I always dreamed of writing for a living, and I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Of course, I imagined I would be JK Rowling successful, and have a large house with cleaners and a gardener, and that my children would be delightful, rosebud cheeked angels. As it turns out, I have a little house filled with semi feral children and a career that, whilst full of potential, does not offer me the luxuries I had visualized.
I run an online writing magazine, The Table Read, from my living room. I don’t clock on or off, I just have work I’ve done, and work that is waiting to be done. I usually start working before 6am and I work until I cannot work anymore. This is the same space I wrote and edited a feature film in. And the same space I wrote my novels in. It is also the same space my two daughters and my step-son have their toys, books, and PlayStation in.
My work is constant, and the energy in my house is hectic. The three children that seem to dominate most of the space all have different interests and different needs. Three children that, during the time it took me to write the first three lines of this article, interrupted me approximately 5000 times.
The only way I can manage the pressure of this life is to be just a little bit rubbish.
I have to let it slide that the laundry pile is a bit too big. I have to give myself a break that the floor needs vacuuming. To close my eyes to the fact the garden is, at best, a shambles, at worst, some kind of wildlife infested meadow.
Part of me would love to spend the summer holidays giving my children educationally stimulating activities. To help them research the moon or build a rocket out of a milk bottle. And, sometimes, I do. But I also depend heavily on the television. I let them eat crisps and biscuits. I throw them into the garden in the morning and every so often spritz them with sun cream with the hope they’ll stay out there until dinner.
The best advice I can offer to others in the same situation is to accept that being a little bit rubbish is okay. You cannot be everywhere and everything to everyone and trying will just make you feel like a failure. Let your home be a bit of a mess, let your children be a little bit wild. It’s still a home and your children are still loved, so it’ll be fine. And, ultimately, love your work so much that you forgive yourself.
JJ Barnes, Editor of The Table Read Magazine, author and filmmaker, working from home with three children aged 8 and below. www.jjbarnes.co.uk