THE GLAMOROUS LIFE AS A NOVELIST

THE GLAMOROUS LIFE AS A NOVELIST

From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

The Glamorous Life as a Novelist

It was the Post-it-covered dog that finally did me in.

What made me think I could work from a home office? Work an eight-hour day as a novelist and simultaneously rear four children, not to mention the incorrigible corgi, the pet python, the noisy cockatoo, and the small flock of lovebirds. I thought I could juggle it all. I thought I could have balance, but I now realize balance is as big a piece of fiction as my books.

The most ironic thing of all, of course, is I write chick lit. You know, those books about cosmo-sipping socialites or single women in the city. They have a lot of sex, and none of it is interrupted by a six-year-old poised midvomit saying, “I don’t feeeeeeeeeel good, Mommy.” My heroines wear designer shoes and never have to think about how utterly impractical four-hundred-dollar high heels are. My books’ titles are snappy, Mafia Chic and Spanish Disco. My covers are glossy, with gorgeous women, not one of whom has a baby spit-up stain on her silk blouse.

But my real life, my very real life, is rather like walking a tightrope without a net.

So it was today. While I have the luxury of getting to work from home, my day reads rather like most working moms’ days: Wake up at a brutally early hour, start the coffeemaker, wake up child number one, the high schooler who despises early mornings and greets me with rudeness. Pour large cup of coffee with creamer and sugar added; start chugging said coffee. Go back to the door of high schooler’s bedroom and scream, “Get up before you miss the bus!” Go plead with husband, “She won’t get up. You try.” Drink more coffee. Wake up children numbers two and three. Child number two turns on cartoons. Yell at child number two to turn them off because he is incapable of putting on socks while SpongeBob is on. Gets too distracted. Drink more coffee. Child number one leaves house—slamming door. Say a prayer, “Please let her make the bus.” Look at watch. Shake head. How can it be I’ve been up for less than twenty minutes?

Baby awakes by screaming from his crib to let us all know the Little Prince of the house (midlife baby means he’s much younger, and everyone dotes on him) wants up now! Change diaper. Hoist him into kitchen, set him in high chair, toss Cheerios on tray before he screams more. Check on child number two—mesmerized by SpongeBob. Child number three needs to be pulled into upright position to wake her. Give up and start dressing her while she’s still asleep.

Fast forward through more coffee and now leaving to drive children two and three to school. Get baby in car seat, children in seat belts. Back out of driveway. Drive three feet. Child number two says, “It’s band today! I have to get my baritone.” (Note: baritone is not the most melodious of instruments for beginners.) Stop car. Child runs for instrument. By the time he gets back into car and into seat belt, we now will be right in the midst of rush hour traffic—I’ve lost my five-minute buffer.

Somehow, kids get to school. Drive home, make another pot of coffee. Baby is settled with rattles and toys. Phone rings. It’s the school. Child two forgot lunch; child three has a stomachache and a temperature. Grab the lunch, the baby; drive to school. Exchange one lunch for one child. Go home.

For expediency of this story, fast forward through five hours of trying to write about glamorous lives of my heroines with their hunky boyfriends who do not, I repeat, do not, leave their underwear on the floor, who will ask for directions, and who know how to change a roll of toilet paper. Husband needs lessons.

Manage to write a whopping five pages. Agent calls. “How’s the book going?”

“Oh, you know, it’s going.”

“You’re going to meet your deadline, right?”

“Of course.” Add airy little, “Ha, ha, ha. Of course!”

Hang up. Panic. Type faster.

Child number one comes home, complains there’s “nothing good” in the fridge. Child number two needs to be picked up. Retrieve him. While gone, baby coats dog in Post-its while high schooler was supposed to be watching him. She has burned a bag of microwave popcorn, giving house strange and disgusting burnt odor.

Try to write. Feel stuck. Blocked. No words come. Go into bathroom and lock door so I can think.

Deep breaths. You can make this deadline.

Note passed under door from child number two, with pencil attached.

   Dear Mom:

    I love you. Can I invite Tim over for a playdate?

    Check one:

    YES   NO

   Thanks,

   Your son, Nick

Check off yes, because really my day is shot anyway. Slide paper back under door.

Bang, bang on the door.

“Yes?”

“I have to ’frow up.” Child number three.

Vacate bathroom as safe location to escape.

Clean up after sick child number three. Tuck her in bed with ginger ale.

Fast forward through a dinner from someplace with a drive-thru window, homework, baritone practice, three diaper changes, four loads of laundry, and a fast vacuum of Cheerios scattered throughout living room.

Husband says, “Do you know you have food in your hair?”

I say, “Do you know you left your underwear on the floor this morning?”

“I like you with food in your hair. Reminds me why I love you. You’re beautiful, you know.”

Try to decide whether to kiss him or kill him.

Check on children. Tuck baby in. He says first word. “Mama.”

Melt.

Decide it’s all worth it.

Then decide there is no balance. There is no having it all. Scratch that. There is if you believe life isn’t like the glossy book covers. If you decide to trade cosmos for Cheerios. If you realize life is messy around the edges. If you think sticky kisses and hugs are more important than pristine, power silk blouses. If you are willing to trade a little of your 401(k) for homemade cards and bouquets of dandelions. If you don’t mind Post-its on the dog and handprints on the walls. This is my life.

My glamorous life.

And I wouldn’t trade it for all the Manolos and bright pink cosmos in the world!

Erica Orloff

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