Thursday, November 6, 2014

Juggling the roles of writer and mum

I salute any mother who works. It doesn’t matter whether her children are small, medium or large, the monumental juggling act of keeping all the balls of career and family in the air is no simple task.

Eleanor Roosevelt was an extremely skilful working mother, I discovered while writing The President’s Lunch. She raised five children and still had two children at school when she became First Lady in 1933. During this time she wrote books and articles, had her own syndicated radio programme and delivered lectures around the country. She was extraordinary. But she was also extremely privileged and had access to wet nurses, housekeepers, nannies, governors and tutors. Oh, and that school … boarding. The role she played in the raising of her children was relatively small compared to most of the women I come in contact with.
Keeping the balls in the air:
record-breaking performer Lottie Brunn
At best, the greatest luxury any ordinary 21st century woman can afford is child care for their kids during the hours they work. Still, those children need to live in a moderately tidy house, wear clothes bordering on clean, receive a modicum of helpful input with their homework and get fed three meals a day. Accomplishing all of this by the end of the day requires real skill.

I have two children and I work. But I don’t consider myself a working mother. I am a writing mother. As an author I work from home. I’m able to take my kids to school and child care and pick them up in the afternoon, prepare their snacks, take them to swimming lessons and chat to them about their day. I have a fantastic life with a husband who’s eager to leap to my aid. Nevertheless, even my situation does have its pitfalls.

Being an author is a solitary and anti-social profession. On the days when I write I become completely immersed in the world of my novels. I’m carried away from my normal life and, most often, I find it extremely difficult to return. For an hour or two after I stop writing at three o’clock – when the school bell rings – I’m certain I must strike people as being extremely vague, rude even. The transition from that world of my novels to this world of soccer training, nappies and homework is difficult. To go from writing a tense scene that describes a mutiny on board a pirate ship to discussing shin pads while standing on the sidelines at Futsal is surreal to say the least.

When I’ve needed to work on weekends in order to meet a deadline, having two energetic boys and a boisterous Staffy at home is trying. Despite their father being on duty, they seem to think I’m the only person capable of making them a sandwich or finding their soccer ball.
My greatest distractions
Every day demands are hurled from all quarters and, like all women, I try to catch them and deal with them, often simultaneously. By the evening I collapse into bed, amazed I’ve made it through another day without all the balls raining down on my head. I guess being a working or a writing mother is a little like being a circus performer. It’s always colourful, often fun, sometimes overwhelming and requires an extreme amount of daring.

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