years I didn't even try, my
creativity eclipsed by the dishes in the sink and two sets of diapers
change. I had three children under five,
and forget it, if a bottle didn't need warming, or buckle overalls
it wasn't my life.
I picked up a copy of Syd Fields' book Screenplay.
I came to an important passage. Fields
"Housewives usually have a more difficult time than others" when it
comes to getting real writing time. He
aptly notes that "husbands threaten to leave...children turn into
'animals'"...and they all "gang up on Mother" because she wants
quiet, and time to write.
proved very useful to me. Not only did it validate my feelings,
but instead of feeling miserable and alone, I felt like a mighty
warrior with a just cause and a mighty heart! The first thing I
did was to read the passage to my husband.
Ha ha! See, I crowed! Someone who knows
something has said this. Not just
me but an expert with the facts. If you want to dispute it, take
it up with Mr. Fields.
helped me realize that I had to stick up for myself. That,
or I would perish under a pile of
prescription drugs. Before this I thought
that if I
was sweet and stated my needs clearly and kindly, my family would
respect my 'writing time'
and leave me alone. I don't think this
approach has ever worked for anyone on the planet.
I mean, how many kittens get left alone? Badgers
do much better. Think
badger. Grrr.... Defend
claiming it. I started by claiming my own space. I took over an entire
room. Not everyone can do this, I know,
everyone can claim some space, even a cabinet that doubles as an office
den. Open the doors to block out the
legos scattered on the floor. Get an iPod and play
something loud enough to block out screaming. This is
was on a roll.
methods are simple, and they
work like this. Accept the fact that
your children will not obey you. You
tell them all that you will be writing for the next four hours and you
don't want to
be disturbed unless there's blood. Good
start. You add, "pretend I'm not home" and
other remarks to discourage interruption like "don't be a baby.
Handle it yourself." Then, addressing your husband directly you
say: "I'm working until 2 pm. You're in charge."
family is like mine, half an hour later one of your cherubic children
will march straight past Dad reclining with an Autoweek
on the sofa, climb seventeen flights of stairs, pass two locked doors
armored tank to tell you they are
hungry. This won't seem strange (or exasperating) to anyone but you. After all, you feed them, Dad
forgets about lunch until three or four in the afternoon.
to forget about lunch, mind you. He just
forgot he was supposed to do it today.
Besides, at noon, he hands were covered in
oil. Surely, your task would be much
easier to break from than his. He only
needed another few minutes.
active, this resistance hurts. It feels
like your work is less important than anyone else's no matter what
anyone else is up to. And so you never get
another trick. Triangulate. Powerful people
triangulate their power. Think of the
Pope, he gets things done. Why? Because if you don’t like what he’s up to,
who are you going to argue with about it? It works the same with children.
already do this. Think about
it. Your oldest child loses a
tooth. If you told him to put in under
his pillow, he would resist, outright refuse. It's
his tooth, a perfectly good tooth, and mighty
wonderful. He plans to plant it in the
garden and see if
it will grow.
you triangulate power. Explain, it
isn't really you who wants the
tooth under the pillow. If it was up to
you, he could do anything he wants with that fine tooth.
But you see, the tooth fairy, well, I
wouldn't want to get her angry. On
you get a dollar.
this. Triangulate. I
would make lunch now,
but I promised my
editor I would get this done. It isn't
up to me, see. I would love to. But I have to meet this obligation. My critique group is expecting the first
chapter Wednesday. If you need clean
why don't you throw in a load of laundry? The soap in in the
help me with
all this, I did a very important thing. I
hired a housekeeper. The housekeeper
was really key. Every two weeks a brave
and wonderful man comes in to clean my house. (A
man! Think of that! Proof that men are
capable of doing housework.) I feel like a fairy princess. His
contribution cannot be understated. He
allows me to do what I cannot do without him, triangulate housework. Suddenly, we all share in the responsibility
the house. It isn't just mom's job
anymore, this is a job for a hired
also means that the buck no longer stops with me when it comes
time to clean up. The day before, up goes
"The housekeeper comes tomorrow"! My housekeeper is very nice
personable, so I have to embellish a little. I
tell my kids all must be cleaned or they will incur the
wrath of the housekeeper. In my tales, the
housekeeper transforms into a relentless seeker of clean carpets. He ruthlessly discards any and all toys on
the floor, sucking them away forever with this mighty shop vac. “Your things will never see daylight again,”
I warn like a Sybll, “don't let the housekeeper find them first!”
works on my
husband, too. The three foot deep pile
on his dresser melts into drawers on that day. And
it also works on me. I
that if I can get things to a decent level, it will get clean, and then
have to worry again for a couple of weeks.
Mercifully, I can return to my writing desk free of the housework guilt
that otherwise bogs me down.
seventeen flights of stairs, if Rapunzel isn’t going to let down her
hair, your kids are just going to have to climb right back down again. It just takes a little reprogramming. Believe me, if you aren't going to make
lunch, hungry children will find someone who will.
And all that motor oil washes right off.