Monday, January 11, 2010

Overcommitted and out of time

For me, commitment is the flip side of the coin of guilt.

I am impossible to live with in my own head when I falter on something I have assured myself or someone else I will do. Drive myself crazy with guilt.  Therefore I am one of those perpetually early, hard-working, if-I-say-it-it's-as-good-as-done folks.

Since this is my topic, you should know that I'd had a very lengthy and in-depth treatise on commitment planned for you. Instead, what you will get is my analysis of what happened to my commitments when a nightmare of epic proportions (in my life) bloomed last Wednesday:

My daughter got sick.

In and of itself, it was "only" a stomach virus. You know, one of those gut wrenching, purging, awful nights where one should just camp out in the bathroom since you're in there every 20 minutes anyway. Where the thirst tempts you into sips you know will just come right back up. Where the end of the contents of your system is NOT the end of the extreme effort your body is making to expel...nothing.

Now put that all on a 6 year old.

Bless her, she's finally old enough to not cry about it, and made some effort to contain the mess once she was aware of it. Telling her she shouldn't be drinking anything? Didn't penetrate.

Did I mention her 3 year old sister sleeps in the same room?

Talk about a nightmare for that one. Every half hour, all night, the sounds awoke her into fits of crying and providing a running preschooler commentary on her sick sis:

"Ewww!  Yucky!  Sissy yucky.  Mama make it stop! No!"

Older sis, between vomiting: "It's okay, budda-boo. Sissy be okay."

I was up until it ran its course around 6am, then grabbed a couple hours sleep, hoping against hope it was an isolated thing.

Home from school. she slept most of the day. I did LOTS of laundry and kept the little one from jumping on her. 


Okay, a side note on commitment. Of course, when you take on any life change, you commit yourself in myriad ways and in all levels of importance. Becoming a parent, and moreover becoming a "good" one, is kind of the coup de grace of commitment. You've basically agreed to put this new little person first and provide for them in an unimaginable number of things.

Uber-commitment. And it can wreck havoc with other commitments in your life. Kind of trumps most anything else. Case in point:


One night behind on my "other" job.  Okay, I'll still be able to manage. My "writing" to-be-completed-by-Monday list, which on Wednesday afternoon (pre-puking), consisted of:
  1. 10K to finish a short story an editor had made a request for just after the new year.
  2. Final run through edits on GA Hauser's 177 page February release.
  3. Put together a series blurb, four full synopses, and choose titles for a series of four stories I pitched early last week to one of my pub houses.
  4. Proof two manuscripts (not mine, other authors for editors) on very tight schedules, sooner the better.
  5. Write my OGG blog post on commitment. 
  6. Was expecting another proof from Claire Thompson for her imminent next release.
  7. Was also expecting first edits from my editor on my own February release.
  8. If I had time, write out and submit a 2-10K short story for an anthology.
Normally, I have a fairly easy time separating my "family" time from my "work" time, the dividing point is by the clock: when everyone goes to bed, everyone else including the eight indivduals and groups above, finally get their claims to my time. So from 9pm to 2am most nights, with a few additional hours snipped from weekend downtime, handling a list like this in five nights would be a piece of cake.

Wednesday night I lost to sick daughter patrol.

Thursday night, I got sick myself.  Same drill (I'll spare you the details).  Then the little one began about an hour after me, husband about an hour after her. So all Thursday night, the only one sleeping in our house was the recovering 6 yr old.

She got up for school on Friday. I didn't have the heart to say no (she was already all dressed for the 'pajama party' her class had earned), but did make her eat breakfast before I gave a firm okay. Making any kind of food at this point should have earned me brownie points for life. And I still hadn't been to sleep. Watched her get on the bus and crawled to bed. Got up once around 11 and sucked it up for a trip to the store for a caffeine fix (last thing I needed was a withdrawal headache on top of everything else, wish they had a patch), saltines, soup, gatorade, ginger ale, and whatever else I could remember Mom having around. Knew no one else would do it. Sapped the life outta me.

Got home and found husband still asleep and little one lifting the lid of the toilet upstairs, dazed. Not to go potty or throw up, but looking for a dog. Gave her a bit of ginger ale. She threw it up. Put her in my bed and went back to sleep.

Woke up again. Dark. Quiet. Dark?? Oh shit, Sarah! I'm officially the world's worst mom. She's sitting in the living room playing solitaire. Proudly tells me that after she got home and "everyone was SLEEPing, *humph*!" she fed herself a pb&j, watched Lord Of The Rings, read three books, and got double Yahtzee twice. Pat her on the head, sit upright for a couple hours and put everyone back to bed.

Mommy guilt is currently in overdrive, needless to say, between the toilet incident and the leave-the-door-unlocked method of welcoming Sarah home from school.

Saturday...everyone is listless. I'm lucid enough to start worrying about my work commitments and do some mental prioritizing. Nobody's eating, and the kids have Dad to play with them, so I start laundry and then hop on the computer to try to assuage the guilt starting to gnaw on my insides. 

Email the first ed to say it doesn't look like I'll get the story done on her timetable, explain and apologize. Crap. Debate trying to bang it out anyway. It's only Saturday night, right?

Make sure the next load has the favorite pillows and stuffed animals in it.

Muscle my way as thoroughly as possible through two proofs and GA's edits, and get those emailed back. Whew. Okay. Those obligations met.

