Balancing act: How to bring up baby while giving birth to a book
Though it’s never easy, it is possible to pursue your dreams and be a mother
And yet the idea of mothering and also needing to do something for ourselves is not new. My own mother was of a generation of women who stayed at home, and I remember times when she would disappear down into the garden for hours – clipping, weeding, mowing – and forget about tea time so that my younger sister, a toddler at the time, would carry the teapot out into the garden as a subtle hint – but now I understand why my mother did that. There were six kids in our house. She was preserving her sanity, smart woman.
Arthur was born in January and I remember singing along to the Budweiser holidays ad: “The autocrat is coming, the autocrat is coming.”
Oh, how we laughed.
And then he came.
Straight away he had my heart and now I wasn’t my own boss either – I had a new employer, cute and a bit crusty, more Alan Sugar (“You’re all bleedin’ useless”) than sleeping executive.
I did worry that I would not be able to write any more. I remember not getting a lot of sleep and trying to put my handbag into the fridge and somehow with this dust-bunny head on me I thought I could pull off a new book.
A new routine
We gradually found a good routine, my husband doing his fair share but my laptop had no part in it. During my pregnancy I had begun a new book about a woman and a lighthouse keeper who lived on an island – and needed to get back to it.
Arthur was more than six months old when it dawned on me that, without more help, the writing simply wasn’t going to happen. We found a part-time nanny for two afternoons a week to start and, in that time, Little Beauty began to take shape.
The book took four years to write when previously I might have managed it in two. I cherished those afternoons when I could retreat to my own fictitious island, the lighthouse and the sea. That said, I wouldn’t change any of it. When it came to writing about motherhood now, I finally had some clue of what I was talking about.
Arthur will start school this September and, for the first time since he was born, I think I will be able to write almost every day. The thought is thrilling on one hand and yet, of course, I feel a bit sad about it too – and any mother reading this will understand why. Is it possible to do what you want and be a mother? It’s about finding a middle ground or “third way” – your own way of making it work.
The writer Annie Dillard has some advice that I found helpful: “Let the grass die.” It was important for me to accept that I could not do everything. So I may never sleep under a perfectly ironed duvet cover or make my own flaky pastry. When time is tight – and it always is – I just do what I have to do, and write.
Alison Jameson’s new novel Little Beauty is published by Doubleday