Wednesday, March 2, 2011

mamas on the verge of a nervous breakdown

I received an email from a friend this morning, reporting on research that stresses the importance of concentrated focus despite the creative rewards of daydreaming: "Lose Focus, Lose Happiness." Perhaps this has been my problem lately. I've mentioned that, while developing my new business, I've been assigned to take inventory of my strengths and weaknesses. Topping the latter is: "desire to do all at once." To compensate for this, I've drafted a plan for what to do when, but it doesn't seem to be working for me. There's just that competitive urge in me to beat the list, and to get more done than it believes possible. To get more done sooner means to get more done at once. So then there's juggling work on my feminist porn book, which I'm translating from Norwegian to English; and my article on sex among youth that I'm revising to submit. And there's blogging both here and there. And there's developing LOVE, SEX, AND FAMILY.

All this as a full-time mama of a toddler who is not fond of sleep, leaving me no time at night (since I go to bed with her) and only a measly hour or so in the afternoon when she naps.

  1. Attempt enforcement of quite time after lunch while she looks at books, draws, or plays quietly as I get some stuff done on my computer. 
  2. Sneak away to my ad hoc desk in our bedroom whenever Leighton's around and I'm not busy cooking or cleaning.
  3. Get up in the middle of the night after my nocturnal bathroom run to write in a sleeping house.
It's not working out to much satisfaction. And as a result, I find myself prone to thoughts and emotions I'm not proud of. I'm definitely not in my finest days as a mom.

Another friend of mine sent me an email the other day complaining "work is only stressful when there's no time to do it." We both love our work, and we both love our kids, but when there's not enough time for the former it's just really really hard.

A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize)Then yet another friend sent me a link today to a story about the prize-awarded memoir, A double life by Lisa Catherine Harper, who "in addition to writing and teaching" is a "full-time mother" of two. She also has a new essay out on "Writing and Parenting: Finding a Balance," which frankly left me peeved. I'm not proud to admit it, but reading her essay and about her book got me both jealous and quizzical. Oh yes? Can this really be so? I mean, does she bring her kids to class when she teaches? I get how she can get writing done, even with a little one around, and even if it means just for a little bit each day. And since it's been Harper's experience as a new mom that one can at first "expect no more than 2-3 hours of uninterrupted writing time (assuming the baby naps)" or the double of that "if the baby naps twice a day," I say she's got it made. Because Lilly would only nap in my lap her first six months of life, drifting in and out of sleep while nursing; try typing like that. Ages six to nine months gave me her glory days of naps, with her sometimes sleeping as long as two hours during the late morning in bed after I'd nursed her down. For a half-hour afternoon nap, I would still have to stroll her. Then came spring and long bright days, when she'd need strolling for a morning nap too.

Her second year of life was a struggle with naps too. Because Leighton and I took turns writing and being with her, and without the boob around to nurse her down she resisted naps. Then lack of routine caused her to resist naps when the boob actually was around.

After I submitted the Norwegian version of my feminist porn book to a publisher last fall, we had a good stretch, Lilly and I, me savoring time with her while getting some writing done when she napped and on Friday mornings when she was with my friend; and the interviews for my sleep question book (now on hold) I could do with her in tow. 

But the all consuming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas did me in; for two months, I lost my time to work. 

Focusing on finding my time to work in the new year has been a mixed blessings. I'm so much happier when I get that time. But I struggle with wanting more. I'm envious of the apparent sense of peace Harper has found in balancing writing and parenting; I want that too.

In the meantime, I kvetch


  1. I totally get it. I never had big nap times either. Julia was the same way as an infant. Other moms would talk about 2 hour naps in the a.m. and 2-3 hour naps in the afternoon and I'd think, You have no idea that you're just lucky.

    I don't have solutions, but just know I can relate! Life is hard.

  2. Then you move into those gloriously grown up days of "too old for naps". Sigh...what then. PBS?

  3. oh Anne, I have been wondering how you've been! To me, it seems you've been very productive lately, with the new blog design and lots of posts. I look forward to catch up with them. I Think the balance of mothering, family and work is something to be constantly working on, and I find your entries heartening. We mothers are out there just doing the best we can, usually on limited sleep. Bella's naps have also become shorter lately, and she is still going to bed just as late. Consequently, the house is in disarray, and when I had her help by "washing" the dishes last night, I ended up having to clean the floor too. (but seeing her totally soaked from head to foot, washrag on her head, made it totally worth it. That is why we do what we do.)

  4. I remember reading that Sigrid Undset wrote at night after her kids were in bed. And won a Nobel Prize in literature doing it. I tried that, but it didn't work for me. I opted for some childcare and some parenting. I'm happy with my balance. So's my kid. Luckily I had him quite late in life and already had my freelance career nicely established beforehand. Before I know it he'll be in school and I'll have some of those hours to work, too. And then he'll be a teenager, nagging me to leave him alone, and I'll have all the time in the world to work.

    Just remember to look after yourself, too. Not just the kid. Whatever it takes to make the mother a happy, fulfilled person will ultimately benefit the child.


  5. Thanks for all your comments! Your words are heartening.

    And Daisy, thanks for putting a smile on my face with that image.

    And Tara, for reminding me to take care of myself. Today I'm getting some time to do that while L & L are at the Walker Art Center for their fun free family day.

    Nancy, I can't even go there, the thought of a state of completely napless days. But then as you say, Tara, there will be a day when our children will ask us to leave them alone, and before that the hours while they're in school, and then longer days at school (there are days I hold on to that thought).

    P.S. Nancy; I have been known to resort to "edutainment," educating and entertaining DVDs that I sometimes plop in at the end of the day to ease things.


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