Thursday, October 13th, 2011 • No Comments on Feeling Fulfilled
I accomplished a lot writing/editing work today. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say that. I have been frustrated with my lack of work time lately—and that admission comes with a certain amount of guilt. The more I work, the less time I spend with my children. Don’t get me wrong, I love my babies and I love spending time with them (though I will love it more when Lucas is sleeping as well as his brother). But I also love my work. Writing sustains me, the stuff that goes along with writing—editing, admin, promo—are part of the job. And for the past few months, I simply haven’t had enough time for my work.
I was mulling over that idea and trying to figure out what it would take for me to feel like I’ve had “enough time” to work. Granted, I’m currently cramming too much work into too few hours, so right now I just need more time. But in general I can’t put a number on the hours I need to do what I need to do to feel fulfilled in my job. Some weeks, the work load is lighter (or the creative process is slower) and I might be content with 25 hours. Other weeks, 40 hours wouldn’t be enough to do the writing I want to do and complete all of the other necessary (and/or contracted) tasks. So what, exactly, is enough?
And here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: enough time to work is when the choice to pack up my laptop and go home is determined by me and not by the clock and other people’s schedules. I’m only on the fringes of being a Type A, so I’m not talking a work day that begins when Starbucks opens and ends when they close. I love my work, but I love the rest of my life, too! It feels like most days I’ve only just found my rhythm when it’s time to go home and take on baby duty. Of course, part of that has to do with having a baby six weeks ago and still trying to find a new rhythm. Part of it is also having a newborn who isn’t yet sleeping through the night. With a toddler who is an excellent sleeper, I was able to make up lost daytime work hours at night after he went to bed by 7 PM. I can’t do that right now and I have lost a huge chunk of work time.
In thinking back to when I had more time to work, “enough time” was between 5 and 8 hours a day, most days. That hardly qualifies me as a workaholic. But since Lucas was born I haven’t even been hitting the minimum I need to do the work that has to be done. I have been averaging 2 to 3 hours a day, maybe five days a week if I’m lucky. That’s a huge hit to my work schedule. And it leads to a kind of frustration that makes me snarl when I get home when I should be happy to be there.
And yes, yes, yes… I know I just had a baby, I know I’m entitled to take a break and enjoy some maternity leave, I know the babies won’t be this little for long, I know. I swear I know. And I’m okay with most of that. I’m okay with taking Lucas out to work with me some days even though it means I’ll only get 2 hours of work out of the 5 I have the babysitter. I’m okay with doing other things during my work time—like go to postpartum doctor’s appointments or pay household bills or even (gasp!) get a pedicure—because there really is no other time to do those things. I’m okay with spending most nights on the couch trying to read the lips of the characters on reruns of the Big Band Theory because I can’t hear them over Lucas’s cries. I’m okay with going out to a movie or dinner with a friend on Saturday night instead of working because I need social breaks from my solitary work—and I need them more than ever right now. I accept it all and most of the time I am able to accept it gracefully and without resentment. But I miss my work! /whine
This isn’t about making my publisher happy or making X number of dollars. This is about my sense of self, my personal identity. Someone sent me an email yesterday and referred to me as “Mommyx2.” This was a writing-related email, not a note from a friend. It took everything in me not to respond negatively, because I know it was meant as a happy thing. I did just have a baby, after all, and I do have two beautiful children. But in the midst of having my second baby, I also completed my fifth anthology and signed a contract for my sixth. Is it too much to ask that my professional accomplishments hold some weight—at least with the people in my profession?
But needing more writing time isn’t even about justifying myself to my peers. Many of the writers I know, love and admire are childfree (and often single) and I don’t begrudge them the time they have to write. I made my choices. I’m happy with my choices. I simply feel unfulfilled if I don’t spend a chunk of my daily existence doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I need that time. I crave it. Me, alone with my computer, brainstorming ideas, editing manuscripts, pitching anthologies, writing my own stories, promoting my work, blogging about my life. I need that time in order to feel fulfilled. In order to be me.
Today, I had five solid hours to work. Five glorious hours. I spent about 20 minutes of that time on Facebook and the rest of the time seriously working. (And even my status updates on Facebook were mostly work related.) It was wonderful, It was almost fulfilling. I say almost only because I would’ve liked another 30 minutes to tie up some loose ends. But other than that, it was a good work day. Now, if only every day could be like that I wouldn’t feel like something was gnawing at my insides.
But here I am at almost 10 PM and Lucas has been sleeping for about an hour and a half and I’ve managed to do some writing stuff in that time. I’m tired and my brain is all but fried, but I managed to carve some time out of my night schedule. Yay me. Now if I could just have days like today more often, that empty space inside me will be filled with writing accomplishments instead of ice cream.
It will get better, I know it will. I remember feeling like I would never find my writing rhythm again after Patrick was born—but I did. And I will again. Until then, I’ll find the time where I can and try to be patient and enjoy my babies as much as possible. They won’t be babies for long and the stories will wait.