Friday, May 27, 2011

I Don't Know How She Does It

I never thought* that I'd be a mother desperately, guiltily, secretively, passionately and unsurely trying to navigate the world of career and child. Nineteen and twenty through my pregnancy and birth with Dakota, I quickly and immediately knew that I would never* be able to leave him or any baby of mine to go to work full-time, and the jobs I held bringing him with me- nanny, gym daycare- along with the schooling I kept up nights (thanks Mom) wasn't a path leading toward high power career woman. In fact, due to a mammoth insecurity and struggle with math, I have yet to finish my AA degree. ( Two classes! Two! Jesus! )Years, babies, went by like this: low paying jobs as lover of children where I could bring my own. I was able to stay at home for a year with Dakota (thanks Mom) and almost three with Lola (thanks Mr. Curry) and Ian was at home with either his mom or Mr. Curry his first few years as well- Mr. Curry remember we are talking about a 23 year old man at the time took a night job as a security guard so that he could be at home with two year old Ian during the day.

And now, Ever. And now, writing. And now, I'm thirty-six years old and finally believe I can make a living doing what I love have loved since five years old I wrote my first play called the Sun and Moon about how the Moon was jealous of the Sun and am best at, writing. Meanwhile, I still have to work full time. Ah.

The movie with SJP coming out soon is based on the novel I Don't Know How She Does It
I read (and really enjoyed) years ago. Unlike the protagonist of this modern working mommy dilemma, (who has a full time nanny) I don't believe anyone would look at me and ask themselves that question, because I believe in fact it's obvious how I do 'it'. Let us count the ways:
1 My house is a mess. A rotating disaster of a mess, but still. We get all the dishes done and kitchen cleaned and this still leaves the four loads of laundry all over the living room and dog hair balls all over the floor. We scrub the bathroom and there are cups and dishes growing small new colonies of microscopic dopplegangers who cry Don't Eat Me! Digression...
3 My children have parents who scramble to find that field trip form we signed and turn it in late. We give last minute or late gifts for things like Teacher Appreciation or Pizza Party For Dying Ducks. We don't do many field trips. We have been late to school approximately two hundred billion times since EE was born. Dakota is the one suffered most from this. His first period teacher hates me I'm sure.
4 Our fourth child, the inimitable EE, goes to work every day with myself leading to sickness and illness including her current pitiable state, and is now what Mr. Curry calls a 'daycare baby' meaning a baby with a chronically snotty face and slightly under the weather visage.
5 My writing output has slowed.
6 My children criticize my parenting. Mom, a bar and apple is NOT breakfast. Mom, why can't you stop writing for TWO SECONDS and come here, I want to show you xyz ! They are politely supportive when I tell them I just got accepted in an EBook publication (more on that later) or that a poem of mine is going to be published or that I have an idea for a column I'm fleshing out, but really? They'd rather have their eggs sunny side up, please, and a mother available daily for art sessions when the child feels like it, thank you much, and not when the schedule allows. Dakota tells me how TOTALLY AWESOME his friend's mom is who makes them a huge dinner when Dakota spends the night and then teaches them how to make a dessert he's never had. And I feel sad, because you know what? I'd like to be that mom. I have been! I love spending time with my son and his friends.

But you can't have it all.

There aren't enough hours in the day came about for a reason- this phrase was clearly invented by a working mother devoted to her children and the necessity of not only following her passion but making a damn living who cannot afford a nanny or a maid.

I have to push, push push and work hard, work very hard right now to break through and make money writing. I have a line up of projects I'm working on and this year began seeing results from the work of the last few years, largely on this blog and the people I've met and the offers I've been given. I read an essay in a magazine recently, maybe Vanity Fair, where a well seasoned journalist said in all the years interviewing powerful women, only ONE was willing to say that she had great desire for success and had worked hungrily to achieve. If you listened to 99% of these women, success just accidentally came about while they were happily skipping round doing what they love and oops! look at that, a Grammy fell in my lap, or wow! what do you know someone just gave me a publishing contract. The one who would admit it was Catherine zeta Jones, by the way, who said she was proud of her husband's Oscar but while proud, it wasn't HERS, and she wanted her own!

Me too. I want my own. I want all the countless hours and days I have spent writing- largely entirely unread material- since I was five to begin to pay off, I want my dreams to come true, I want to write for a living and I want to make money.

I also want to be a wonderful mother.

