author – activist – faculty – mom
Last year, a friend forwarded a call for proposals for the first ever Bay Area Book Festival right here in Berkeley. I was so excited. My enthusiasm to propose a panel soon turned to overwhelm, as I found myself drowning in work, parenting, and the anxious experience of having my book on submission in search of a publisher. I missed the deadline. Which became extra disappointing once I actually had a book contract and an upcoming publication date.
For non-parent writers, it may be difficult to understand what it means for a festival to be local. The amount of resources–time, energy and money –it takes to attend an out-of-town conference is exponential when you’re a parent. First of all, you need to arrange several days of cobbled-together childcare at home if you leave your kid(s), or childcare on the road (and extra tickets) if you take your kid(s). Second of all, there’s the emotional disruption for the kid(s) and partner (if you have one), for which there’s an emotional price to be paid, as well. Local conferences are amazing because you can leave in the morning and be your writer self and come home later that night to be mom again.
So when Brooke Warner asked if I’d like to be on a panel of Moms Who Write, it was like a divine blessing. The struggle of being a writer mom was what had kept me from pitching a panel, yet it would be my experience as a writer mom that would get me in the door. When Brooke (a working editor/writer/coach/publisher mom herself) hit a few challenges in making the panel happen, I dug in with my most tenacious make-it-happen skills. I wrote the copy; I recruited panelists. This was my shot to be part of the biggest book celebration in my home town. I wasn’t gonna screw it up twice.
Once the panel was a go, I found there was one panelist I didn’t know: Katrina Alcorn. I had been encouraged to read her book Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, but hadn’t made the time. Soon I was listening to it in audio format and telling every working mom I knew. For a while every conversation with other moms started this way:
Me: Have I told you about the book I’m reading?
Mom: Yeah, a couple times. Maxed Out, right? I’ve gotta get it.
Her book led me to Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed, which led me to realize, I need way more fun and play, and basically it’s all changed my life….except for the part that hasn’t changed, which is that being a working mom has its rough moments.
Like last night, when I got a text from Vylma at KPFA radio, inviting me to do a very short promo segment for the Festival at 7AM today. Yes, I would love to. But will my kid be awake? If she’s awake, who will be taking care of her? What if she wakes up halfway through the interview? I texted my partner, who said he had a big day at work and couldn’t cover the 7-7:15 slot. I negotiated with my kid to watch a couple videos. To be specific, we agreed ahead of time so I wouldn’t be in the middle of the interview hearing But Mom! I wanted the Peppa Pig with the tooth fairy not the birthday party! Miraculously, it all worked out. She got to see videos in the morning (unheard of in our house!) and I got to do a phone radio promo spot even though I couldn’t procure any childcare.
And this is perfect preparation for the panel. This is the imperfect, messy, tangle of a woman following her writer’s passion, caring for her kids, engaging with other job and household work, and negotiating with partners and/or other adults. In my case, I came to accept that all my perfect standards of mothering, writing, domestic work and paid work will never be met, so I just rattled off a tweet about it and took my kid to preschool. Thanks to all the women, writers, and/or working moms who responded on twitter. I know you get it.
Exquisite Insanity: Moms Who Write
The Marsh Cabaret