contemplating the balancing act of summer

public domain from wikimedia

Reader, this is the kids’ last full day of school until September. There is a mild tightness in my chest as I contemplate the tricky balancing act of trying to maintain a writing life and full-time motherhood, and also maybe a few laps at the Y pool from time to time, or a morning walk here and there.

This school year was the first one for me during which all the kids were at school for at least some portion of every day. I can’t tell you what a huge difference it made for me to know that I had reliable time (barring the virus of the week, etc.) for my own pursuits after 10 years of very little reliable time for such. And next year, I’ll have even more as Sister will join the ranks of full-day grade-schoolers.

But between me and the promise of six hours every weekday (barring the virus of the week, etc.) is the summer.

I love summertime with my kids. We have the luxury of long, lazy days. Hours at the library. Shady afternoons playing cards, or lying on the sidewalk staring at a colony of ants. Trips to the semi-secret produce market to see what’s new in season each week. I’ve learned over the years that some structure is good, too — this year our structure will consist of a very low-key swim team, the summer reading program at the library, and the usual “morning jobs” and “afternoon jobs” the kids do around the house.

And yet, the tightness-of-chest remains as I remember the days when I had to fight tooth and nail to get an hour for writing, as I remember practically needing the Jaws of Life to extract myself from a houseful of three little ones, as I recall the feeling of being erased at my edges by the non-stop demands of family life.

I’m trying to plan ahead a bit for strategies that will help me keep my balance throughout the summer. I have a babysitter scheduled for the nights my writing group meets. I’m going to try to schedule a babysitter for one morning a week so that I have at least some library time this summer (join me now as I try to ignore Pink Floyd singing in my head: “Money… .” Alas, as Husband often reminds me, paying babysitters is an investment in sanity.).

I will go to bed early so that I can get up early enough to have my first cup of coffee in darkness and silence, and to do my morning reading and writing most days. This will sometimes mean I don’t see as much of Husband as I’d like, as he works Silicon Valley hours. This will also mean no work, or e-mail checking, or Facebook after dinner, as these activities always lead to a later bedtime than is ideal for me.

Knowing I won’t have time to do everything this summer, I will make submitting and coming up with a solid submissions strategy and system my main focus. Even though I was on a pretty good roll last fall, I slipped back into my infrequent and haphazard submitting pattern after the holidays . I learned during my revision-a-day for poetry month that it really is possible to create new habits and get a nice body of work completed with a short-term, narrow focus. Submissions, you’re next. I’m comin’ for you.

I will plan out the weeks with Husband so that I can get some time for swimming laps, or morning walks, or both. It’s not reasonable to think this can happen every day, but a few times a week ought to be doable.

I will remind myself that the years with children under one’s roof are fleeting. I can’t believe that my firstborn will turn eleven this summer, my middlest will turn nine, and the “baby” will be seven in the fall. No book, or publication credit, or blue streak of new drafts is worth wishing away the time with them. Cherish means “to hold or treat as dear,” from the Latin carus, “dear, costly, beloved.” I will cherish this summer with them.

And now I must away to the library for my last bit of easy library time until September. And I will cherish that, too.

Thanks for reading, and happy almost-summer!

11 thoughts on “contemplating the balancing act of summer

  1. Hi Molly,
    I really like your phrase, “the feeling of being erased at my edges by the non-stop demands of family life.” I hadn’t thought of that feeling in that particular way, but it’s so perfectly descriptive.
    Have a good summer, and by the way our “boys” may have to boomerang for a while. So…maybe those days with children won’t end as soon as you think. My guys have been applying everywhere, one getting in the top 10% of applicants for one of the jobs. Getting jobs which require the educational background that they both have is harder than getting admitted to many selective colleges these days. But when they apply for less selective positions, they are told that they are over-educated. Wild isn’t it?
    Always, Cylia

    • It’s such a tough time to be job searching, isn’t it? Yes, the boomerang thing seems fairly usual these days — I think it’s harder to get started in life than it used to be. Good luck to your boys & happy summer to you.

  2. I always love reading your posts about how you balance writing with everyday life. And it gives me hope, as someone whose edges are pretty blurry these days, to know that you made it to the other side of that time intact….

    • Sarah, for so many years people told me “It gets easier” and I never believed them 🙂 — because when you’re in the thick of it you can’t imagine that it does (or I couldn’t anyway). But it really does. Until then, hang in there and I’ll keep holding out a candle of hope for you!

  3. It is so hard to coordinate things that consistently allow for writing time (while still, say, sleeping and such), and I admire how you pull things together to make them work. I’m somewhere in the middle of the Jaws-of-Life/erased-at-the-edges stage, though on a nice plateau of popsicles at the pool with my chatty 2-year-old as our family prepares to try for a second baby. And even though I don’t wish this phase of life away, it is often as challenging as it is lovely. And it does give me hope to know that writing/reading time can be arranged a little more easily as the kids grow into different phases. Starting this summer, I’m working 3 days a week and home with my Bird two days, and our financial planner asked if I’d return to work full time when all kids are in school. If at all possible, the answer is no. Not only so I can mop the floors in peace and volunteer for stuff (cake walks!) but so I can wake up and read and write for a while. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little psyched about that, even though I also want her to stay her sweet little self for as long as possible.

    • “as challenging as they are lovely” — to this I say YES! And yes, it really does get easier when they’re older. Sometimes its easy to feel a teensy bit guilty at being so happy to have writing time, but I say we must resist that guilt. Many good wishes to you as you look forward to expanding your family!

  4. A great, big DITTO to all of this! I’m in Georgia, and my kids have been out for three weeks now. It’s always difficult to give up my writing time during the summer, but I have gained some much needed reading time while I wait for them to finish various activities. As you said though, I don’t wish these days away because I know the time will come soon enough when my little ones won’t be little any longer and won’t need me with them every day.

    • K., so glad to see you here – thanks for joining the conversation. You read my mind — just this afternoon I was contemplating all the reading I’d get done during swim practice. I appreciate your perspective.

  5. Pingback: friday roundup (oops – on saturday): knife, simple gifts, and the number zero | the stanza

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