It’s July, and for a writer who is also a teacher, summer means work. It’s the time of year when I don’t have to worry about lesson plans or papers and can focus on writing new material. Unfortunately, summer doesn’t signify the same thing to my children. For them, summer is a time to swim, bike, and play foursquare—all activities that take me away from my computer screen. And although foursquare can be played with three people, it’s much more fun when mom is there to make fun of. Still, even my kids would have to admit my game is improving.
Those times that I don’t participate, though, I feel bad. As I sit downstairs, I wonder about the noise being made above my head: was it a cat, a dog, or a kid that just collided with the floor? And how many times can one cupboard door be slammed? It seems innumerable. My kids are older, I tell myself, seven and ten. They don’t need their mom to play. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty for the things happening (or not happening) around the house.
The other night as we sat down to eat dinner, my daughter asked me for a glass of milk. With a sigh, I stood up and reached into the cupboard. To my chagrin, the only glass left was a bar glass that read Jack Daniels. Really? Jack Daniels? But between writing and children, I hadn’t had time to think about the dishes, and my husband had been away at work all day. Yes, my daughter would be drinking her milk from a bar glass, and while it didn’t bother her at all, it made me wonder if I was a second-class mom.
As we ate and talked and laughed, the glass was forgotten. It was replaced by the great feeling of family. At the end of the dinner, as my daughter was helping me clear the table, she said, “I like how this glass curves. It’s cool.” I couldn’t help but secretly smile. It didn’t really matter how many glasses I washed, or didn’t, in this case. It mattered that we had shared dinner as a family.
It’s moments like these that force me to redefine family and work. For me, writing doesn’t mean absolute silence and zero interruptions, and motherhood doesn’t mean coordinating dinnerware and perfected play schedules—although both started out with these ideals in mind. I realize I can be committed to my writing and my kids, even during these hectic days of summer.