Maybe I can do both those, but I know that for at least right now, I cannot do both of those AND have a beautiful home with a tidy front yard and remember everything on the calendar and call my friends back and get enough sleep and get the point. I was telling Mr. Curry the other day that I have finally realized when people say 'you can't do it all' they don't mean it. What they mean is 'you can't do it all but you better do the parts I think are important'. When Lola's teacher nods in solidarity during speeches by successful women with children talking about the sacrifices, do you think she remembers that the next day when I can't bring brownies?

I know in one way the circumstances I'm talking about are very specific to having a baby vs. a child or even children. Babies are all consuming, and a breastfeeding co-sleeping teething keepsgettingsick baby even more so. When I'm not the walking dead all the time, balance will be easier, the see saw not so tilted.

For now the guilt is an ever present cloud. I have something to compare this to- I know what it's like not to have to work full time with a new baby, and God is it WAY BETTER IN EVERY WAY.
Meanwhile I'm not the best mother I've ever been. I'm exhausted, a bit snippy, I fall asleep during story time, I am writing when the fairy garden needs to be maintained and I am writing when Mr. Curry is making dinner and I am writing when the living room is covered in clothes and toys and stuffs. I am trying SO HARD. I snuggle, I play when I can drag my ass ( I love that line in the spectacularly bad J-Lo movie where she has had a baby and is looking at a picture of her old self from behind: The old ass is like the new ass, but way hotter!) I give my husband quickie a la carte orders, I talk about their days, but man. It's hard out there for a G.

When Lola tells me I'm the best mommy ever, I look at her veeeery suspiciously. But so far, she still looks like she means it.

*the amount of life experiences I could head with that phrase is staggering

*so far...
Ms. Moon said...

Keep being honest. That is your gift to this world. I love you...M

Ramona Quimby said...

Oh Maggie, although I only have one little bird, I've been working full time since Jonah was 3 months old, out of necessity. And trying to write, and trying to sing and trying to shovel out my house (the only good part of having my wisdom teeth out last week? My mother came and cleaned my house from top to bottom. No more weird growth(s) in the fridge! etc). The guilt I felt when Jonah was an infant, leaving him at daycare and going off to teach (although I also needed, desperately, that 'adult' time) was crushing. Older colleagues would tell me they "made the choice to stay home" when their kids were young because they "didn't want someone else to raise THEIR kids." As if I--you--had much of a choice. And you know what? Despite it all, despite Jonah's RSV at 6 months, despite the chronically runny nose through his babyhood, despite being at daycare 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, sometimes more, and even despite having a douchey father, he's okay. He's more than okay. EE and D and L and I are going to be okay too--their mama is a Mama AND a person, and wouldn't you want your kids to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be, just as you are committing, really committing, to yours? Lola isn't lying. She means it. You love those kids enormously and you are a beautiful writer.

red-handed said...

work work work
this is the only answer
(so you better enjoy the work)

red-handed said...

work work work
this is the only answer
(so you better enjoy the work)

Lone Star Ma said...

I've always had to work and also am a writer and yeah - sucks a lot. I think it's cool that you think you may be able to make a living writing someday - I know I never will but I still have to DO IT. I loved that book, by the way - didn't know it was going to be a movie - cool.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Oh, is impossible.

The good news is that we totally don't have to be perfect (except that's how we punish ourselves).


Petit fleur said...

You are a wonderful mother.

There is no perfect... and people I know that strive for it are boring and usually only "appear" perfect.

Just keep on truckin'. You're alright.

Elizabeth said...

I'm reminded of an interview I heard years ago of the writer Carol Shields who basically raised four or five children, and when the last one went to kindergarten, she had her first book published and she was over forty. I remember that Terri Gross asked her if she resented having her children preoccupy her enough that she couldn't get her writing, her art done, and Shields laughed the most wonderful laugh and said that she adored raising her children and it was the loveliest time of her life. She went on to write many books, one that won a Pulitzer. I think you would be really inspired by that interview, Maggie -- I'm going to try to find the link and send it to you.

Elizabeth said...

Here it is, and it's exactly as I remembered it!

NodToStyle said...

i want success!! i work for it so damn hard. I want success for you, too!!! push push push. your children know.

The Beckster said...

