A Working Mother

Amie gave up her nap when we were on holiday in Toronto. We like it because it no longer takes 2 hours to get her to sleep in the evening (sometimes she would lay awake till midnight!). On the other hand, I no longer have that 1 1/2 hour nap to quickly do some more work.


My “work” is writing this novel. I’ve been working on the first 12 1/2 chapters, over 400 pages, for over a year now, at the rate of about 20 hours a week. Those 20 hours consist of the four mornings Amie is at daycare and napping.

I’ve been working on the thirteenth chapter – the second-last chapter – for over two months now. No, not at 20 hours per week. In those two months Amie has been home sick for three weeks, her daycare took a week off, and I was out of commission myself (“on a holiday”) for a week. We also bought a house, of course, which involved a lot of work, research and stress.

So I haven’t worked in weeks. And I’m frustrated.

I have been spending a minimum $800 a month on daycare – many months for two weeks of nursing a sick child at home. I write “I” because I consider that to be the income I bring in, not DH. Or rather, my “non-income”, as my friend Shari calls it, because I haven’t as yet brought in a dime. It’s my investment into the novel, which I hope will at least break even in the most modest sense of paying for the daycare. My time, and even the potential income I gave up for writing the story, I will consider repaid simply by the fun of having written.

But the main frustration is with how my “work” gets perceived, even by those closest to me, those who know how much I love it, how much I have riding on it, and how much I put into it. It isn’t considered “work”, because it earns no income. Or it isn’t considered hard work, again because there’s no income and perhaps even because I enjoy it so much! Which just indicates the sorry state of the concept of work…

And so also I don’t have the right to be tired, because what I do do when I don’t “work” – namely mothering – isn’t “work” either (and it will never be considered as such as long as mothering isn’t paid). Because staying inside all day wiping a snotty nose and soothing a sad little whining child couldn’t be tiring. Because stealing hopeless glances at my laptop, feeling my story’s momentum and inspiration seep away along with the hope of making it pay off couldn’t be heartbreaking and stressful…

Should mothering be paid? At least we could consider the tax break for a “dependent” as payment for the work of the stay-at-home mom, not as repayment for what the working dad has put into daycare or diapers (though obviously it is a tax break on his income).

But forget about the money.

That I drop my work (at home or not, paying or not) at the sniff of a nose to do the most difficult kind of mothering, that of taking care of a sick child, doesn’t mean that writing wasn’t “hard work” to begin with. And that, when the child is recovered, I return to my work as if I was starved of it, doesn’t mean that mothering isn’t important to me either. Far from it, each should underscore the importance of the other. Both are what I do best, and what I need to do to be the best person I can be.

Okay, end of rant.

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  1. Don’t you think the pressure of wanting to break even with the costs of the child care is a lot of pressure to put on yourself? Not that you won’t make more ;) but I personally can’t make the writing about money or it turns on my perfectionist editor who gets nothing done. clearly you are very productive – 400 pages! I hope to get to read it. Good luck with this last chapter.

  2. Hi Madeline,

    you’re right: it is a lot of pressure. But though writing the novel was fun, I really wrote it for the money. I also thought, at first, that that might freeze my “inspiration”. But then I put all thoughts of writing great literature aside, and the 400 pages just poured out.

    It’s a mainstream adventure novel – plot-driven, but with complex, full-blooded, characters, which, BTW, I inherited from a “serious” novel I wrote many years ago, and which will for ever stay in my drawer, except for the best bits, which are now in the new novel.

    And there’s already a sequel in the making, in my head. I know most authors only break even on their second book, so I guess that’s what I mean. :)

    To be honest I don’t think about the money much. I take it step by step: first, get it finished, second, find an agent. We’ll take it from there.

    Let me know if you have time to read it! Once it’s finished I am sending it off to a select group of readers for comments. I’d love your opinion!

  3. hopped over from anjalika’s blog. read this post and found a resonance so so deep wondered if we are all twin souls wandering around in this wide world.

    all the best for your book. you will be on the last line of the last page of the last chapter soon enough!

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