Childhood is both fleeting and precious. I know this. And should I ever forget it, there are plenty of well-meaning strangers ready to remind me. “Enjoy it while you can, Mama,” they coo as my kids dance around the grocery cart and beg for sugary treats. “They’ll be in college before you know it.”
But hey, no pressure.
It’s these sort of everyday incidents that fill me with anxiety. Generally speaking, I can’t just get annoyed at my kids and then get over it. There’s a lengthy intermediate stage in which I loathe myself for even feeling annoyed in the first place. It’s tiring, to say the least.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to wake up years from now and think, “Wow, I really squandered those stay-at-home-mom years. If only I hadn’t been so preoccupied and sarcastic and neglectful.” But on the flipside, I’d also hate to be thinking, “Perhaps I could have enjoyed parenting more if I hadn’t been endlessly hovering over the kids while totally neglecting myself.”
That’s all well and good, Kate, you may be thinking. But what does it have to do with NaNoWriMo?
Well, I signed up this year in part to tackle my self-sabotaging tendencies, especially as they relate to my kids. Chief among them is the stifling either/or thinking that author Julia Cameron identifies in her book The Artist’s Way. Cameron posits that creative people perpetuate their blocks by internalizing our culture’s cruel false dichotomies. Example? Lately, my favorite poison seems to be “I can be a good mother or a successful writer, but I can’t do both.”
My inner embittered martyr whispers this so constantly that I’ve ceased to even be conscious of the damaging belief. It’s just there. NaNoWriMo is my attempt to transform the either/or thinking to positive also/and self-talk. Namely, “It is perfectly possible to be a good mother and also a productive writer. In fact, by writing regularly I am taking care of myself and thus better equipped to take care of others.”
That said, the kids remain my top priority. I won’t even be able to do NaNoWriMo, let alone feel good about it, if I’m constantly making parenting choices that fill me with guilt. This is especially true because (even more than reaching 50,000 words) I’m hoping to establish some long-term writing habits. Those habits have to exist in harmony with my larger life goals.
So in addition to the usual attempts to squeeze in writing time, I’ll also be looking to implement bonding breaks. I’m hoping by the end of week one to have some practical feedback on how to accomplish both!
In the mean time, good luck to all my fellow NaNo participants!