I’m wearing headphones as I write this. Big, bulky ear protector headphones—the kind that people wear to chainsaw a tree. I’m just muting my kids.
Writing and editing from home sometimes requires extreme measures.
This morning, as I sat down to work, my daughter, who is seven, plopped on the sofa with a stack of story cards and announced with big eyes that she’d made up a fairy tale. With Every. Card. In. The. Deck. “It’s really long, Mom.”
I understood my cue.
I shut my laptop and listened to the saga of a clever frog, a vanishing golden key and a duplicitous raccoon. Twenty minutes later, my son, age nine, insisted that he play me the songs he’d composed on the GarageBand app. Twice. After that, there was a snack “emergency,” and then the washing machine beeping from the basement. Finally, sometime around noon, the kids settled into an enthusiastic game of Legos and pirates.
Resent the children? If I were going to resent my kids, I smugly reassured myself, it would be for not taking the opportunity. Right?
Mom felt guilty, she said, for putting us in daycare so that she could write and edit for her job at our local paper. At the time she told me this (before I had kids), I thought, “That’s ridiculous,” and I reassured her, “I loved daycare.”
I really did. There were special snacks and toys that we didn’t have at home and other kids to play with. Daycare was great. And I understood that I was there because my mom worked for the newspaper. I was proud of the fact that my mom was a writer.
My kids don’t go to daycare because I work from home, part time. My income isn’t enough to pay for regular childcare. And I like having the kids home with me. Except when they are bickering, which sometimes feels like every five minutes:
“You’re messing up my game!”
“No I’m not!”
“Moooom! He messed up my game!”
“No, I DIDN’T!”
“Yes, you DID!”
This afternoon, I heard myself yelling back: “Please just BE QUIET! I am TRYING to write!”
Then I heard my mother’s words, again. I hope you won’t resent the children.
I’m not sure about resentment, but one thing was clear: Yelling at the kids is an effective strategy—if the desired effect is guilt. Instead of focusing on my writing, I was dwelling on how bad I felt for flipping out, for putting my writing first.
Yes, my mother also warned me about that.
I try to remind myself of how proud I was of my own mother when I am feeling like a less-than-perfect mom—or a less-than-perfect writer. There’s no doubt that my kids are my biggest obstacles when it comes to writing, but they are also my biggest fans. My daughter points out my picture in Edible any time we see it around town. “She’s a food writer and the editor!” she tells anyone who will listen. When she grows up, she says, she wants to be a writer, a chef and (long story) a pig farmer.
My son doesn’t pay as much attention to the magazine, but he is one hundred percent interested in anything I cook, at least when it comes to eating it. From corn chowder to braised leeks to spicy hot chocolate, the food on my blog is his bread and butter as well as mine.
After I yelled at the kids, my little peanuts continued arguing—in exaggerated stage whispers. Ten feet from where I was trying to type.
I took a deep breath and reached for my headphones.
And kept writing.