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Embracing My Laundry Room Woodchuck

laundry room woodchuck

Photo Credit: Christina Fink/Shutterstock

I am a writer. I’m also a military spouse and a mother of four. So, what I really mean is I write a lot of things: grocery lists, notes to school, holiday cards, diary entries where I note my daily failures—stuff like that.

What I’m not writing much of these days is my next book. A few years ago I was lucky enough to co-write a historical novel with my sister. It was published in 2015 and I’ve been working on the next one ever since.

Well . . . if scribbling outlines, scene ideas, random notes, and tidbits of research in a pink heart-covered notebook that I keep in my purse under two matchbox cars and a squished granola bar counts as “working.”

I hear about all these amazing women that are achieving so much in their careers while facing the same challenges (and often, way worse ones) that I am.

But mostly, here I sit, stagnant. Baking on a naval air station in the California desert. Four kids. Two dogs. A Guinea pig. One often-absent husband. One occasionally-resentful-but-still-tamping-it-down-into-the-dank-recesses-of-her-soul wife. Did I say that out loud?

I do accomplish little victories here and there. And lots of mundane deeds no one will care about.

You know, laundry, cooking, projects, school-trips, sports, activities, all those things that take up SO MUCH time…but result in very few concrete accomplishments.

Shame Spiral

I hear about all these amazing women that are achieving so much in their careers while facing the same challenges (and often, way worse ones) that I am. Hearing about them typically sends me into a shame spiral that can only be cured with a can of whipped cream squirted directly down my gullet. Or two. What? I get the fat-free kind. I’m not a monster.

And this year there’s been that pesky little COVID thing, where my children have been home from school for just shy of a year and I decided to take on some freelance writing and editing gigs so I could have a reason to hide and pretend like I’m not losing my mind.

So that’s one more thing that gets in the way of that book getting finished before I qualify for the senior discount at Denny’s.

I feel like I’m living life by the skin of my teeth, doing a halfway job on everything: writer, wife, mother, cook, cleaner, and laundress.

So here’s the funny thing: despite my feelings of inadequacy, apparently others don’t necessarily see me that way. Besides asking me what the secret is to my youthful glow—which mostly happens when I say it to the mirror—people often remark to me:

“I don’t know how you do it all.”

They see me juggling my kids and my husband and work and military squadron stuff and are aware that I’m working on a novel and apparently think I’ve got it all figured out.

Oh the irony.

Critical, Hurtful Woodchuck

Today I found a woodchuck nesting in my laundry room. She looked at me and said “I can’t believe I’m subjecting my young to such filthy conditions.”

And I’ll concede, being mommy-shamed by a woodland rodent is a tad hurtful. I’m just thankful that they’re pretty clean animals—those baseball pants I dragged out from under her babies totally had another wearing in them.

Sometimes I make hot dogs for dinner. Sometimes we eat in front of the TV. I bet the busdriver still has the occasional nightmare of the pre-pandemic image of me lurching to the bus stop in my yoga pants. And, every now and then, I still convince one of the kids that it is mismatched sock day at school—but they’re starting to suspect something now that school is in our house.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back.

But you know what? I’ll bet there are a whole lot of those other women out there that drive me straight into the arms of the whipped cream can who are secretly harboring a woodchuck of their own.

I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t disappointing and frustrating that my book is coming along slower than I’d like. But I’m finding that it helps to adjust my expectations a bit. I try to feed my interests any way that I can. And I’m trying to give my kids a little extra attention during this frustrating and lonely time. The book will keep.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. But in the end, it’s progress. And if you’re reading this and feeling like you’re not accomplishing what you thought you would, I hope you’ll adjust your expectations, take a breath, and find a way to nurture your dreams in whatever ways help you achieve some balance with all the craziness that life can hand you.

Now I must go, I’ve got a woodchuck to feed.

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