Cathy: Can someone please explain how all the time in the world disappears without writing?
[Editor’s note: Shortly after she submitted this post on Monday, Cathy wrote to ask me not to publish it after all. She worried that her post sounded too whiny. I told Cathy that I thought she didn’t sound whiny at all, and that she was covering ground that many of us can relate to. (Me, for one!) At my urging, she agreed to the posting. Thanks, Cathy!]
Right now, I am a stay-at-home mother with a baby who won’t sleep off of me and must have one hand pinching, rubbing, or tweaking my muffin-top under my shirt at virtually all times, not just when she’s nursing. I look around my home, and think I need to do laundry, wash dishes, plan meals better, etc., but feel like I am accomplishing nothing because of little miss clingy or I’m on the chase because she must crawl, cruise, etc in the rare moments she is not attached to me. I know the regulars here are thinking my lack of sleep and how Baby C won’t sleep off of me are becoming like a Zen mantra of complaint: noooo sleeeeep….oooommmm…..noooo sleeeeeep. I’m sorry, but this is what I’m living right now. I have raised two other kids out of this phase and nannied a handful of others when the boys were little, so I know not all babies are this clingy and shallow sleeping. Just mine, apparently.
I must add that while it seems she is preventing me from getting anything done, she is generally a pretty mellow baby who is kicking my keyboard when I’m not giving her my full attention because I’m trying to have a creative life or a somewhat internet based social life. She’s not a screamer, like at times, my eldest could be, or always, like my second was. She’s generally the most pleasant baby I have known. But if I put her down in the port-a-crib, she won’t sleep and fusses for me like I’m breaking her heart. If she’s crawling around when I’m trying to accomplish something, S (by some miracle) is the only person who can pick her up and put her in the port-a-crib, and she’ll entertain herself nicely for enough time to make dinner, as long as she can see me hovering at the stove.
Now I can and do easily and often analyze the part I’m playing in this, such as giving in to her baby demands when I should let her be, put her down, train her to sleep off of me, etc. But then I turn around and don’t remedy it with all the advice I can readily give others. Part of me says, I’m 43, I had no business having this baby at this age, but in having her, I appreciate and want to hold her and have much more patience and appreciation for her than I did when my boys were little and I was 10 and more years younger, working, etc. I think my age difference is very telling about patience and perspective.
However, I’m trying to finish writing a novel. It’s not a very big or complicated one, it’s a children’s novel for goodness sake! A good old friend peeks in on this blog, but doesn’t comment because he’s a guy. He calls periodically with concern. He’ll say things like: are you sure now is the best time for you to be trying to finish the novel — because I remember when my son was that age, and it was impossible to write between lack of sleep and divided attentions. I thank him, tell him, I need to finish it now because I’m that close, and if I can sell it, it may bring some much needed income and assuage my guilt in that department.
Then I think: when S was in part time integrated preschool thru first grade and K was in kindergarten through fourth grade, I was working upwards of three part-time jobs, going through an unpleasant divorce that took forever, and began writing this novel. I was able to write it in the 30-minute snatches between my arrival home from job number one and when S’s bus arrived. I was extremely stressed, had no time, little to no child care, terrible finances, yet I wrote and managed my home by myself. And read The New Yorker within the week, novels and the collected poems of Robert Penn Warren repeatedly. I also journalled a la The Artist’s Way every morning while staving off the boys with the mantra “mommy’s morning pages!” How the heck did I manage all of that and start a relationship with my current husband, too? I seem to recall passing out on him often when we’d rent a movie at the beginning of our relationship. He claims that’s why he fell in love with me: I drooled on his shirt sitting on his couch on our second date.
Now I can barely see the time fly by while I feel like I am incapable of reading a book, doing anything beyond the wash and fold stage of laundry re: housework, yet I am home all the time! I have no brain to maintain a level of writing on a regular basis that I can honestly say: yeah, that sustains from the last part, and I can be proud of it. Is it that in being able to be more present for the baby, at my age, I am also less able to multitask in the ways I needed to at a much more stressful albeit younger time in my life? Or is it merely, I have baby-fied lack of sleep brain and forgot exactly how that taxes the mind from when my boys were also less than ideally sleeping babies?
I also know that I don’t feel like I’m having a heart attack for most of the day, because my stress level is nowhere near what it was then.
Someone please explain. Maybe I’m just having an overly critical moment. I did only write the first not quite 30 pages then, now I’m on page 85, after a four-year hiatus.