Deep breath. Cup of coffee. Quick reread. Fingers over keyboard. Type-
“Mommy, can I have a banana?”
It’s the three-year-old. He can reach the bowl where the fruit is stored, but he hasn’t quite managed the art of peeling the banana yet. I get up and grab a banana, ripping through the skin to get him started, and sit back down.
Another swig of coffee. Another deep breath. And go-
The one-year-old has now seen what his older brother has and he’s not amused. He casts his glances between the bowl on the counter that he’s not yet tall enough to reach and me, sitting at the table. I get up again and get a banana; this one, I peel, slice, and put into a bowl.
Sit down. Deep breath. Reread the same section I’ve just read and think about what to write next. Fingers hover and-
“Mommy, can I play on my tablet now? I’ve finished with my reading.”
Seven-year-old. She’s a crazy fast reader and, although she told me that she was reading three chapters of her higher-than-grade-level fiction book (which I thought would buy me a tad more time), she’s done already and lingering by the table. She reads through the paragraph on the screen. “What’s that word mean?” she says, pointing to the name of a demon.
“Nothing, it’s- yes, yes, you can tablet for a little while.” I try to shoo her away without being annoyed. She bounces to her room with a smile.
I exhale a deep breath. I can totally do this. I’ve promised myself that I’m going to try and write 250 words throughout my day. That’s about a page. Surely, I can get that done. I rub my temples, which now are starting to throb to the beat of the catchy tune playing on the Signing Time DVD that I thought would keep my younger two happy for twenty minutes (before the banana eating began). I take the familiar position of a writer at their computer and, for the third time, reread a paragraph that now I’m starting to think I can quote by heart.
“Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?”
It’s my other seven-year-old; while his twin sister was working on reading, he was working on handwriting and spelling. As a child with autism, he tends to be very routine oriented and once his script starts, I know that I should settle in to make the correct responses. I close the computer and vow to try again later.
What I need, what they need
Writing as a mother to young children has its challenges; writing as a homeschooling mother adds a new layer to the work-life balance. While I am secure in the knowledge that home education is the correct choice for our family, I am in a constant battle between what needs to happen and what I need to happen. The heart and mind are willing, but the flesh is weak.
If I had to select a piece of my life that I struggle most with, it isn’t the sleepless nights but rather the writingless days.
While I feel an internal need to write every day, there is a physical need to make sure that my family is fed, has clean laundry, isn’t living in squalor, and that my children are educated according to their strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. The two “needs” don’t compare and, when something has to give, it’s writing that does.
We have tried a variety of methods to combat this as a family. Trying to recreate my non-mothering writing life does nothing but continue to inspire my frustration and yet, it is my fall back.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result, then I am the textbook image of a lunatic.
So, what’s a writing mother of young children to do? Is there any hope of balancing the homeschooling of toddlers and primary aged children with the work and research of writing?
Becoming a mother-writer
Adding children into my writing career has been hard. The needs for my time and attention are multiplied while both are greatly diminished. My writing resume boasts fewer lines post children than it did before and, in some ways, I suppose this can be viewed as a failure. However, as I look at it, I see something else.
We often think that it is we who teach our children, but that misses the mark. Without my children, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Without them, my best writing would have never happened. I never would have written my most recent trilogy, if not for our family’s introduction to the autism spectrum and all the beauty and pain it entails. I wouldn’t have shared a journey through PPD, had I not battled through eight months of hell after my youngest son. These are, quite possibly, my best works; without the hardship of working through the challenges, they never would have happened.
As I write, my children play around me underfoot. It is loud and messy with constant interruptions. The part of my brain that longs for the quiet of a library and a cup of hot coffee is annoyed beyond measure. But the part of me that is evolving into a homeschooling mother-writer looks at the chaos with a smile. My daughter plays with my youngest son, teaching him how to make melodies on a toddler piano. My three-year-old splits his time between reading to his action figures and kissing my belly, telling his baby sister that he can’t wait to meet her. My older son is practicing sign language and singing to me, stopping to use his newfound “excuse me” to show me something new every so often.
Is it ideal for working on the great American novel? Probably not; but it’s still absolutely perfect.
Mia Michele is the author of several romance novels and the speculative romance Hosts and Hellions trilogy. She is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to four kids with one on the way and three that she holds forever in her heart. Under her given name, she serves as a bereavement doula and childbirth educator, via her service organization Mending Heart Bellies (www.mendingheartbellies.com), and has written numerous articles on topics of pregnancy and loss, religion, yoga, and librarianship. Check her out at www.miamichele.com.
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