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Archive for February, 2005

Over the last week or so I’ve been mulling new posts, all of which were variations on a theme of “Leave me alone.” (By the way, to those who asked whether I had ever asked for alone time, the answer is yes. Multiple times. Including this past week, school vacation. However, once again, Being a Family won out. I guess I have no one but myself to blame, despite knowing that other writer-wives/mothers don’t have to ask for time.)

Anyway, I always feel the lack of time more acutely when paid work interferes with my ability to work on my novel (early morning) and exercise (late evening). This has been too frequent over the last month. I figured it was a worthy tradeoff: work a lot, get paid a lot.

All that changed this weekend. I’ve been expecting paychecks for weeks. One for an article that got published in January. The other for PR work. I reasoned that they’d have to get here soon, because otherwise we’d be late on bills. But on Saturday, when they still hadn’t arrived, I had enough.

No longer am I going to break my back for other people. I will bend it, sure, like I always do, because if I put myself first in all senses of the term, no one will want to work with me anymore. But there will be no more giving up of fiction time to edit a few paragraphs of an article I won’t get done on time anyway. No more giving up an afternoon swim or workout, either. I can’t put stock in the idea that my novel will sell, but it is the one thing I am doing for myself, and dammit, it deserves equal playing time.

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Leave me alone

Please. Just… leave me alone.

Hell Week descended on our house with two more molars erupting at once, and a flu-y husband taking the last three days off. Translation: a not-sleeping 19-month-old and no one to help me watch him.

We did have Grandma over one of the days. All that meant was I tried to filter interview notes through a haze of screeches and yells. Because flu-y husband was upstairs sleeping, we tried to keep the boy downstairs. I felt it was the lesser of two evils for my work to be disturbed.

Still, I’m in a frame of mind right now that says even when Grandma comes on the days the boy will sleep, it doesn’t matter. When I’m alone during the day, I only work during naptime. And when Grandma is here, I only work during awake-time. Naptime is socialization time. I figure I’m not paying her to babysit, and she likes to talk. It’s the least I can do, right?

I know I need to stand up for myself and ask her please to let me work. And it’s only hard right now because the weather is horrible and she can’t take him outside for any length of time. And because I’ve had no break in days, my perspective is a bit skewed.

But you know… just once… I’d love not to have to stand up for myself. I’d love for someone to tell me they’re taking the boy off my hands for the whole day. Like out of the house. Oh heck, even just half a day. Four hours would be better than the two that normally constitute his naptime. I do not understand how people who know me well enough to buy the right gifts for my birthday and Christmas, the right cards to make me misty-eyed, the right CD or movie for the right mood, fail to see the one gift that will make me feel loved beyond words.

Time. By myself.

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At 3 a.m. this morning my husband and I were awakened by the sound of hysterical little-boy laughter and lots of to-ing and fro-ing (we can tell by the way the crib knocks against the wall). At first we thought he was dreaming about being tickled (it’s happened before). But no; the party lasted for a whole hour. By himself. In the dark.

Only this morning, when I went in to get him, did I realize what could be so funny at 3 a.m. Yesterday afternoon, he discovered that it was the best thing ever to put a blanket over his head and walk around blind. I guess he must’ve woken up and realized there was a blanket in the crib with him. (It’s Maine, after all.) Playtime!

I’m a wreck this morning as a result. It’s an unusual state for me to be in. When he was tiny, we solved sleep problems through co-sleeping, right from the time he was a newborn. We never really did suffer sleep deprivation as brand-new parents, because it was so much easier to roll over and nurse him than it would have been to sit in a chair. We dealt with reflux, teething, illness, and nightmares that way. It was bliss.

But then he learned how to sleep by himself, and he realized he was much more comfortable in his own bed. Therefore, his sleep problems have become our sleep problems.

Last night, for instance. Lately, he hasn’t wanted to go to sleep alone at night, so Daddy has been taking the time to cuddle up with him in our bed long enough for him to go to sleep. Last night, Daddy had work to do. I’d been feeling guilty anyway for focusing too much on work that day, so I took bedtime duty. As I lay next to the boy I thought about the editing I was supposed to be doing on a late article. And it was tempting, a few small fingers up my nose later, to put him back down and go back to work.

But then he settled down and held his doggie and sucked his thumb, and it felt like the old co-sleeping days, the two of us snuggled together post-nursing. Before long he was well on his way to sleep. With a lot of regret I picked him up and put him back in his bed. I wanted to leave him be and let him sleep with us, but I knew things would become exponentially more difficult for all three of us once Daddy came to bed. The boy likes to spread out, you see. It’s not much different from being 8 months pregnant and trying to sleep, only the male genetic contributor isn’t as tolerant of little feet in kidneys. I can’t blame him entirely. The only thing more frustrating than a toddler playing with a blanket at 3 a.m. is the toddler deciding you are the blanket.

Eventually I’ll figure out how to improve brain function so I can deal with deadlines despite sleep deprivation. I’d better; other parents of older toddlers tell me it becomes much more complicated when children can get out of bed and walk around.

In the meantime, given that it’s so much harder to snuggle with him these days the way I used to, I’ll take sleep deprivation. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to call it a blessing. There’s always another deadline to replace the last one, but nothing can replace the moment-by-moment bonding. I think knowing this is why so many working parents feel guilty, even when they know they are making the right choice to work.

Play on, son.

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I have five articles, two novel edits (mine and one I’m doing for pay), and a bunch of PR writing going at once. You’d think I’d be all over trying to get it done sooner rather than later. Well, no.

I’ve been wanting to take my son to our neighborhood playgroup for months. The timing never worked out: either he’d be sleeping right up to its 9a.m. start time, or he’d wake up early and need to nap at its 9a.m. start time. Yesterday, the timing worked out perfectly: he woke at 8, meaning he wouldn’t have to sleep till 11. So I dropped all 7 projects and headed out the door. I rationalized that I probably wouldn’t get much done anyway because he’d get bored and want me to entertain him. And hey, maybe I’d get lucky and there would be another self-employed mom there.

Well, no one else showed up. I called the group leader and she said interest had dropped off over the holidays and she herself was sick. Hey, at least she was responsible enough not to show up. In the meantime, my son discovered the communal toybox and all the toys we don’t have. Way cool, mom!

I’m not much of a player. At his age, toddlers still parallel play – they don’t play *with* anyone else. And I find this terribly boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching him arrange his refrigerator letters and his wooden blocks. It’s just when he wants me to watch unceasingly – or “help”, which really means deconstructing everything I do – that I start wondering whether something is inherently wrong with me. What mother finds it boring to play with her child?

Bringing him to playgroup, however, taught me a couple of valuable lessons. Ones that I think will keep me going back.

  1. Toys we both find interesting are good. (I just love showing him how those wire-and-bead mazes work.)
  2. New environments are good. (We went for a long walk around the clubhouse’s rooms.)
  3. Getting out of the house is good. (Not only was I not distracted by the computer, but focusing on play actually freed my brain so my work was more efficient that afternoon. Who knew?)

I’m excited by this. It means that just because I’m bored by one type of repetitive activity doesn’t mean I’m bored by child’s play in general. It means that just as I have strengths and weaknesses as an adult, I have them as a mother too. And I can learn to capitalize on them. And this will help me as a writer, which of course will feed back into mothering. A happy mommy is a good mommy.

I can’t wait to take him to Story Hour today – provided he’s not sleeping through it.

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