Claiming Space

I spent the first 8 days of June preparing our family for a trip to Disney World, days 8-18 IN Disney World, days 19-26 unpacking, reorganizing, and shopping to keep our family fed in two different locations while I was in a third; and days 26-+1 presenting/playing at convention.

Since I returned, I have been in catchup mode. And by “catchup” I mean doing everything for the family that got stuck on the “later” shelf for the last 4+ weeks.

I had visions of blissfully returning to novel writing on July 5th while the kids continued their dad-instituted daily chore list.

But then I saw my 13-year-old’s infected toenail and my 15-year-old’s maladjusted glasses, and I found out I had been exposed to Covid last week, so I had to get a PCR test (negative!), and the kids had piano lessons and dental appointments…

Day One of “normal” summer saw very little housework done, because—gasp—I had the gall to reserve out ONE HOUR of concentrated writing time instead of supervising.

I quit working as a liturgy director in 2004 so I could be a full-time mom. Although I’ve long since relabeled myself as “work-from-home,” I still have hangups about the balance of work and motherhood. I quit all non-essential work at the beginning of June—essential defined as “facing an imminent deadline”—and put all my focus on a successful family vacation and then a successful convention.

So here we are, on the far side.

I don’t know about others, but for me it’s really hard to carve out time for at-home professional work when the kids are around—even when they’re older and (theoretically) self-sufficient. They still have to eat, and when they’re home there are more meals to plan and shop for, and with a celiac in the house I have to supervise lunch prep lest she get cross-contaminated. Since I started drafting this blog post, I’ve been interrupted to pull bread out of the oven and massage a muscle spasm out of a teenager’s back. And yes, they can do chores, but after week 1, most chores require a lot of “what do I do with___?” And if they have to keep interrupting to ask questions, that’s every bit as disruptive as just stopping work to do it myself. Writing is brain work. You can’t just bop in and out of it shallowly. It demands full attention.

All this underscores how much easier it would be to throw in the towel and be a genuine full-time mom. But if I did, I know I would be restless, irritable, and aware at all times of what pieces of myself would atrophy. Motherhood is vocation. But so is writing.

And so I claim space for myself, however small. Even when it’s hard.

No. ESPECIALLY when it’s hard.