Hexebart's Well

Writing, Parenting, Careening

Just out of shot: three kids and a harrassed mother.

The title of this post arose from a Facebook discussion I had about balancing writing and parenting. Fellow writer Fiona McMillan said that “balancing” was possibly a bad choice of verb, as it indicated there was some kind of control in place. She’s right. That’s when “careening” came to mind.

The thing about parenting is it’s so unrelenting. Writing is also unrelenting, especially if you have deadlines, which I always do, and especially if your deadlines are very tight, which mine always are. I’ve been single-parenting these school holidays, while trying to write 30 000 words a month. I’ll be frank with you: if I don’t deliver on time, I don’t get paid on time, and so I need to write to feed the children whom I also need to parent.

So I careen, from one task to the other, doing a little here and a little there, arms wheeling wildly, trying to gain purchase with my feet. I am always certain that I am short-changing both tasks. I skim across sentences and dinner-times, I write in bed in the mornings while my children lie on either side of me asking me questions I don’t remember later; I play Lego distractedly while planning out scenes in my imagination. From time to time, when I offer up pre-packaged ravioli, my son (who is very interested in cooking) will say, “You know, we should make our own pasta from scratch”, and I want to laugh hysterically and perhaps even set my own kitchen on fire so that I never ever have to make pasta from scratch. Or ice cream. Or organic wholemeal omega-3 anti-oxidant treats that will make my children into a übermenschen. (Please note: any comment about how “easy” it is to make pasta or ice cream from scratch will be instantly deleted and possibly also set on fire). It got so nuts, that I went on a writing retreat with my kids. That’s right: I took my kids and was writing with one hand and making cheesy toast for morning tea with the other.

Fiona is right. This isn’t balancing anything. This is simply a constant struggle not to fall over. I am two-thirds finished this book. Don’t wish me luck, just wish me the ability to function on fewer hours of sleep.