Monday, July 28, 2008

Change as good as a rest?

It takes a week to pack. The holiday lasts a week. It takes a week to unpack, wash, dry, iron and put away all the junk. The ratios just don’t add up…

Luckily we have a spare room. It’s called “Nanna’s room” but she is banished from visiting prior to a holiday as her room is transferred to the ‘packing chamber’. I used to work for UNICEF – travelled to war-torn countries and packed the night before. It was easy. Iraq? Long sleeves and flip flops. Sierra Leone? Short sleeves and sports bra (very bumpy roads). In my previous life I travelled the world for two years with one rucksack slung over my back. It held all the knickers I needed and one saggy bra kept all my bits in check for all 674 days. Now? A week’s holiday on the west coast of Ireland requires military precision and 104 lists.

Not exactly war torn but it certainly has its fair share of bumpy roads, and with the arctic / tropical summers we have, it’s like packing for two different holidays. Oh, and throw in two kids and a busy husband and I need a logistical plan of epic proportions to remember everything – washing and ironing has to be planned days in advance, medical kit, clips, books, toys, buckets and spades, swimming gear (hot and cold weather dependent), potty, toilet seat, pink toilet paper, nappies, pack lunch for the journey, favourite snacks, favourite spoons, favourite dishes etc etc etc. One saggy bra no longer fits the bill I’m afraid – two kids later I need a structural engineering masterpiece.

And two things happen.

Ten minutes into the journey my husband asks if I packed the kid’s DVD. I deflate in frustration. The one thing I forget out of the 4729 things I remembered and it’s the first thing that’s required.

And every holiday I pack my ‘me bag’. Stuffed with my writing magazines, my books, my writing notebooks that in a moment of mammary maladjustment I think I’ll get the time to enjoy, the bag remains forlornly and depressingly untouched, like the beach bag on a two week holiday of rain.

But then two other things happen.

I fall in love with my family all over again as we play together for endless sun drenched / rain drenched days, and I rejuvenate enough to know that this exhausting time of young babies is time finite. I’ll keep packing my ‘me bag’ and one day, on one holiday I’ll open it. That’ll be the day my kids can entertain themselves - and a little part of me will rejoice and a little part of me will weep.

(c) AKG 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

the original women writers

I’ve been feeling a little daunted of late. Giving up my high flying career to look after my girls seems to have morphed into a full-time child-rearing job, combined with a (very) part-time writing career, swamped by the domestic drudgery of housekeeper, cook, cleaner and general slave to everyone else’s wishes.

As I fight a loosing battle for some time to call my own (having long given up on a room of my own, a desk of my own, a moment of my own), I’m afraid writing has taken the biggest hit. As I lie under the duvet desperately grasping another ten minutes of rest, I console myself that I’m not leaping out of bed earlier than my sleeping angels to write, by the fact that I’m a hectic mother of two under three and exhaustion has won the day. I pat myself on the back for getting through the day without causing anyone any actual physical harm, and meeting my magazine deadlines. I shrug my shoulders at the long list of writing I should / could / would be doing if only I had the time / childcare / energy – my blog (once daily, then weekly, now sporadic), other blogs, my diary, my novel.

But now I must confess to being shamed. I’m reading a book called Can Any Mother Help Me?, about a group of women in the 1930’s who were isolated and bored and stressed from marriage and motherhood. In those days women gave up their jobs when they married and raising a handful of kids by yourself was the norm. One day a lonely woman wrote an ad in The Nursery Times asking if any other mother could help her. She was desperately lonely and isolated, and needed creative interaction. She got so many replies from so many women around the country they decided to set up their own secret magazine. They all took anonymous names and wrote articles about their lives. Taking them through their child-rearing years, through the second world war, through marriage breakdowns and life’s highs and lows, these women found solace in their writing and their friendships. The magazine – called CCC (Co-Operative Correspondence Club) – lasted for over 55 years.

Their lives where often harsh, and many had been educated but forced to become nothing more than domestic drudges after marriage. They endured bringing up their children alone and in austere circumstances during the war and they fought their own battles to find identity, creativity, and achievement. They were brave, funny, witty, enduring, strong and smart. They worked much longer and much harder than I do, and they still found time to write. For 55 years these women literally wrote the story of their lives, weaving a weapon against boredom, domestic drudgery, marriage and motherhood. Life gave them something to write about, and their writing gave their life meaning.

So, it’s 5.30am. I’m writing. And it feels wonderful.

(c) AKG 2008