Writing & mother’s guilt

I don’t know how J.K Rowling did it. How did she possibly dedicate the time to writing Harry Potter as a single mother of young kids? I’m sure I can google the answer somewhere. Maybe she had a great advance that got her a great nanny or she had a great mum or neighbor living next door. Maybe she could survive on two hours of sleep a night.

I think it’s one downfall of having children older in life. I’ve become very selfish, and I’ve had years and years to get used to just pleasing myself! Now I have to please two little people first.

I love Jennifer Crusie. She has a fantastic website for fans but also for fellow authors and people learning to write, but I saw one thing in one of her essays on the site that I didn’t agree with. It went something along the lines of, if your children were younger than 12, then you had them, you were responsible for raising them and writing had to wait.

Why does it have to wait? Can’t I have both?

I try to balance it all as best I can, the kids, my husband, the house and garden, part-time work and my writing. I didn’t think about the order as I wrote those 5 (and friends haven’t figured, or extended family). I put the writing last. If I’m being honest, I rank it with kids as my priority; but I have this little voice inside that says: I can’t sit down to write until… and the list is things like: the kids are dressed and have had breakfast and have brushed their teeth. I’ve vacuumed up the morning’s spilt cereal. The dishwasher is unpacked and repacked. I’ve had breakfast and brushed my teeth too. I’ve checked and responded to any ‘real’ work email.

But if all that’s done – why the hell can’t I write if the kids aren’t killing each other and are playing happily with… whatever (as long as it’s not the powerpoint)? Why do I feel so furtive as I open my laptop and type in the password and think that I should be pulling out the kids’ paints or books or craft glue or football?

This week has been bucketing down here and very cold and we’ve hardly been outside. In other words, it’s been perfect writing weather but not much fun for the kids outside of jigsaws and blocks and drawing and TV. So on Wednesday afternoon when there was a patch of sun (and because I was feeling guilty about the entire revision of Chapter 22 I’d managed to complete that day) I put my eldest on his bike and the youngest in the pram and we all went for a walk.

Coming back on my street, my bike-riding son stopped suddenly in front of the pram – the front pram wheels hit the bike and before I knew it, son number 2 (not strapped in – more guilt) came flying out of the pram and landed on the sidewalk. I think my heart stopped.

I’m so very lucky he wasn’t hurt. And I carried him home, pushing the pram and trying to make sure my big boy didn’t fall off his bike and add to the whole catastrophe.

What made it all worse for me — not for the boys who are too young to care — was that this happened smack-bang outside the school in the middle of the mother-pick-up-kids-from-school time. So there was a line of mums in the cars stretching right up the street, kids waiting for their car, monitoring teacher. The works. Probably all the mums were so focused on picking up their kid, keeping their place in the queue, and thinking about what they would make for dinner, they didn’t even see me peel my not-strapped-in-child off the pavement. I don’t know. I couldn’t look.

What I do know is that I bawled the second I got home, trying to explain to hubby what was wrong and why the youngest was crying and what a terrible mother I was.

I come out of things like that and think – why did I bother? Why not just stay inside, doing what we were doing (i.e. my writing) … why push things like I did? I know that taking my little boy on his bike and the pram all out on the roads while they both need so much concentration, at the same time is pushing my luck. It’s like trying to control two puppies when only one is on the leash.

I did it because I was feeling guilty about the time I’d spent writing that day. And I ended up feeling more guilty than ever because my child got hurt.

The moral of the story? Something like: you can’t wrap your kids in cottonwool Lily, but you can strap them in a pram. And you can write.








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