There is nothing quite like one’s own family to keep you grounded. I started my writing career with big dreams about radio and TV interviews galore, glossy double page spreads showcasing my beautiful home and me, in a gorgeous linen trouser suit, with adoring husband at my side and 3 exquisite children at my knee. People would stop me in the shops, asking me for advice, inspiration, and of course, my autograph.
Let me start by saying that none of this has actually happened. I am not sure when I realised that writing is not as glorified as I expected, but possibly it all started way back when I wrote my very first book. I printed out sections of my manuscript as I went along, beautiful pages of New Times Roman, printed on the best quality print paper and ready for my initial read through. Later, I went around the house searching for self-same pages, painstakingly straightening out crumpled up bits, trying to read through a rainbow riot of felt-tipped scribbles and of course, unfolding about fifty paper aeroplanes.
“This is mommy’s work!” I yelled, tears pricking at my eyes. “My hard work! Do you know how important this is to mommy!” To which of course, the answer from my six-year-old was, “Mom, Presley’s pooped in the bath.” And my three-year-olds subsequent: “Eeeeuw, dissss-gusting!” I looked to my husband, beseeching him with watery eyes and he looked vaguely alarmed, before leaping to his feet and pointing a finger half-heartedly in their general direction. “You know you shouldn’t touch mommy’s things,” he scolded. His supposed support would probably have been far more effective if, in vacating his seat, he hadn’t revealed a wad of manuscript pages, on which he had been playing hangman with my eldest.
Things went from bad to worse. Short of wet wipes, manuscript pages were used to clean up unmentionable things. Realising my two-year old had taken to doodling on the tiles, the kitchen cupboards and the walls, in absence of her favourite drawing material – I gave her as many pages as her little heart desired.
Eventually I conceded defeat. I stopped printing and worked digitally. Everything was done on my laptop, which all three of my children know to never, ever touch. When my editor sent me a memo asking if “She dived aside, the cargsjgadsyrdyardgbshnbdkajdbmasssssssssbj missing her by inches” was a deliberate sentence, I realised that the sanctity of my laptop had been violated. “This is Mommy’s computer!” I roared. “It’s very expensive and you are not allowed to touch it!” Unfortunately, in my desperation to prove a point I was holding it out to show them. My two year old promptly stuck out a chubby finger and smeared Nutella across my screen.
And then there was the fame that I had dreamed of. My first ever newspaper interview came to fruition. I spent about three hours meticulously straightening my hair, and applying impeccable war paint. Of course the inevitable scuffle broke out in the lounge and I padded down the passage to resolve it. Then I started making notes, just in case, and asked my neighbour to please watch my kids for an hour. Reluctantly, she agreed. Half an hour later, I graciously greeted the journalist assigned to my interview, laying out a beautiful platter of snacks and a pot of tea in teapot I borrowed from my mother in law. All went well, apart from a few curious glances at my face, which I put down to reverent curiosity. Halfway through the sounds of screaming emanating from next door had become impossible to ignore. I rolled my eyes and whispered conspiratorially, “My neighbours kids.”
Waving her away a short while later, I chest bumped myself in the mirror. I had done it! I was on my way! Only three hours later did I realise I had only made up one eye.
Determined to act as cool as a cucumber, I refrained from calling to find out when my “piece” would appear in the paper. Then, one day I got a text message form my friend saying “Hi Michelle!” with a smiley face. To my horror, my article was out. They.called.me.Michelle. The whole way through. My family thought it was hilarious. My husband tried to call me Michelle in the bedroom. I almost punched him in the mouth.
I actually have been stopped in the shops, my hair scraped back in a frazzled bun, wearing dirty, scruffy jeans and a toddler hanging on each hip.
“Excuse me,” a timid, breathless voice asked. I straightened up, beaming. This was it! I had been recognised! It was inevitable really – by this stage I had appeared in no less than four obscure community papers. I quickly dropped the kids.
“Yes,” I turned, beaming. Thank goodness I had been perfecting my smile in the mirror for weeks. Slightly taken aback, the pretty brunette stepped away from me.
“Um… it’s just that I think your child dropped this.” She held up an empty BarOne wrapper. My six-year-old disappeared faster than a Hogwarts house-elf disapparating.
“Oh no,” I replied smoothly, “that’s definitely not mine. My children don’t eat chocolate.” Her gaze slid from me to the two toddlers I had just released, their entire faces covered in brown slobber. “Look, I’m very busy, is there anything else you wanted to ask?” I waited smugly for a request that was never forthcoming. I keep a pen in my bag, just in case. I think it’s dried up.
All in all, being an author is far from glamorous. Being a mother to three young children, even less so. But doing both? I’m living my dream, six-page spread aside.
*****Note: I did try to buy the “suit” that was to be my own brand of classy chic. I couldn’t squeeze my arse into the linen trousers.