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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood and career’

Hi there, my long-time-not-seen blog people!

I honestly didn’t intend to take a slightly-more-than-a-year-long break from this here old blog, but then in the middle of March last year, this happened:

 

Well hello there!

My life, and that of the family, got considerably more complicated. Worth it, oh yes, but even less easy and simple than it had been before. Here is Mr Baby Dude today, for contrast:

Ladies…

It is now, slowly, gradually, painfully, becoming possible to have a life that involves more than Keep the Tiny Human Alive, and I am dipping my toes back into writing and arting and gardening and all the delightful activities that keep me slightly less insane. The revision of Steel Butterfly is once more stumbling along, and I have art projects that have been back-burnered for way too long being front-burnered once again. So who knows? I may even start updating here once in awhile, too.

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This Thanksgiving past, I did something I have never done before, something I didn’t think possible.  I wrote in a room full of people.

Not just a blog post or a Facebook status, but actual semi-coherent words of fiction, a scene appearing in a s.f. retelling of Rapunzel, co-written with my longtime friend and fellow scribbler Joanne Renaud.  (I’ll let you know when and where you can read the story as soon as more details become available.)  So there I was, in the living room at my grandma’s house, surrounded by family talk-talk-talking away, and I sat at the coffee table with my laptop and formed thoughts and words and images out of the ether (but not the Aether, because if I had that I would probably not be writing science fiction), or the raw material of creation, whichever you will.

Not this Aether

Not this Aether

Jane Austen famously wrote her classic novels in the sitting room, laboring away while the busy family chattered around her, and because of her industry we have Emma and Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion and Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility.  Six novels of pure genius.  Virginia Woolf famously wondered what else Jane Austen might have achieved, if she had been less constrained by her circumstances.

I can’t speak for Jane Austen; maybe she had powers of concentration and focus that I lack.  It took me all afternoon to write an 800-word scene.  Some of my slowness came from not knowing what exactly needed to happen until I was writing it, which can lead to a lot of “Hmmmtypey typey typey … ponder … delete.”  (And in those cases it really is often better to get up and go do something else, washing dishes or folding laundry or just taking a walk, something to shake the appropriate neurons loose and get them working again.  But then again, other times stubbornly plugging away can also work.)  But even when one is focusing one’s best, trying to think of the words you need is hard when snatches of relatives’ conversation keeps catching your ear.

Still, I did it.  I finished the scene, and I emailed it to my writing partner so that she could do the next bit, and I felt triumphant and smug.  Take that, Virginia Woolf! I thought.  It can be done!

Yes it can.  But it adds an extra dimension of challenge to a process that is already challenging.  And I wouldn’t recommend trying it with a noisy toddler: the advantage of the chatty family is that they chatter around you, leaving you in an isolated little bubble–not of silence, but of separate-ness, giving you the space to concentrate.  The toddler is 1000% guaranteed not to do that.

So, pace Jane Austen, unparalleled quiet genius, I think I’ll take that isolated room after all.

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Ironically, in light of my previous, I just got a ton of work dumped on my head, and am swamped.  It is exciting and in one case slightly hilarious work, but still.

I would like to thank everyone who liked or commented the mommyhood rant; I had no idea my dashed-off scribblings would generate such a reaction.  People had lovely, kind, and helpful comments, so that was a great comfort.

I feel certain I had some follow-up things I would have liked to add, but  The Kiddo is telling me all about the curry he is going to eat for dinner, and wanting all his toys to do voices talking about curry, and now it is dinnertime, and I must away.

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fb_convo

Yes, the default language on my FB is Pirate. It looks weird to me any other way.

I want to talk about something actually serious today, and I’m going to try to be calm and respectful about it, even though my initial reaction was, “Screw you, Commenter Number 3!”  Except the word wasn’t screw, if you get my meaning.

My two-and-a-third-year-old is sleeping as I type this.  I have lots of other things to do: phone calls to make, bills to pay, maybe grabbing a shower, and then if there’s any time and energy leftover, actually writing or arting.  Odds are good, he’ll sleep just long enough for me to type something, maybe get a shower, and then wake up while I’m towelling off my hair.  Then he’ll be awake again, and he’ll need a snack, and he’ll need to be kept from throwing things at the cats, and he’ll need, and he’ll need, and he’ll need….

I understand that motherhood is a blessing (to quote a friend, “it’s a fact I have memorized”), and that good parenting is important, and that family is important, and good relationships are important, and so on and so forth.  The problem I have with commenters 1 and 3 above (I’m commenter number 2, and I never get enough sleep) is that they are (deliberately or not; I’m sure they’re very nice people) poo-pooing with platitudes a very real problem.

Maybe I’m a terrible mother.  (Most days, I’m convinced of it.)  But sacrificing my personal goals and ambitions on the “altar of self” (or rather, the altar of catering to a tiny selfish person’s every need) doesn’t make me feel saintly; it makes me frustrated and pissed.  I legitimately have goals for my life beyond my progeny, goals for my art, and it is ridiculous a.) to say that once you’re a mommy that’s all you are and can ever be, world without end amen and b.) to make me feel like crap for wanting to be a person, whole and entire, and not just mommy.

My friend asked a real question.  She did it with a smiley face, because she is a wonderful, sweet, kind, smiley person.  But the question–HOW?!–is legit, and deserves a legitimate response, not some Pollyanna bullshit.  (Sorry, I said I was going to stay calm about this, and it’s not happening.)  This is the short end of the stick, and you’re gonna like it anyway, helps no one.  Plus, you are not doing your children any favors by sacrificing everything up to and including the things that help to fulfill your soul.  Unless you genuinely are a saint (I’m not, God knows), it will only make you bitter, frustrated, angry and resentful.  I am speaking from personal experience here.

So let’s engage this question:  How does one pursue a career (in art or anything) while raising children?  Does one pursue a career while raising children?  Or is one S.O.L.?

If one is not S.O.L., how does one manage?  What if daycare or hiring a nanny are not options?  (They aren’t for me, and many others I know.)  There’s only so long one can go short on sleep–and only so long going short on sleep is effective.  After a while, you’re too tired at night to work, and too tired during the day to deal with the demands of motherhood.

I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer, and I wish I did.  I’d apply it to my own life and share it with all my friends.  I just know, I’m tired all the time (and prickly too!), and I find it insulting to the genuine pain and frustration of the would-be working-artist-mother to say, “Buck up, you!  Children are more important than your selfish ambitions, anyway!”

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