Momming is hard. (I assume that Dadding is hard, too. But, not being a Dad, I wouldn’t presume to know. It just seems like it would be.) Momming takes time and energy (so, so much energy). It takes patience, and it requires a certain tacit agreement to go without sleep. Momming means changing your child’s clothes a dozen times a day…on days when you may not even manage to change your own clothes even once.
Momming is especially hard when you try to pair it with something else that is hard like, you know, Arting. Arting is hard by itself. Arting takes time and inspiration time and dedication and time. And…well, did I mention time?
Yeah…with one husband, three children, three cats, four chickens, and one beagle, time is at a premium. I know, I know. I’m not special. What was it that Neil Gaiman said?
“You get what anyone gets – you get a lifetime.” ~Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.
Smart man, that.
I really like Neil Gaiman a lot. I like his books. I like how he talks about books. I like that he appreciates librarians. I even like how (for whatever reason) my beagle barks incessantly whenever I listen to Neil Gaiman’s audio books, as if she is convinced that a well-read Englishman has broken into our house and might decide to steal her kibble.
Not too long ago, I read a lovely response on Tumblr that Neil Gaiman had written about, well, writing. In part, he said:
Set aside time to write that’s only writing time. Put away your phone. Turn off or disable your wifi. Write in longhand if you wish. Put up a do not disturb sign. And make your writing time sacred and inviolable.
And in that time, this is the deal. You can write, or you can not do anything. Not doing anything is allowed. (What not doing anything includes: staring at walls, staring out of windows, thinking broodily, staring at your hands. What not doing anything does not include: alphabetising the spice rack, checking Tumblr, taking your pen apart, playing solitaire or running a clean up program on your computer.)
You get to pick how long a day your writing time is. An hour? Two? Three? Your call.
Doing nothing gets pretty dull. So you might as well write. (And if you write 300 words, one page, every day, you’ll have a 90,000 word novel in a year.)
Let me be the first to admit that I absolutely defer to Mr. Gaiman on the subject of writing. He has done it longer. He has done it better. But I have Mommed longer than he has—what with him not being a Mom and all. (Yes, yes, he has Dadded—his is Dadding–I know. Hear me out.)
When I read Mr. Gaiman’s writing wisdom with a friend, I choked at the bit about picking how long a day your writing time was. Seriously, an hour? Two? Three? *snort laugh* I know of Zero mothers who have an hour to set aside without someone bellowing Mom? Mama? Mommy?
The Mom Version of this would be more like:
You get to pick how long you can ignore the crashes and whining coming from the other side of the door, or how long you can hide in the bathroom until your kids/spouse/co-workers find you. Ten Minutes? Fifteen? Until the person in the stall next to you asks if you have a roll to spare?
I understand that writers must write. I do. I get it. And we do learn to steal our moments where we may. For instance, in order to carve out about 30 minutes of writing time in the morning, I get up at 5:00 a.m. I also write on my lunch hour. I write at football practice. I write in the stadium while waiting for color guard practice to end. I write on my arm at stop lights. I write on the back of envelopes. I have even written out a particularly pleasing turn of phrase in the steam on the shower door, then attempted to fog up the room again to retrieve the snippet. (Yes, it worked.) But I honestly cannot tell you the last time that I had an uninterrupted three hour stretch of writing time.
With three kids, all of my vacation time and sick days are used tend to the needs of others. Sick children. Teacher conferences. Rehearsals. Recitals. Dentist. Asthma attack. You pick.
Still, I do take his meaning. And, honestly, I am grateful for the reminder. It is the doing of The Thing that makes The Thing possible. In other words: if I want to be a writer, I’d better write. So, I do. God help me, I do. I set my alarm to an hour that even my chickens find deplorable. I also linger in the bathroom longer than strictly necessary for bodily functions. In between moments of Momming, I find time to do something else. I write words. I turn phrases. I craft Art. Perhaps the method is haphazard but, for now, it is the only method this mom can manage.
Life is short. Kids grow up. So, in the words of Neil Gaiman, I might as well write.
 I am especially fond of him because when my eldest child was eight years old, she decided to write to Mr. Gaiman and to send him a “book” she had written (and illustrated) entitled “Regina the One-Winged Owl.” Mr. Gaiman was kind enough to very promptly send along a handwritten note of encouragement telling her how he liked the cliffhanger ending. My daughter was thrilled. She is now 14, and she still has the note.