Kids, Art, My Heart: Balancing Life as a Working Mom
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Because of my children’s seemingly constant days off from school, I’m writing this behind a locked door. I have music on and earplugs in to make sure my mommy-ears aren’t incessantly piqued by every squabble or squeak of indignation as one child breaches the other’s imagined and fiercely defended personal borders. Those are my headphones! Get your Legos off my bed! Leave my guitar alone! Ad infinitum.
When I had my daughter someone quoted me those words of wisdom about how when you have a baby you give your heart permission to wander around in the body of another, but children split you far less romantically than that. Once you have a child you are no longer your own. If you are to help your children grow into their own good lives, some part of you—an enormous part of you—must be ready to be given away with love, and most of the time.
This comes into conflict with writing. My desire for my children and my desire to write seem to come from a similar place. I feel an almost animal ferocity for both. Writing is as fickle as a newborn, wailing in the middle of the night, demanding attention at all hours. They are both jealous, children and art, waking and howling the minute they sense a shift in your attention, the very moment you thought you had to yourself.
Where was I? Oh right, uninterrupted work time. Sorry about that, I had to take a break to make bacon, admire a dragon-scale bracelet finally conquered on the Rainbow Loom, and help my daughter find her unlimited Metro card from the storm surge of clothing rising in her bedroom.
My days go like this: up early, taking quick notes on any ideas that found me in the night, before beginning the Don’t-make-me-get-up!-breakfast-backpack-out-the-door-to-school routine. After drop-off, a 4-mile run. I stop occasionally to text myself notes for my work. The run is silent time to fall into the dream of my story or poem, to regain the quiet concentration I’ll need back at my desk. Then I’m home to shower, eat, and work for two or three hours before I head out to school again for pickup. It’s a short workday. Sometimes, if I’m lucky and not too tired from homework, sports transport, dinner, bath, and bedtime routine, I’ll sneak into my office again; but more often, mindful of the next day’s early start, never easy for this night owl, I’ll fall into bed before the whole routine begins again.
My kids and my work are both necessary to me and adored. They tug and tear my heart open wider than I ever think it can go. I couldn’t live without my kids, but I don’t know how well I’d do without my writing, either. I know children pass through our lives quickly. I will soon have endless hours in which to work, and then I will miss them, the noisy, cheerful, and wild forests of their lives. For now I’ll keep negotiating, vacuuming between the couch cushions, trading an hour for me here for skateboards or tree-climbing in the park there, and wearing lots and lots of earplugs.