Sunday, April 26, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Mom Balance

Bear with me as I explain my definition of what I call, “Mom Balance.” Those of you who are mothers will immediately know where I’m going with this.

I’m home today with my twelve year old son. He has a random school holiday that never seems to coincide with my high school daughter’s random school holidays. He only turned twelve a few months ago and I’m still not comfortable with leaving him alone for ten hours straight. My husband and I usually split these types of days. Last week, he spent three grueling days last week at science camp with my son’s entire 6th grade class, so the least I could do was use one of my vacation days to cover this time.

It ended up working in my favor. The last couple of weeks at my day job have been grueling. I even had to put in some overtime. This is rare for me. I’m not a high energy person so logging in more work hours, on top of my already overflowing plate, has left me pretty wiped out. Add the fact that I’ve missed my writing and blogging, and I welcomed this day of no commitments.

So, here I sit in my sweat pants and ponytail, banging away at the keyboard and pouring my creative guts out. I feel awful when I let days like this slip through my fingers. It’s quite easy to do. I could literally meander the entire day away with household chores and catch up on the little “projects” that fall by the wayside.

See, when you’re a mom the definition of “doing nothing” or “a day to yourself” takes on a whole new meaning. Take “doing nothing.” This is virtually impossible unless you spend the day in cave with no cell phone reception. If your cell phone works, someone will call from home wanting to know where something is. “Nothing” usually means that you did the laundry, but you didn’t fold and put it all away. You made dinner, but let the dishes wait till morning; or maybe you bought dinner, but no matter what, by the end of the day your “nothing” adds up to quite a bit.

Now on to “A Day to Yourself.” This usually means that you repeatedly tell your family you need a day to yourself and they profusely apologize, yet still ask for whatever needs your attention. I’m not insulting my family or anyone else’s. On the contrary, my family has been very supportive of my writing endeavors. It just comes with the territory and it is a fact of life and motherhood. It’s a no win situation. If your family went for long periods without needing your attention, moms would feel unnecessary. Ah, what a tangled web we weave.

The trick is to navigate your way through the “Mother Maze.” As my writing becomes a more prominent fixture in my life, I’m becoming keener at steering through the waters. After having several of these “freebie” writing days, I’m starting to learn what works for me and what doesn’t.
1. Start early. I’m not a morning person. It was actually the toughest transition to motherhood for me. I’m a chronic night owl and the later it gets, the more creative I feel. This, unfortunately, is not conducive with motherhood. I once read a 2002 Writer’s Digest interview with author Michael Chabon, where he mentioned his writing schedule being from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. I don’t know that I would last till 4a.m.; maybe 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., but the schedule sounded like heaven to me. However, since I do have a day job and kids that need to be driven to school, that type of schedule is off the table. Give it up, move on and, if you’re graced with a day away from the work grind, put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) as soon as possible. When you’re doing what you want to do, it’s amazing how fast the day can get away from you.

2. Don’t start big household projects. Just because you’re home all day writing does not mean it’s time to tackle a side project. Do not clean out your closet, reorganize your pots and pots or, and I can’t stress this enough, step foot in your child’s room. You can certainly do laundry. Right now I have a load of bedding going. I stripped everyone’s bed down and sprayed Febreze on the pillows. However, save folding, ironing, and remaking the beds until evening when the normal level of chaos returns to your life.

3. Eat. You would think this does not need to be mentioned, but I can’t believe how many times I get so involved in my day that I forget to eat until my stomach is rumbling and I feel awful. Having one kid home is great because they have to eat too. The mom radar won’t let the kid starve. A toasted wheat bagel with cheese and a diet cream soda will definitely get me through the rest of the afternoon.

4. Do not go out more than you have to. The last time I took a day off from work, I ended up not being home at all. I went to be photographed and videotaped for the local newspaper, hustled to obtain a LiveScan for my Notary license (day job related) and then decided to go “pick up a few items” at the store. By the time I was got to my car to load the dog biscuits, laundry detergent and sweat socks I purchased for the family, it was already time to pick the kids up from school! I’m quickly learning that these little “jaunts” add up fast and can suck your whole day away.

5. Be happy with the end result. Regardless of what actually makes it onto the page, pat yourself on the back at the end of the day. My expectations are always extremely out of whack. I could never write as much as I think I will; not to mention that I think I’ll also catch up on all my personal e-mails, clean the whole house and find myself sitting in a luxurious bath by evening. This never happens. It’s been a struggle to be happy with whatever gets accomplished instead of being disappointed that it wasn’t more.

I realize it will be a never ending learning process. Life changes all the time and as soon as you find yourself in a comfort zone, you can be sure things will shake up. So for now, I will strive to find joy in what I’m able to do creatively and work actively towards letting go that which I cannot change. That’s a tall order. I’ve been busting down my personal barriers and I’m sure I can topple this one over too.

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