My emergence as a writer and a mother occurred nearly simultaneously—I was suddenly flooded with stories when I was pregnant with my second child, and my oldest was two years old. Writing for me has always involved coping with distractions of the small child variety. Yet, I earned two college degrees and wrote over one thousand pages while mothering two small creatures over nearly a decade, and I like to think I didn’t do a half-bad job at either endeavor—at least so far.
The Toddler Years:
Exhaustion was my biggest foe. And sticky little fingers. My two-year-old once peeled half the keys off my laptop. It turns out you can get a keyboard replaced for about $35—at least you could five years ago in my neighborhood. Luckily the boys went to sleep at 7:00pm. I often wrote outside on my porch in the winter so I wouldn’t accidentally fall asleep.
The Elementary School Years:
I have never had the kind of children who like to play quietly on the floor while I type industriously away at the table. If my kids were awake, they were within 3 feet of me at all times. I did my assigned reading at the beach, playground, or in the playroom. I couldn’t write complete sentences unless they were eating or watching TV. Luckily, they went to school at least most of the year.
The Middle School Years:
The kids are much happier to ignore me now, but they have increased curiosity about what I’m writing. This form of distraction is actually a lot harder for me to write through. Honestly, I underestimated their interest—I assumed my writing would fall under “boring grownup stuff” until my kids were at least 35.
Can I read your memoir?
Can I read the next one?
Parts of it.
What are you working on now?
But why can’t I read it?
I don’t think either of us are ready for you to read about your mother having sex.
I am fine with them reading Girlish when they are adults. I’m completely un-fine, anti-fine and I’ll even go so far as to say dis-fine with them reading it now. It’s not written for children of any sort—not just my own. My kids have agreed not to read Girlish until they are adults, but my eighth grader wants to know my Goodreads score in the same way he tracks his own grades. This is a little scary.
I’ve discussed my second memoir, Mama, Mama, Only Mama with both my boys, seeing as it details my six years as a single mama. They are both pretty excited about being featured in my second book. My twelve-year-old appreciates that I don’t use his real name, so he has plausible deniability. My nine-year-old would like to illustrate it and put his name next to mine on the cover. And get paid. I suspect his idea of what an illustrator gets paid is a lot higher than any publisher’s. Neither of them care about exercising the editorial veto power I offered, though I’ll ask them again when I find a publisher. Knowing that they are likely to read parts of this book, I’ve revised it much more critically. It’s still not a children’s book, but I want to make sure that any affectionate teasing never comes across mockingly.
But this is still a memoir, and it has dating disasters and depression and other things I’m not ready to discuss with my children. I’ve put it on the back-burner while I try to resolve my feelings around it. The mothering is distracting from the writing, but I need to tread carefully here. Words in print live a long time. The internet is forever and oftentimes resentment lasts just as long. Maybe I’ll put it in a drawer until they graduate high school.
Since that is a lot to resolve, I’m writing a novel about sex, gender, and power. Another not-for-children project that we will have to have an uncomfortable discussion about if it ever goes to print.
I’m tempted to write a children’s book just to give them something to show their friends. Maybe then they will lose interest in everything else I do. Until then, I’ll just keep writing as if none of it will never come to print, and see how I feel about it when the time comes.