This past week, Eldest was at sleep-away camp for the first time, Youngest was with my parents, and Middle stayed home, and attended day camp. In other words, I had one week (probably the only one this summer) where I had daytime hours, sans children, to write.
I finished my next article for ArtsATL, and then started completely rewriting my outline for my next novel, Finding Om.
Which leads me to recount a flurry of opinion pieces that came out over the past few weeks. First there was this essay, where the author claimed that for some writers, the key to being a successful writer depends on having only one child. A flurry of disagreement abounded by big name writers such as Zadie Smith and Jane Smiley. Smiley remarked that the key to writing successfully with children was to have adequate childcare, not having less children.
Initially, I agreed with both Smith and Smiley– I didn’t feel that I could blame my own lack of writing productivity on my children, but on lack of childcare.
Here’s the thing: Adequate childcare is the key to any parent’s success in a career. But the more children you have, the more difficult it is to find adequate, affordable childcare.
If you work and have three children, chances are you have to do at least two different summer camps to accommodate their age differences. Which means you might have two different drop off and pick up locations, at different times. If you have three kids, you have narrowed the range of babysitters who can sit for them. (There are a few young teens we know who would be fine watching my kids if I had only two, but three is pushing it.) Also, it’s a lot to ask grandparents to watch all three kids. One or two is fine, but three is a lot for anyone.
At the beginning of the summer, I hired a woman to help me for three hours a week. Not three hours a day, three hours a week. She showed up exactly four times. I haven’t heard from her since. In a panic last night, I dropped another $375 on a camp. For just one of my children.
Thus, I’ve rethought this whole issue. Because finding adequate, affordable childcare often depends on the number of children you have to find it for. It’s challenging enough to do this for one child. But add one or more to the mix, and it’s very, very difficult.
For the next two weeks, all three of my kids will be home. There will be no camps to speak of. Wish me productivity… and sanity.