|Candid camera: Stephanie in bed, trying to write.|
As part of my current series on Moms Who Write, I am happy to welcome my longtime student Stephanie Springsteen. Her work has appeared in the anthology Cup of Comfort for Couples, and I think you will agree with me that she is most ingenious in fitting writing into her life as a mom:
Stephanie Springsteen: With two children five years apart in age, my writing routine has evolved with their schedules. When each of my children was napping age, one of my favorite routines involved the car. As a stay-at-home mom who couldn't stand staying at home, by afternoon I would often find myself strapping the baby into the car seat. Settling myself into the driver's seat, I would sigh. After a poor night of sleep and a morning of dishes, diapers, laundry, and picking up toys, it was often the first time all day that I could sit down. Then I would drive.
My apologies to the environment, but driving soothed baby and me. I would head out of the city to the suburbs to look at old Victorian houses, fifties era ranch houses,sixties ramblers with wide lawns and big windows. Finally, when a glance in the rear view mirror revealed a dipped head and open mouth, signaling a sleeping baby, I would pull into the parking lot of a Federal Forest Preserve. Shutting off the car, I would rest my eyes on the trees. Out came the plain drugstore notebook I keep stashed in the car door pocket, a pen stuck in the wire spiral bind. Unfinished household chores could not taunt me here. In the car it was just the notebook and me. Lost in my writing, I would occasionally come up for air to look into the trees. I might be treated to the sight of a deer rambling by, an ethereal mist rising off the ground, or the colors of a wildflower in bloom.
The disadvantage of this routine, however, was that after a couple hours of being folded up in the car, my bladder would be throbbing. Terrified of leaving the baby unattended for more than a minute or two, I would find a port-a-potty. The Forest Preserves had a few perched near the curbs of their parking lots. Setting the car alarm on with a chirp, I would duck inside to relieve myself, holding my breath all the while. Ah, the sacrifices we make for art. After slathering on hand sanitizer, I would drive to a more scenic location to continue writing. I enjoyed peace and quiet until the mumblings, or screams, of a waking baby let me know time was up.
Nowadays I write in bed before my youngest wakes up. He has outgrown his naps, but is still too young for preschool. Since we are family bed people, he sleeps cuddled next to me. If I leave the bed for a while, he is sure to start screaming. To my infinite gratitude, my husband, the early bird, takes care of the morning routine and school drop-off for our daughter. He also makes coffee. So once he has woken our daughter and she is getting dressed, I sneak downstairs for my cup of coffee. Then I run straight back up and settle into my spot in the bed before it gets cold. My son is often squirming by now, but once I am back in place, he rearranges himself against my leg and pops his thumb in his mouth. If I am lucky, he gives it a few reassuring sucks before he falls back asleep. If I am not lucky, he doesn't fall back asleep. In that case, I am not above switching on the TV and letting "Mickey Mouse Playhouse" entertain him for half an hour or so while I squeeze in a bit of writing. I know my time is up when he starts jumping on the bed and scaling my back as if it were a mountain, gripping my hair for balance.