On Writing, Motherhood, and Balance

This essay (of sorts) is going to be flawed and incomplete. I am warning all readers of this in advance, so no one can complain at the end.

I became a mother 9 months ago and because I am a planner I prepared for my daughter’s birth.  Her nursery was already to go, as was my hospital bag, and a month worth of freezer meals. However some of the most important baby items, things I would rely on every day after her birth we had not even bought yet, because I a) did not know about them or b) thought we did not need them. This was one of the many ways I failed to be prepared for her arrival.

Our life was changed completely. Jacob and I knew it would be changed, but we didn’t know how. And we still don’t know how it will change. For example one week June would wake up at six am, nurse and go back to sleep till nine. This gave us a lot of nice morning time. But it only lasted for a week or so. Then her schedule was completely different and we did not even realize it at first. We were shocked that she was up at seven and did not want to go back to bed.

Before June was born I worked with Jacob running a web publishing company. I still do that. I also wrote a poem a day. I still do that too. In fact there are very few things I gave up, in terms of work and art. But I did give up a lot of other things.

I still manage to write over an hour each day. I also still work on the publishing company the same amount I did before. So a reader may jump to one of many conclusions, most which are incorrect.

One of the conclusions several people have jumped to is that my work is not actually work. Another mother, a stay at home mother, told me the other day that I was just like her, because working from home doesn’t count as working. But here is the thing, I spend a solid chunk of time every day doing something that does not involve June or chores. I spend this time working on concrete things that bring in income. If I stopped working that money would not be coming in. I also enjoy my work.

But I didn’t say anything to this stay at home mom, because I think what she doing is important, wonderful, and also a lot of work, work that doesn’t earn her money, but helps her child, keeps her house clean, etc, etc. I was worried that anything I would say would make her feel devalued or misunderstood.

When I mentioned before that I gave up a lot of things, this is what I mean by it. I gave up the sources of my sanity. The little pockets of emptiness in my days that helped me refuel. Casual wandering. Spontaneous dates. Spontaneous anything.

Instead I do more and more things in smaller spaces in time. When before I might spend forty-five minutes cleaning the house, now I do that while taking care of June and handling phone calls. In everything I try to be as efficient as possible. The work I did in eight hours I now complete in four. All night I dream about squeezing more in. I sleep less. I have less time for it.

In order to complete everything that I have to do, I have become harder on myself. Whenever I am only doing one thing, I chastise myself. Every time I sit down to read or even to eat I find myself questioning if I really have to do that.

Recently I started writing a novel. I had an hour break away from June and I found myself writing. Later that same weekend I told a friend about the novel. He laughed at me when I told him about it, he said “So you will finish it 15 years from now?”. In the face of adversity, I tend to double down. It is a month later and I am on page 65.

The novel might seem like I am ripping a hole in a ship during a storm (which is something that happens in the book), but instead of adding to the insanity, it is helping with it. It gave me something that is mine, and only mine. Something that I have not had since June’s birth.

I don’t think there is any perfect way to be a mother. If I gave up work I would be around more for June, which would be great, but I would become a different person. Maybe that person would be  a better mother for June, but probably not. Because of my work schedule I only regularly don’t take care of June for 16 hours a week. That still leaves a lot of June time.

Still I am very aware of how lucky I am. When I go to work, it is a studio in our backyard. Janice, the person who takes care of June in my absence is a wonderful friend who loves June . Even though we live hours and states or countries away from most of our biological families we are part of a vibrant and caring community, but even with all that the last nine months have been hard.

This is most likely something that will take me my whole life to figure out, and I am sure that once June is old enough to say complete sentences she will want to weigh in on it, but I know no matter what she says, or anyone else I am trying, and I am figuring things out. That each day she becomes less of a baby and more of a child, one that loves me already, even if she is still just figuring out how to kiss.


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