At 5:30 am this morning one of my sons – the eldest by five minutes of our three and a half year old twins – woke me up by shouting from the doorway of his room. He was complaining that he was uncomfortable so, my wife being away, I quickly scooped him out of his room and into her side of the bed where I hugged him back to sleep.
At 7:30 am his twin brother got up and went straight into our eldest’s bedroom where he opened the curtains. “Get out of my room!” were the first words out of the very nearly six year old’s mouth, which meant that I immediately had to try to diffuse an argument (by shouting from my bed) in which each child threatened to throw the other out of a window, down the stairs, etc. Getting up, it became apparent the reason twin one had been so uncomfortable in the early hours was because he had suffered some kind of stomach upset and filled his pull-up (which, thankfully he and his brother still wear at night) with diarrhoea. Some of this had leaked out into my bed. I hadn’t smelled it because I’m suffering from a cold which had blocked my nose and painfully inflated my sinuses. Having cleaned the worst off twin one with wipes, I sent the other two boys downstairs to turn the telly on while I ran a shallow bath for him.
An argument broke out downstairs about Netflix and what to watch. I had to go down, put Kid’s TV on, and place the remote somewhere no-one small could reach it. More whinging about Netflix echoed after me as I once again mounted the stairs to get twin one out of the bath. All three kids were due to have a photograph taken together at the eldest’s school at 9 am so I rummaged through the unsorted clean washing and pulled out a school uniform and a reasonably smart set of clothes for twin one. Twin one dressed, he and I joined the others downstairs. Breakfast was a bagle each for the eldest and twin two, a bowl of Frosties for twin one, and a cup of juice for each. I had coffee. Breakfast done, I sent the eldest upstairs to go to the toilet, wash his hands, take his asthma inhaler, and brush his teeth. I went back upstairs to find a set of clothes for twin two that might vaguely match those of his brother.
At 8:30 am the doorbell rang. I went downstairs and found my dad at the door. He’d come to help out and give the twins a lift to nursery but, I explained, we all needed to go to school with the eldest first for their photograph. I started to get twin two dressed but he fought against having a shirt on, straining and pulling as hard as he could “I don’t want to be smart!”. The eldest shouted from upstairs so I ran up to him. He hadn’t been to the toilet or washed his hands. He was showing me the counter on the back of his inhaler which displays how many doses are left, it read 000. I knew for a fact that it read 053 yesterday which meant that, instead of doing any of the things I asked him to do he’d actually just sat on the landing pressing the inhaler over and over again wasting the medicine that keeps him breathing properly. My dad shouted from downstairs so I ran down to find that twin two had done and enormous poo on a potty in the living-room and needed wiping. My dad headed upstairs to help the eldest get dressed while I cleaned twin two and resumed the struggle to get clothes onto him. I said he could have a biscuit if he let me get him dressed.
At 8:50 am, one hour and twenty minutes after getting up, all three children were finally ready to leave the house. I was wearing the same pyjama bottoms I’d slept in, and nothing else.
And, the thing is, this morning was a good morning. Not the very best of mornings, but on the scale of good to bad it was definitely more the former. No-one was injured. Nothing was broken. No-one screeched themselves horse, or flat out refused to do something pointlessly, or ended up repeating a single belligerent phrase over and over and over. No-one’s hair was pulled, no-one had their eye poked, no-one was pinched, or bitten, or shoved over, or stamped on.
Today is Wednesday, one of only two full days we have per week without kids. Today is a writing day. And even though all three of them are such massive pains in the arse, even though writing is the only source of income in our household, I still feel guilty about it. About sending them away, getting them looked after, so I can just sit here and write stuff. I don’t just sit here and write stuff, of course. I do washing, sort washing, do washing up, go food shopping, tidy up, plan what to make for tea, and so on; all the stuff that can’t be done while the three of them are here lest the aforementioned screeching and eye gouging commence while I’m busy pairing socks.
Being a parent is a full time job. Being a writer is a full time job. I have two full time jobs and, I’ve come to realise, it’s not actually possible to give them both the time they need. There was a time, when the twins had just been born, when we were trying to do it – to give as much time to our writing as we had before they arrived – and the writing suffered for it. I’m glad it did. Rather that than neglect the kids in favour of the “work” which, as everyone knows, isn’t really proper work anyway, just making stuff up.
I see childless contemporaries on social media pulling all-nighters, jetting from convention to convention, writing five books a month, yet still finding the time to record that podcast, and play some D&D. Two decades past teen-hood and they’re still working as hard as they can on living the life their sixteen year old self wanted. Fair play to them. Do you know what I want? I want a rest. Just a tiny bit of free time where I don’t feel guilty about not working or not doing something with, or for, the kids. I don’t get that because I have two full time jobs, neither of which is really a “proper job”.
If you’ll excuse me I’m off to change the shitty sheets on my bed.
Other posts from the Parenting and Writing/Editing Blog Tour.
- Leah Moore: On Being a Creative Parent
- Patrick Samphire: Scenes from an Exhausted Land
- Aliette de Bodard: The Myth of Entire
- Fran Wilde: Parenting(Creating).FailMode
- Joyce Chng: Writing and Mothering: A Burning Path With Nice Morning Glory Flowers
- Jim C. Hines: Balancing Writing and Parenting
- Stephanie Burgis: Parenting, Creating, Being