In the 5 minutes it took me to write 300 words my 3 year old son had found a way to get all the water out of the toilet and onto the bathroom floor without making a sound. Did I mention there where wet bits of toilet paper covering his dark spiky hair? How did that happen, you ask. Well, let me start by saying that if you are a parent who spends any time with your own child you know exactly how it happened.
I had just started his favorite movie as per his insistence. He sat in the miniature rocking chair to watch. I sat down at the kitchen table with him in eyesight to start writing a little. I kept an ear out for the movie. I turned my head and he slipped past me. I wrote for a bit, but as the mommy radar goes off periodically (mine being about every 2-5 minutes) I looked over to see him gone. I called and he came running out of the bathroom naked and wet with toilet paper in his hair. The ensuing investigation revealed his mischievous deed. I ended up cleaning while he was plopped in the shower. And that is just a typical moment in my days as a writing mommy.
My kids provide me with plenty of laughs, headaches, and things to write about. The problem is that I don’t want to spend my time writing about them all the time, nor do I want to spend every moment cleaning after them. There are actually other ideas in my head that demand to be written about. Some are just musings on life, but I actually have manuscripts of fiction I’m working on–slowly. I have other writing projects, blogs, and jobs. That means I’m all over the place, and not everything I touch results in a byline.
I only have two kids, one in school, but I know some writing mommies with multiples. Those women are truly amazing, but even in my amazement I wonder how they cope with those bouts of overwhelming chaos that lead to the temporary insanity that punctuates motherhood. I mean sometimes I feel like I’m going to lose it, like when incidents like the one I mentioned above happen. It’s pretty to think that a good mother would never allow anything like that to happen, but we ALL have our stories. Kids act in less time than it takes us to blink.
Once when I was 2 years old I managed to catch on fire while my mom went to the bathroom to pee with the bathroom door open. In that two minutes I brushed up against a heater and my winter coat lacking the proper flame retardation caught on fire. My mother beat the flames out with her hands. She is one of the most vigilant women I know who just took a two minute pee break before taking her daughter out to the park.
Sometimes I can’t do anything, but keep after my kids. My mind becomes cluttered with all the things I have to keep in it because I don’t have time to write. I literally feel my sanity slipping away, and become extremely anxious and agitated. I need to write. It is a compulsion, an escape, and my therapy. Not everything I write can or should be shared, but I find that when I go too long without doing it my ability to cope is stressed beyond belief. Unfortunately, being first and for most a mother, the writing must be put on hold.
I write when I can, in little tidbits and snatches. Post-Its are like little flares to signal that I may be lost in the jumble of my thoughts, but I know how to find myself in the chaos. The bathroom floor can be cleaned, and thanks to the liberal use of Clorox the likely hood of E coli is fairly low for my son. One day there will be time to write without interruption. Until then, this is how I work.
*Photo: My actual hallway/kids’ bathroom.