Try to get everyone to eat some soup. Nobody's eating. Mom in me is fretting, writer is glad I don't have to take time to do dishes.

Try to do some brainstorming on my series. Urgency is tied to the fact that the first story needs to come out in April to make it work. Email that publisher to say I'll have all the synopses in no later than mid-week.

Put everyone back to bed. Now I can get some work done. Yawn. I mean, goodnight.

Oh shit. Sunday already?  Feels like it was just Wednesday. Claire's proof has come, and short and "tight" as it is, I whip through it and send it back her way. Very proud of myself.

Fix waffles by request. Two out of four eat. Continue laundry.

Sit down and make the decision to try to finish the story. Send the kids on a low-key outing with Dad, and write for three hours. All I get done is a piddling 2K, and am currently mired in a POV switch that's not working. Okay. That story is NOT going to get done by Monday. Leave it!

Dad has picked up burgers and fries. Three out of four eat (little one is getting littler by the day). No dishes again, maybe I can work on my synopses.

Family movie night, I've seen it twice, so try to brainstorm my series. Get drawn into the movie by kids instead. Still have to work on the OGG post. I'll do that as soon as they're in bed.

As soon as they're in bed, husband snags the computer. Shit. Can't say anything...after all, while I was sick, he took care of the little one while he was hurling too, plus took the kids out for the afternoon. Try not to stew about wasted time, and instead clean up the kitchen. Put shoes away (sigh). Sort the mail.

Oh right, Sunday. Sign off on daughter's homework. Find backpack. Pack lunch. Sneak up and make sure her alarm is set.

Get idea for the short story, which was dead last with the addendum "time permitting" on my list, due date is the next day, not even started. Finally get my hands on the computer and give birth to a 3K scene, synopsize it, format, and submit by 3am.

Guilt kicks in when I realize I must go to bed and still haven't written my OGG post: the only thing I haven't addressed on my list, and one of the few things graven in stone timewise.

Today "normalcy" reigns, albeit in a house that needs cleaning. Which I have put off so I could take care of my commitment to you, dear readers.

And now??  Time to plan my daughter's birthday. 

For two days from now.

Talk about a commitment graven in stone. Guilty Mom to the rescuuuuue...


  1. Oh my! I hope everyone is feeling better. It's awful when kids are sick. You just want to make them better, but there's nothing you can do. Then, of course, the parents get sick, and there's no time off from that job. You have to keep going even when you want nothing more than to crawl into bed. Good luck planning the birthday party. I'm sure it'll be great.

  2. Devon, dear,

    Stop beating yourself up. You have nothing to feel guilty about. It sounds as though you've done a stellar job under difficult circumstances.

    Your post demonstrates the essence of commitment: keeping on keeping on, doing your best, regardless of what semi-emergencies arise.

    The only thing you should be concerned about is that maybe--just maybe--your expectations for yourself aren't quite realistic...

    Anyway, hope that you are all feeling much better! Thanks for sharing the details of commitment "in the trenches"!


  3. Dear lord, woman, you've had a week! Puking kids, puking hubby and puking you, plus a big to-do list. Sounds like you need to take a week break and just veg after the week you've had. ((hugs))

    Congrats on getting so much done on your list, even with the week you've had!!

  4. Devon, take a Tylenol PM and get some rest!

    Yeah, Momma-guilt is ever-consuming, but still, you must take care of yourself too!

  5. Hi Eyre! Thanks for the vote of daughter came up with a nice save for me last night. She said, why don't we have my party on Monday? (MLK day, no school) Brilliant!

    It is a very helpless feeling when kids are sick and they look to you to make it all better..even worse when you know you're not giving it your all because you're sick as well.

  6. Lisabet, I'm all about maxing myself out as a tool to help me reach my full potential! ;) Most of the time it works really well. However, there's always the perfect storm of nasty stuff that comes along occasionally to derail the best laid plans.

    I do take solace in seeing a good majority of what *needed* to get done, done, and the rest handled in some way. Is there a clinical term for someone who finds crossing things off lists almost orgasmic??

  7. Ava, (smiling foolishly as I accept hugs) always appreciate your lovin'.

    I have cleared the decks for the rest of this week, all except for hosting book group (which I forgot to mention--a restaurant is going to take care of that for me, lol)...and the birthday stuff. The inbox is never empty, but you can shove it in a drawer. :)

  8. Hi Kenzie! LOL, did just that last night after I finally caught up on emails. First time I've been to bed before 1am in a long time, slept my way through until 5 min before the bus, so I was the mom in the robe waving from the door this morning. :)

  9. Devon,

    I hope you're feeling better by now. It sounds like you've got quite the workload, and I sympathize. We have similar things going on here in our house, where Hubster deals with the kids while I sneak in extra time to write, or the kids go to bed and I jump on the computer to work.

    I will say what a few others have said already. Take a break. I've had times when things were so hectic, one little hitch sent everything crashing and burning at my feet. The third time this happened to me, I said, "Fuck it," and spent the rest of the day on the sofa wearing a Hawaiian shirt and listening to Jimmy Buffet while I colored in a coloring book all afternoon. I had just hit my limit.

    Take care of yourself and get plenty of rest!

  10. Devon,

    That sounds like far too many commitments for one person. I truly hope you and the rest of your family are feeling better now.




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