Brain wasting illness or creative lifestyle?

Ever since I quit my day job as uber-manager at a major university and taken on the responsibilities of a full-time stay-at-home mom, I’ve felt my most excellent multi-tasking skill set ebb away. Meaning, I forget stuff all the time, I have become notoriously lax in my obligations to others, and I just don’t have a grasp of the bigger picture like I used to.

Granted, instead of managing a budget of millions of dollars, I now manage a weekly budget in the three digit category; and instead of managing a staff of twenty or thirty wildly diverse people, I share the provocative and enlightening company of my 9 year-old twins pretty much 24/7; and instead of flying around the country, meeting with scientists and government officials, drafting work plans, creating budgets, and writing grants, I meet with brain-numbing control freaks in our school PTA to talk about whether it is appropriate to fund Krispy Kreme donut parties in our children’s classrooms with PTA funds.

But, still, motherhood is a full time job, and it keeps me very busy. So, why does my brain seem to be sprouting more holes than a sieve? Could it be that I’ve contracted a brain-wasting illness? It’s gotten so bad that when I wash my hair, I regularly check the shape of my skull for signs of tumor growth. After all, a tumor might explain why I just don’t seem to fire on all cylinders like I used to.

But recently, I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t there is another explanation. Shortly after quitting my day job, I started writing children’s fiction. I have noticed, over the past few years, that in trying to integrate a creative lifestyle with motherhood, if push comes to shove in a battle over deadlines and priorities, motherhood wins every time. But I haven’t given up. I’d committed to the 10-year plan for writerly success, just like I’d been told to do by countless successful writers before me.

But it isn’t easy being a mother and a writer.

When I go through my richest periods of creative development, and I give myself permission to wallow in my story, to listen to my characters, and to wonder what will happen next, I tend to forget about things like making dinner. Or washing the dog. Or taking a shower. Or remembering my mother’s 70th birthday. I become a combination bag lady, early Alzheimer patient, and sloppy housekeeper from hell. My friends stop calling me because I turn down lunches and retreat into the comforting loneliness of my house. I snap irritably at my husband and children when they have the nerve to interrupt me as I hunch over my laptop at the empty dining room table, the kitchen remarkably free of any smells of food. Can’t they see I’m busy?

I have no idea as to the real cause of this early onset of dementia. Is it motherhood? Is it living a creative lifestyle? I do know one thing, though: if it ends up that I do succumb to a brain-wasting illness, I’m pretty sure that no one will have noticed until after I’m dead.


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