Join me in welcoming Lisa Romeo to Motherlogue. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Lisa’s writing, as well as participating in her online 4×4 writing workshops, her “I Should Be Writing” boot camp and private coaching. I can’t say enough good things about Lisa – as a boot camp instructor, she’s encouraging yet firm. As an editor/coach, she provides honest, helpful feedback that has helped push my writing to a deeper level. To top it all off, she’s got a great sense of humor. (Check out her upcoming offerings by clicking on the links…you’ll be glad you did!)
Having a post by Lisa here at Motherlogue? A huge honor. Welcome, Lisa.
by Lisa Romeo
Saturday afternoon. I hear my sons squabbling downstairs. I rise from my desk, where I am writing, close my office door and sit back down, pick up my writing again.
Ten years ago, maybe even two years ago, I would have stopped, headed downstairs, refereed. Gotten thrown off my writing game, maybe not returned to the page for a few hours, a few days.
But the boys are 19 and 15 now and the older one was home from college for a short weekend. The squabbling was more balm than burr, at least to me, and I suspect, to both of them too. While I wanted to soak up precious hours with my college freshman, so did his brother and his father.
So I could write, without interruption. Just as I can (when the client and student work is done or minimal), on any given weekday, or on weekends when the younger boy and husband are occupied. Without worrying, as I did for many years, that any moment I might be pulled away — from the page, from the narrative unfolding in my head – by motherhood.
That’s what it was like in my house when the boys were small and I was trying to build a writing life. Without much childcare. With, at varying times, a high maintenance baby, postpartum depression, a toddler whose schedule was filled with healthcare appointments – and the usual and regular and seemingly unending clatter and joy and busyness of mothering.
At the time, I was writing a lot about mothering. You’d think being immersed in, surrounded by, besieged by motherhood would help the writing, and of course in many ways it did.
But as a practical matter, one can only produce words on a page relative to the time and mental clarity available. I did what thousands of mother-writers do: crammed writing in. Naps, Grandma visits, the occasional babysitter, preschool; and later, school, playdates (hosted by other moms, not me), Daddy and the Boys activities.
It all added up and I wrote. Some of what I wanted to write, anyway. Looking back at what I wrote when both children were much younger though, I detect a certain lack of depth. Something that should be swimming just below the surface of those pieces, was not. But I also see (and again, it may only be me) a kind of sizzling energy bouncing across the page, a drumbeat, immediacy. The boys were always around me, I was always in the middle of them, and it showed on the page. Which was completely right for what I was writing about – raising sons, wrestling with modern parenting, building and bumbling a small family.
That was then.
This is now: No one bothers me. All the years of reminders (Quiet, Mom’s busy. Mom’s writing, don’t bother her.) — worked. Plus of course, the boys simply grew.
My writing grew up too. I’m not interested anymore in writing only about mothering, or the ways motherhood changes you when it still feels new (even if that’s 10 years in), and so I don’t. Occasionally I do miss chronicling the mothering stuff, so I give in – last month that meant a piece about the not-so-smooth transition when that first child left for college and we became a one-teenager household.
So here’s what I’ve learned. The distractions, time constraints, and other mothering-related “obstacles” that seemed to prevent me from doing my best work in fact provided fulgent material.
But not always.
Some days, nursing a sick kid, refereeing sibling squabbles, making car pool trips, and stopping at three organic stores to get the right allergy-friendly ingredients was not material; it was just chores and busyness. And some days, conscripting Grandma, the teenager next door, my husband, or my mom friends was the only friggin’ way to get any damn bit of writing done.
So I did that. If you need to, you should do that too.
Sure, one day it will be quieter, or it will still be noisy but you can just close the door and get back to that pesky sentence for another hour if you need to. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting some Hallmark sentiment about savoring the moment because one day the kids will be gone (though they will be).
There will be frustrating moments then too, when — despite the quiet space in your brain not occupied by calculating how many diapers are left in the house or if it’s time yet to pick the kid up from karate — the words won’t flow, when quiet is too damn quiet, when writing is still hard and you’ll be distracted from the page. We’ll always be mothers, we’ll always be writers. A little of this, a little of that.
Lisa Romeo is a writer and freelance editor. She also teaches writing online, and in New Jersey at Rutgers University and The Writers Circle. Her blog offers tips, resources, interviews, and more for writers. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and either one or both sons.