Parenting and Playwriting
August presented a series of unfortunate events in my home: our roof sprouted three, unrelated leaks, the air conditioner stopped its whirling, and my youngest daughter broke her arm so badly, she had to be airlifted to a major children's hospital in Kansas City to be pinned and cast.
I also turned forty.
I didn't mind turning forty. I threw myself a party, and all my friends who happen to be gorgeous cooks brought food, my mother flew down from Chicago and helped me set up and clean, our neighbor the entomologist made key lime martinis, the dear Republicans who attended self-segregated in the study, and a merry time was had by all.
I did mind all the other stuff, however. It all turned out to be very inconvenient and more significantly, expensive, and like the state we live in, we began the new school year broke.
So with the turning of the leaves, we sheared our budget, and you know what was first to go? Remember that little childcare center in my husband's building, where I sent Laura last year? The one that seemed a little overcrowded but had a fish tank? That's the one. Well, it turns out a quick way to save money is to not pay your child's childcare tuition, and if you're a parent who works from home, keep said child at home with you while you work, which means you won't so much work as devise ways to work, which don't really work.
Nonetheless, I've gathered a few tips regarding ad hoc childcare for you:
1) Put your child in front of the television.
Duh. I mean, this one is pretty obvious. It's remarkably foolproof, except for the guilt, which will kick in around the second hour, and you'll have to turn off the TV for fear of melting your child's brain. Chances are, however, you've probably just used the first hour to shower and answer email, so you haven't actually gotten any work done anyway.
2) Timeshare childcare with some friends!
Sounds good, right? Like joining a Mommy coop will solve all your problems in an organic, earth friendly, community-building kind of way. There's a catch though. You will have to take care of other people's children. Also, and I hate to rain on your parade, but kids get sick a lot, and if you're cooping with say, that nice stay-at-home-Dad with four kids, chances are, on the morning he's supposed to watch your one kid for three hours the day before a big deadline, one of his four is going to be sick, and he's going to call you at seven in the morning, all "I'm so sorry, Kade has a fever, I can keep him in the other room, but I'd hate for your daughter to catch it!" (Subtext: if you insist on complicating my life with another body to tend with today, I will infect your precious darling myself!)
3) Take your kid and your laptop to the library.
This one isn't half-bad, actually. There are other responsible adults present you don't have to pay: librarians! And while these kind and capable human beings aren't technically trained in childcare, they can be relied upon to holler if, say, the building catches fire, or if your kid falls off a bookshelf and breaks her other arm. Librarians aren't, however, stupid, and after a couple of weeks, they may begin to intuit you're using the reference desk for reasons other than research and undermine your project in passive aggressive ways: "Why don't you take Laura to story hour? It starts in five minutes?" Story hour is, of course, the worst place in the entire library in which to get work done, because the happy clappy gal who runs that show insists parents participate.
4) Work after bedtime.
I guess this could work if your child, you know, went to bed.
5) Work when your second kid comes home from school and can take care of her younger sibling.
This is more theoretical than anything else.
So I have a few holes in my methodology. It is, admittedly, a work in progress.
The weird thing is, despite the lack of childcare, despite the lack of reliable alternatives, despite my abhorrence of getting up at 5am to write, which I have never, ever, ever done, I do, in fact, write. I mean, I haven't written this column, for example, but I do write plays. On weekends, on holidays, those fluke moments when Laura entertains herself with paints and dinosaurs for an hour or two, I write. And that's the great thing about writing; you don't actually have to write for extended periods of time to make progress. If you manage a mere forty-five minutes a day of writing, you'll have written something in a couple of weeks. It may be crap. It will probably be crap, but it will be a shimmer of a thing that in the next few weeks you can color and shape until it tells you that non-crappy thing it wants to be. A scene. A beautiful, glorious scene that, given time and patience and much tearing of your hair, will open up into a play.
And there's no better feeling than that.
Can I get an amen?