In my bio on this site I’ve mentioned that I have four children. They range in age from 8 – 22. The youngest has needed the most support during our remote learning experience. The first few weeks were bumpy, but we’ve established some systems that work. Most of the time. The next in line is eight years older and a sophomore in high school. He is pretty self-sufficient, but because of the quarantine period still only have his driver permit. Then there’s the other two: one just finished her undergraduate degree and the other is wrapping up his senior year of college.
Needless to say, each of them requires different levels of mothering, but all of them require some sort of time and attention. Yes, even the 22-year old. Although, she’s more of a peer than a kid anymore.
Not long before the shut down, I joined a writer’s group in an effort to scratch the novel-writing itch. I tried like hell to write in the evenings, on lunch breaks, first thing in the morning before I started attacking work emails or staying late in the evenings after working hours.
I got distracted or sleepy or someone had an event I needed to run straight to after work. What I found worked was going to – of all places – the pizza shop where my older two kids work. I’d commandeer a table outside during nice weather or the small two-top in the front window (and close to the secret extension cord for the TV to charge my laptop. At one point just before Thanksgiving, I even treated myself to keeping a cabin an extra night and sending the rest of the fam home to their jobs and wifi connections. Those days are gone. Or at least on pause for now.
As six people needing to hang out together under one roof, we’ve all made concessions to our privacy and what is appropriate. All of a sudden, new “rooms” have materialized with a few curtains on tension rods. It’s not soundproof, but we can pretend no one knows we’re on the other side of the curtain. And yet, kids still need attention, usually just as a zoom call for work begins.
I’ve found I have to be very deliberate about getting any writing in. Whether writing for contracts, this blog, or the first draft of my novel. I’ve broken things up into small bites – for example, get one blog and 250 words of novel done today. In my fractured time and attention, sometimes even that is asking too much.
And so I’ve also had to learn to be gentle with myself and quiet that inner critic who asks why can’t I manage to bang out a full novel during this pandemic lockdown, do regular paid work, homeschool a small flock of kids and make some sort of baked good each morning during the little one’s “creative time?”
Because, sometimes, no. I can’t. No one has been neglected and deadlines feel a bit more flux, even now as we pass the six-week mark of quarantine. Some days I write far more than I bartered with myself to. Other days I obstinately pretend my laptop doesn’t even exist.
But I started this year promising to be gentle with myself. I’d no idea how much I would need to account for with that gentleness. It’s okay though. In the words of my favorite band: We will get by. We will survive.