A friend and writer emailed me the other day to ask how I "keep all of the balls in the air." She thought that I had found a way to balance motherhood, writing, teaching, etc. I couldn't answer her right away because I was too busy teaching then shuttling off to the office for a quick meeting and more work, then coming home to fix dinner, then reading my students' work and responding to it, then reading my students' questions and responding to that, then spending time with my own children, bathing them, tucking them in.
The truth is that I am a mess. Balls in the air? I have balls ricocheting off of everything around me. I don't complain in public but I've decided that that may be a problem.
I don't want my friend to think that I've got it all together, and I never want to be the reason why some young writer thinks that it is easy or ideal or even manageable to publish while having a partner and raising children.
So here is the truth. Sometimes I get frustrated by my busy lifestyle and I take my frustrations out on those closest to me. I can be mean when I want to but it doesn't last for long and I always apologize when I'm done.
Sometimes I let things go, I neglect them. I've recently neglected my house (it's filthy), Ava's hair, and grocery shopping. I am purposely neglecting the "pedestrian shit" as Peter J. Harris once called it.
I could spend hours making perfect cornrows and getting the gunk out of my vents. As buddhafun blogged, a woman is judged by the cleanliness of her house (I'd add that we're also judged by the cleanliness of our kids). But I try not to worry about whether people think I am clean.
Sometimes I ignore my children. Toni Morrison is on record as being against that, but that's how we roll over here. Mommy is writing; find something to do.
I do not have sustained time to write. I am often interrupted in mid-thought to wipe a butt. My weekends are filled with birthday parties, swim lessons, baseball games, and neighborhood kids.
My friend asked how I reconcile a family-centric, Costco lifestyle with the allure of an urban, bohemian writer lifestyle. I don't. I've made choices and I have two young people who are my responsibility. After I am pulled every which way, and I am tired, I sit down to write. It is a struggle but it gets easier as the kids get older. And for me, there's something about having to fight extra hard to get my work out there that makes the small triumphs even sweeter.