Thursday, May 15, 2014

Writing and Parenting -- The Challenges!

A minor victory today, as I actually remembered to post! It's a wonderfully sunny spring-like day here in London -- fingers crossed the good weather lasts.

Recently, blogger Allison Wells had a great post on the challenges facing parent-writers. Her thoughts struck a chord with me, so I thought I'd write about my own challenges.

Until I had Baby TR, I have to admit I was one of those people who wondered: What on earth do parents DO all day? Snort. I'd no clue how time-consuming, along with how mentally and physically exhausting, a child could be. Joyous, fun, exciting . . . but also bloody hard. Throw a job into the mix, and it becomes a little difficult.So, in no particular order, here are my challenges:

1. Fatigue. Baby TR is now seventeen months old. He's a very good sleeper at night -- and has been, since about four or five months. But the 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls? That I'm not so keen on. Some mornings he'll sleep in until six or six-thirty, which is absolute bliss. As he gets older, he's napping less, and he's also very active. After a morning of chasing, tickling, running, sliding, etc etc. my forty-year-old body is exhausted! When I put him down for his lunchtime nap, I usually collapse, too. I could write at night -- and at a push, I will -- but I've always been a thousand times more productive in the morning.

2. Carving out space of my own, both mentally and physically. This is easier now that Baby TR is in nursery three mornings a week. But even so, it's hard to clear my mind sometimes and focus on the task at hand. I twitch at every noise, thinking he's in his bedroom waking up -- then I realise he's not even in the flat! I've given up my office, too, so I need to make do with working at the world's most uncomfortable kitchen table, surrounded by Lego, smushed Pla-Doh, and other detritus of the early-morning start.

3. Guilt. I'm constantly wondering if I should be with my child instead of writing. Everyone says these years go so quickly -- and that seems to be true -- but I also need to write to be me. The constant tension between doing everything you can for your child while retaining a sense of self is the theme of my next novel.

4. Ducking in and out of work. I've always liked to work every day to keep the writing flowing. But when plans go awry (Baby TR is ill, doesn't nap, or any multitude of other scenarios), my plans to write often go out the window.

There you have it! My challenges as a writer and parent. I'm incredibly lucky that I have a very supportive husband who helps out when he can. I'd love to hear how others balance both demanding jobs, because wrestling a novel into shape is no easy task, either!

Have a great week, everyone. 

14 comments:

  1. I had my baby in 1973 when the mommy wars were just beginning and women just didn't understand needing a self separate from mommy hood. I am so glad society is at least more understanding of this struggle. Talli all I can say is it sounds as if you are doing a great job of balancing your child's needs with your own. Being flexible. Understanding the dilemma. Your child will not suffer from you not being with it 24/7 if the time you spend with him is loving and fun.

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  2. You are doing an amazing job! Never feel guilty about showing your child how to multi-task, and not waste life. x

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  3. It sounds like, in spite of your frustrations, you're doing a fine job. I remember what it was like when I started out. I had a baby, an unfinished manuscript, and a full-time job. And I was always tired, even though I had my parents there full-time to help!

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  4. It sounds exhausting!
    I don't think you look forty either. Not buying it...

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  5. Yep. Hard. I always think of Margaret Drabble writing in little corners of her flat while her babies slept. Do you ever read her? I wouldn't bother feeling guilty - it doesn't help anything. You know your choices are perfectly good ones and a grumpy thwarted mummy is a bad idea! Keep on keepin' on, gal! loves ya!

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  6. I'm full of awe and admiration Talli - as you have a clear grasp of how precious the time is right now. Frustration and fatigue and guilt is normal. It will get easier I promise and when wee master TR starts school you will have a fixed time frame for your day. Unless of course a TR #2 comes along before then...! #justsayin

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  7. Definitely challenging. I don't have kids myself- that I know of- but it's not if they're making noise that's a concern. It's when they're quiet. That's when you know they're up to something.

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  8. Guilt - get used to it :-) Seriously, I used to suffer terribly from anxiety when my son was little. I'd even have nightmares that it was 9PM and I'd suddenly remember that I'd forgotten to pick my son up from school. That sort of thing. Sigh. But parenthood also provides more fodder for the writer's imagination. You need time for yourself - be sure and take it whenever possible!

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  9. I think it must be easier when you've got multiple babies. Starting off with twins has meant our girls always have someone to play with, and even get annoyed if we interfere too much!

    I find the hardest part is clearing out my own time to work. I've sacrificed lie-ins completely to make things work. The girls get their breakfast at 7, so I get up at 6, every day of the week.

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  10. Hi Talli - I hear you and can imagine how tired it is ...you'll find the balance and I guess as he disappears into longer hours at school that'll give you more time ..

    As you say you need to be with him, and have time for you to write ... good luck and enjoy the warmer weather ... cheers Hilary

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  11. It's not easy to balance it all but it sounds like you're doing awesome! Plus you're getting material for your books :)

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  12. Don't beat yourself up, Talli. Even those with no children worry that their writing is detracting from their day job or the time spent with friends or the housework! I've managed now (just) to get five kids to adulthood, work a day job and write books and the world has yet to fall in or have me fired, so I can only conclude that sometimes good enough is good enough.
    And there would still be guilt if you left baby TR to go to a job outside, even if it was ABSOLUTELY VITAL to pay the bills, so I think you just can't win. Be glad it's something you can do whilst he's around. It's true, they aren't little forever. Thank God.

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  13. I had my 2 kids 16 months apart so I completely get what you're saying. It is equal parts wonderful and exhausting. We only got 4 months maternity leave at the time, so I was back to work quickly too. And this is probably why I didn't start writing until they were much older! Do your best and enjoy life as it comes at you!

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  14. I've actually asked my Mom how she had four of us without losing her mind. She replied that she was busy all of the time and this was probably a coping mechanism. It's cool that your hubby helps out and is supportive!

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Coffee and wine for all!