I know that I said that I would keep my writing-related expectations low while I try to get back into the game, but after attending When Words Collide this year, I walked out with a calling that I can't seem to shake.
You see, for all of the inspirational panels available this year, about writing, writing communities, beginning the process, getting through the middle, and the "Now What?" stage of completion, I felt that there was still something lacking. Yes, I was inspired to want to write, but even trying to attend these sessions was near impossible as my husband and I play "pass the toddler".
I know that many other people have this child-care thing all figured out (okay, maybe it just feels like everyone else but us has this child-care thing all figured out). We don't have family here that we can just summon over, and my husband has been very dead-set against trying to hire through a service (he is against a lot of hiring of services), and while we do have the little one in daycare, that does not help with any evening/weekend events. So unless one of our childless friends just so happen to not be having a life for one day, it's been between us coordinating who gets to do something while the other is solo parent. I don't even mean going out, I mean trying to get something done for an hour at home. And the more independent our little one gets, the more mischief he gets into. He is really into dumping things right now, just over-turning drawers, boxes, even full cups or food containers, and then moving on to the next thing to dump. And he's fast. I went to put all of his clothing drawers back in his room and then I hear the lego tub being dumped on the floor downstairs... didn't hear the drawers of the art caddy being overturned so that was a surprise...
Toddler chasing, constant pick-up, and being painfully pregnant where the nausea and tailbone pain has been an everyday reality for these past 8 months, has been exhausting. Honestly, I can't even get half of the things out of the fridge without needing to sit down on the floor to see it/grab it because I physically cannot bend most of the time - and then I get to spend 3 minutes trying to get myself back up... So I would consider this to be one of the contributing factors to my lack of writing lately. And because I have the support group of 1, the one I'm married to, it's also very isolating. So I basically have two mentally draining jobs that are totally isolating activities: parenting and writing. Teaching is less isolating but the mental/emotional exhaustion is pretty brutal too.
Part of the reason that I got so active in the Twitter writing chats was to try to feel attached to a writing community again. I'm awkward enough at social events, add an active toddler into the mix and then I'm just parenting in a new environment, which is twice as much work. And even if the in-person writer gatherings are "child-friendly", the truth is that what they really mean is "child-tolerant, provided that we can easily ignore that there are children present." And I don't blame them for that. I can't get work done with my kid to look out for, so why would I expect other people to. And this is being said from my perspective. I actually get a lot of compliments about how well-behaved my kid is when we drag him out in public. It's me who is hyper-sensitive about it. There is no shutting off my parenting brain, and so there is no point to me joining in these activities when I can't really take part in them. And that is defeating and frustrating because it just leads me to perpetuate the isolation. On top of that, to feel both justified and guilty about it. I chose to have a child, it wasn't something sprung on me, and so the consequence is being 100% mom. And yet the world is filled with advice on how to balance these things with easy little changes: wake up 15 minutes earlier, get the kids to bed 10 minutes earlier, pre-plan your weekly meals. Great, that all sounds really great, but it can be a two-hour battle to get my kid down for sleep. My physically being up earlier has never, NEVER, resulted in my brain being up any earlier. Pre-planning meals might sound great, but there's trying to fit in the grocery shopping, having a bunch of leftovers because little one doesn't feel like eating, and I'm pregnant and will just have no desire to eat something that I ate perfectly fine the day before. My parenting life is an organic experience, intended to be based on a routine that is apparently more like the Pirate's Code than actual rules.
Enjoying my parenting rant?
I am. And this has been what has been on my mind lately. I've even burst into tears over it in the car on the way to When Words Collide because it makes me feel like I am neither qualified to be a writer or a parent, and that I'm mentally deranged for even thinking about doing both. And that's not fair. I know that many people who attended the event have children of varying ages. And I'm sure that attendance could have been doubled (if there were double the tickets) if those parents who didn't feel trapped could actually participate with confidence, be present as a writer and not just a guilty parent.
So this is the source of my new-found calling. There has to be a way to have a writing community for parents. Not a write-in where we all rotate watching one-another's children, because, let's face it, that's pretty much just being 100% parent and 0% writer. I want to be able to write without feeling guilty. And then I had an epiphany. What about organizing write-ins for parents where there is already a child-minding service on-site? I don't know why I haven't thought of it before, especially since I know exactly where to find such a space. The community centre across the street from my house has a public library, a swimming pool, ice rink, large gyms, loads of programming, and rentable meetings rooms. It also has a child-minding service available to people who are using the facilities intended for this very purpose, so that mom and dad don't have to choose between going to the gym, or taking that fitness class, or that art social, or whatever else they need to do.
This is my new goal. I want to look into coordinating with the centre, figuring out child-minding hours and scheduling around various events that they host, to carve out some parent writing time. Obviously I could do this easily on my own by just sitting in the library while my child attends the daycare, but I can't be the only person in our vast writing community who needs this opportunity.
I've got about 5 weeks before #2 comes out. I've got 2.5 months before NaNoWriMo begins. I want to do this. I need to do this.