Only a woman who has had a baby can truly understand the meaning of the affliction known as Baby Brain, can truly appreciate the harmful effects of years of consecutive sleepless nights, of having your entire consciousness filled with the wants and desires of a needy little person to the extent that you never finish a thought, let alone a sentence and… what was I saying again?
Anyway, now that those initial crazy days are in our past and we have a three year old and a two year old who (halleluiah) sleep through the night most nights, occasionally play nicely together in their room or in the garden, and even go to kinder a couple of mornings a week, I have begun to find my brain showing signs of life. It turns out that, after all, it can do things other than stew carrots and boil-wash nappies.
I recently did a couple of weeks of translation work, covering a friend’s maternity. It really was the first time I had used my mind in any way for years, and I was a little nervous initially as to whether I was up to the challenge. I also wondered if I really had the time in my schedule to get it done. And, while there were moments when I could feel the cold dread of failure creeping up my neck, or the girls were getting up early from their naps and I was screaming inside (or outside) because I was sure I was going to miss my deadline, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It was almost like waking up from a dream. I was rusty, no doubt about it; at the outset I found I had to sit at the table in total silence, to concentrate so hard that I was mostly in a light sweat and jigging my legs frantically under the table. As the week wore on I regained the ability (now proving crucial) to tune out surrounding noise and focus easily on the task in hand. But the best part was learning again – learning new words and phrases in Spanish, and even learning from the content of the work itself (business news in the Central American region). I suddenly had interesting facts at my disposal, things to drop into conversation, that weren’t related to burp cloths or pooey nappies. It was exhilarating.
This is what inspired me to try and get some of my own work in the field, so I’ve started to advertise myself as a translator and am seeing what will come of it.
Meanwhile over the Christmas period and January I started to rediscover an old flame. Most people who know me will know that I like to make stuff up and write it down; it’s always seemed a ridiculous thing to be good at and have qualifications in but, either way, I do. But I found my creativity lacking during the time I have been devoted to my children. It was almost as if, having poured all my creative powers into making two new people, I was drained (or more likely I was tired, didn’t have any free time or energy, and my brain wasn’t functioning). But recently I managed to put together a collection of short stories and publish them for Kindle to sell on Amazon. And I’ve found myself so enthused on occasion that I have sat up late into the night to finish something off when I’m on a roll; pretty exciting when I’ve spent the last three years barely making it to nine o’clock without dozing off on the sofa.
It got me to thinking that in many ways I can understand the appeal of being a working mum (even if I can’t imagine how it is actually possible). There’s something great about using that whole other side to your brain, almost like a form of exercise. And at the same time it’s about having another identity as well, I imagine even more so when you actually leave the house and have a whole other sphere in which you operate, a workplace where you are yourself rather than Mum, for a little while at least. Whereas I don’t ever actually leave the house to work and am not as such employed, even having projects which I’m working on has given me a taste of this independence. The return to spending some time on my own pursuits has given me a new lease of life, and even more excitingly, has even served to renew my enthusiasm for spending time with the kids. Rather than being waist-deep in dirty washing and grumbling at my girls, taking a break from them when I can and using it to work (rather than sleep or do the washing-up or stare blankly at the ceiling in sheer exhaustion), means I come back to a game of Hungry Hippos or taking turns with the colouring book refreshed and keen.
That’s the really exciting thing about my prospects these days: I know I am already doing the best and most fulfilling job in the world – everything else is just the icing on the cake.
Shameless plug: I’m available for Spanish-English translation jobs or freelance writing/editing projects of any kind. Contact me on email@example.com. You can buy my short story collection ‘Bad Roads’ for Kindle on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, or in fact on any of Amazon’s international incarnations http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Roads-ebook/dp/B007690BPC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329537454&sr=1-1 (this is a link which you may have to copy and paste if you are so inclined).