thought she mentioned having a young child. My jaw almost dropped. How could this incredible author have written something so staggeringly wonderful while also parenting? I was shocked. For the rest of her talk, in my back of my mind, I kept wondering, ‘How?’
Of course, I figured out how when it came time to briefly talk at the book-signing table. She burst out laughing when she thought I thought she had a kid. “How do you do it?” I asked, in awe. She blinked. Oh no, she told me. Definitely not! She definitely didn’t think she could do this kind of work with a child, though all the power in the world to the women who could.
And I relaxed.
Because writing with a child is intensely difficult, and knowing that this incredible woman thought she couldn’t do it made me feel so much better about my own small struggles. Carving out the time to work on my novel, sometimes asking my partner to shoulder more than his fair share of parenting in order to get the time to delve into my work, and advocating for my time to write is all an intricate part of my writing process. It has to be. Writing time doesn’t come easily, it’s hard-won and I have to use every drop of it to the fullest extent. That time isn’t on the calendar if I don’t put it there.
There are things I sacrifice on the altar of writing: social time, watching shows everyone else is watching, the normal stuff every writer mentions as things that get abandoned sometimes. But there are other things I sacrifice too, or (much harder) ask others to sacrifice too: time, helping hands, more time. My husband sacrifices free time for me to have mine, or he sacrifices duo-parenting for part of the day in favor of going solo so I can write. And that can make a person like me feel incredibly guilty. “What if my writing isn’t worth this?” I’ve thought before. “What if I’m just hiding out in the corner of this coffeeshop for nothing, and I’m never going to be the Real Writer I want to be?”
Maybe I will, and maybe I won’t. But knowing that my struggle isn’t a mirage is helpful. Knowing that writing while being a parent is a dance of scheduling and carving out time makes me feel like if nothing else, I will have put forth the effort needed to try. Finding a way to write, sacrificing other things for the sake of it is so worth it, when I can. Because writing with a toddler underfoot just doesn’t make for good work. I have it on good authority now that even the greats don’t always think they could do it.
It may be a dance of insanity to make it work, but I forge on. Because I can do this. We can do this. And also…if we can’t, if you can’t, if it’s too hard, if it’s too exhausting, it’s okay. Because the struggle is real. So whether you continue to tap out the words while juggling pickups and dropoffs and missed naps and requests for Raffi when you dream of silence, or whether you decide writing isn’t something you can manage right now, know this: you’re not imagining it and it doesn’t make you a whiner to admit it’s tough right now. It’s hard, and that writer guy in your feed with no kids and all the time in the world to write is (yes) absolutely wealthier in time and resources than he knows, and you are absolutely right to sometimes wish for that kind of writing life too. As I was literally writing this piece, I was asked if I was escaping the heat by being in this coffeeshop with my laptop. “Trying to get some writing done,” I replied tersely to the guy who asked. ‘Trying to escape loud noises,’ I wanted to add as he continued to be an abnormally loud person in a coffeeshop.
As I wrote this piece, I kind of hated him.
In that moment, I wished I didn’t have to escape to public places to try and find peace only to be confronted with other people who–like toddlers–haven’t mastered the art of public peace and quiet. But utter silence and quiet time to contemplate is not my writing life reality, or yours. So we do what we can, with what we have, and try to make it shine.
I put on my headphones. I tuned him out, like a pro. If there’s one thing motherhood has made me better at in my writing life, it’s how to turn up the volume.