I once had very good balance.
As a competitive figure skater, I teetered on a 1/4 inch blade, jumping and twirling. The feeling was exhilarating—a pristine, smooth sheet of ice at 6am, my edge hugging deep curves, a satisfying crunch beneath my boots.
Then I became a mom. I had to put skating aside. I was injury-prone and the thought of being laid up with a stress fracture while having to care for a baby seemed terribly selfish. I said I’d go back when she began sleeping through the night and I could skate having felt rested.
I never felt rested. The baby didn’t sleep. For three years. (Of course, now I can’t get her out of bed to go to school in the morning, but I digress.)
Then I had a second daughter. Skating was no longer important to me. I figured I’d go back when my girls were old enough to skate themselves. But my older daughter never showed interest. And then, just when my younger daughter was at a suitable age to take lessons, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The balance center of my brain was scarred, destroyed.
It’s something you never imagine will happen to you. It will happen to someone else, but not you. When it does, you ask yourself “Why?”. But that’s the wrong question to ask, as it assumes there is a reason. There is no reason. It just happens.
As an author, I’m often asked how I balance writing for children and raising them. Heck, it’s even the name of my blog!
Well, I don’t balance them. I can’t. I find it impossible. Balance is a term that no longer exists in my world.
There are laundry piles on my living room floor, school papers littering my kitchen counter, things I have to sign and write checks for. I don’t have any more apples left and I don’t have the energy to go buy them. (This will cause a scene later. My daughters must have their apple slices after school!) I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. There are two holes in my bathroom wall from when I yanked the towel rack out to stop myself from falling. My suitcase—from a December trip—remains unpacked in the corner of my bedroom. I’m writing this blog post unshowered, still in my jammies.
But, I have a new submission going out this week. And I just finished the first draft of a hilarious new picture book story and sent it to my critique partners. Two weeks ago when the idea flashed into my brain, I had to search Amazon to see if anyone else has already done it. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found NOTHING. I have high hopes for this manuscript.
But last month, when my kitchen floor was mopped and my bathroom wall still intact, I hadn’t written a thing. I didn’t have writer’s block per se, but I just didn’t feel like writing. I had all our dinners planned, all the clothes washed, and I attended weekly 4th grade basketball games and YMCA ballet lessons. January I was in full mom mode.
If you ask me how I balance writing and parenthood on a day-to-day basis I will answer that I don’t. I’m no good at it. I struggle. I want to go back to sleep after I drop the girls off at school. And sometimes I do. Then I wonder why 3pm comes around so quickly.
I don’t know if I am supposed to balance work and home so gracefully. I don’t think it’s a natural thing to do. Balance, in my opinion, is overrated. Some days writing takes precedence. Other days, I’m nothing but mom. I volunteer at the school, I bake brownies, I chauffeur around town.
It took me a very long time to not feel guilty about not doing housework or not writing a new manuscript. Both my family and my writing are important to me, of course, but one has to suffer while the other thrives. I can’t do it any other way and I’m tired of trying or apologizing to myself when I’m not as perfect as I want to be.
And that’s another thing—perfection is overrated, too.
So come on over, knock on my door and let’s have a cup of tea and chat about our latest manuscripts. You’ll ignore the crumbs on the floor and the fingerprints on the fridge, right?
After all, it’s in the name of art.