Shannon Hale has a post up on tumbler today called Writing and Mother: How I (Sort of) Do Both, in which she lays down a few hard truths about working and parenting. She uses the term "care giver" several times, and if she had used it in the title of her piece, it would have made it more universal, capable of covering more of human experience. The experience of elder care, for instance, which is remarkably like child care in terms of the time and effort and degree of intensity involved.
Hale says, "I need help." Yes, care givers do. After years of working to keep one elder in her apartment, her condition deteriorated to the point that she needed placement in a skilled nursing facility. For the other elder, we have given up trying to maintain her home ourselves. Landscapers do her lawn and driveway. We hire contractors for house maintenance. We're going to be looking for contractors to do some work in our own yard. But even the search for the help seems to be too time consuming.
Hale says, "The balance is insane." To which I have to say, "What balance?" There's nothing even remotely like balance here.
Hale says, "I can write. I can mother. And that’s it." Yes, I can sort of write. I can sort of take care of a variety of family problems. I can barely manage my own life maintenance. (We haven't had much time to eat particularly well these last two years, which may have been a factor in my illness last month.) And that's it. All the things Hale talks about giving up are gone for me, too.
Hale says, "I take a day of rest." She's right. She should. I should. The family problems and commitments don't take weekends off. Not even Sundays.
Hale says, "Writing is not a hobby." I fear nearly every day that I will get to the point when I am only writing when I have absolutely nothing else to do. And then I will have to accept that I am not a writer any more.
Hale: "I know it’s the right thing for me." Gauthier: "It's pretty much the only thing for me. I've kind of worked myself into a box here."
Hale ends her post by pointing out that not everyone has to write, that it's possible to be happy doing other things while raising children. I'll end mine by pointing out that writers aren't the only people struggling with work and care giving. We just are so very aware of it because we have so little in the way of boundaries between our professional and personal lives.