All mothers love Raymond

I’ve written recently about the angst of working from home as a mother. It seems that others too are addressing the issue. While for a long time I’ve eschewed the label WAHM (thinking that soon I’ll be going ‘back to work’), I’ve realised from my reading in the blogosphere that this label now sticks to me.

How funny then to find a beautifully written essay by Raymond Carver in which he addresses this very issue: work and family balance. How to work well while looking after you children effectively. How to commit to your writing,  but also be a present parent. He speaks of similar struggles that we all have.

…the fact that I had two children. And that I would always have them and always find myself in this position of unrelieved responsibility and permanent distraction.

YES!! Could he have said it more eloquently. This is exactly what I find myself thinking time and time again as I search frantically for that 10 minutes (10 minutes for god’s sake) every day to write!

He also writes about his own assumptions about ‘writers’ and the lives he assumes they lead. This idea completely tapped into the excuse I seem to come up with time and time again as to why I’ve never truely committed to writing despite my passion for it.

At that moment I felt – I knew – that the life I was in was vastly different from the lives of the writers I most admired. I understood writers to be people who didn’t spend their Saturdays at the laundromat and every waking hour subject to the needs  and caprices of their children…..At that moment – I swear all of this took place there in the laundromat – I could see nothing ahead but years more of this kind of responsibility and perplexity. Things would change some, but they were never really going to get better. I understood this but how could I live with it? At that moment I saw accommodations would have to be made. The sights would have to be lowered.

YES!!

He goes on to speak of the myriad and multitude of jobs both day and night that he and his wife were compelled to keep in order to support their family. So yes, on top of having children, Carver accepted mutual responsibility for their care in order that his wife assist in their financial support. And he tried to begin writing, to begin being a writer at the same time because it was compulsive. Because he had to. Because he’d ignited a longing that he couldn’t ignore.

In those days I figured if I could squeeze in an hour or two a day for myself, after job and family, that was more than good enough. That was heaven itself.

Oh yes it is.

And I felt happy to have that hour. But sometimes, one reason or another, I couldn’t get that hour. Then I would look forward to Saturday, though sometimes things happened that knocked Saturday out as well. But there was Sunday to hope for. Sunday maybe.

We’ve all been there.

But what I loved most about his essay – aside from the consistently spare and beautiful writing – is his comment that his children are his work’s influence. Asked time and time again which other writers have influenced his work, he cites his children has giving him more influence, more consistent creative fodder than anyone else because they were his everyday. “I’m talking about real influence now. I’m talking about the moon and tide.”  So, I guess, while having children and looking after them limited his opportunity to write, the fact is he wouldn’t be the writer that he is were it not for them.

Influences. John Gardner and Gordon Lish. They hold irredeemable notes. But my children are it. Theirs is the main influence. They were the prime movers and shapers of my life and my writing. As you can see, I’m still under their influence, though the days are relatively clear now, and the silences are right.

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