It makes the rest of us feel so much better knowing we are not the only ones HAVING THOSE EXACT SAME THOUGHTS. Everyone told me that my son's first day of daycare (he was 4 months old) would be so devastating and that I would cry dropping him off. But. I didn't. I felt relieved the moment I arrived back to work. Work is like my second skin, my identity, and I was overjoyed to have it back after 4 long months of sitting on a couch with a baby attached to my boob. That's just my honesty talking! I always say "I love my son more than anything, but I hate the side effects..."

Your writing is helping other moms out there (like me!) so thank you and don't stop!!

Lora said...

you are doing a wonderful job. Times get tough, and with four children and a marriage and a job and a project and a home and and and, times probably seem tough more often than not. If you weren't struggling, you wouldn't be doing a good job. A great job.

Doing the right thing in the right way is usually much more difficult than taking short cuts (um, fruit and bars are our breakfast of choice here, and the mildew that grows in the bathroom is more glorious than any of my other houseplants so I think that's just par for any mom's course) but it pays off in so many ways. Ways that you are already seeing with the older kids and when Ever blossoms out of her babyhood, you'll see how every second of this time was absolutely worth it.

I love you. You're amazing.

Also, I'm taking a trauma course which stresses the importance of early childhood and attachment-style parenting is proving to be the absolute best preventative to shielding a person from trauma and I think of you and your family all the time.
One of the things we are taught that we are supposed to take out into the field and teach is that you can be a Attachment Parent even if you work 40 hours a week apart from your child. It's the love and touch and support you give them while you are together that counts.

Thank you for being my benchmark attachment mommy.

Anonymous said...

love you!!
the best for you!!!!!
i keep trying hard too...
you are wonderful, Maggie!!

Maggie May said...

Sara thank you so much for sharing your writing/working/kids struggle! Hearing other moms is the shiz. Ever comes to work with me- I teach preschool in the infant room- but it's the at home hours that I was referring to, because I have such little time at home and I am spending so mmuch of it writing.

Elizabeth I have read a few of CS books, I have one on my fireplace actually! I couldn't do that... even before I was writing at this frenzied pace I was writing a LOT, and without it I am not a pleasant person- I am not ME. Maybe CS had a husband making a lot of money so she could wait for her reaching, but mine is out of necessity (mother of invention) as well as passion. I'm going to read that link now!

NOd right on!!!

Beckster thank you for sharing your work/momma experience. I am so grateful for having blogworld out there to connect with other moms about the stuff we all go through in it's different forms.

Lora- I love that you told me about that research, and I'd love to write an essay around that idea, that is FASCINATING to me and don't you think could explain some things about why people in other cultures where AP is what everyone does, survive very traumatic events with themselves intact. Thank you for being the passionate and dedicated human being that you are, at home and at your job. Someday we HAVE to meet....

Bridget said...

beautifull written, maggie!

all we can do is try our best right (and at times, maybe just less than our best?) but luckily kids are forgiving right?! i need it, that's for sure!

hayley said...

Hey maggie, I write and am also full time mom to 2 kids. Particularly, when they're so little, you struggle to find that time. I'm pretty sure I dreamt that my older one slept all the time and played on his own while mommy wrote and wrote, but how can that be true?? I think I just didn't sleep! And I ignored everyone else! But I was younger. 5 years makes a difference.

Also, when I was feeling guilt about going back to work with my little one (and when you're a freelance writer like I am, a lot of it is sending out pitches, as you know), I'd cry to my mother-"I can't get a sitter if I'm not making money." My mother said "How are you going to get more work if you don't get a sitter?" Your kids will love and respect you for being passionate about your career. And once Ever turns five... you'll forget how hard it was. Right?

Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

oh, baby do I get this one. Since having kids I've been a working grad student, a stay-at-home mom, a part-time job working mom, and full-time. And in it all, I just want to write. And be the mother I want to be. I have more to say on this, would love to have the conversation in person of course, but there is someone tugging at my arm and I want to share this link that I read just earlier today: Partially related, still inspirational and maybe even (for me at least) a bit motivational.

xoxo I mean it.

dear olive said...

I don't believe that anyone ever finds that balance between being there for their kids, keeping their sanity and working, for financial or personal reasons. I truly didn't have enough respect for the plight of the working Mum until I became one myself! It's comforting to hear that other people have messy homes too. Kellie xx

Caroline said...

I like what you said about success sort of just falling in some people's laps. It makes sense as to why some (sorry to say) talentless people become gabillionaires and then other uber-talented people have to work their asses off just to make ends meet!
But I do believe hard work pays off, Maggie. I do, I do. And I know all of yours will.

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