12/2/19, Juggling Act
I hope that everything is going smoothly in your life, getting ready for the holidays.
With Christmas only three weeks away, I was sitting quietly last night, thinking about all the things I have to do. I try very hard to be organized, which is the only way I managed with nine children, when they were younger, more than one house to run even now, and many books to write. I’m not as busy as I was when my kids were little, but things have a way of evening out. I write more books now, and Christmas shopping for my kids is more complicated and more of a challenge than spending an afternoon at Toys R Us, as I did then. (Not to mention putting all the toys together, which took hours—-and an engineering degree I didn’t have!!!). But Christmas and the holidays aren’t just about Christmas shopping. It’s about entertaining friends, preparing certain traditional foods. We used to bake brownies for all the kids’ friends and teachers, put them in pretty tins and deliver them. Writing the Christmas cards, going to school performances if you have young children. The list is endless of what many people do before the holidays. When I look back at all I did when my children were really young, I have no idea how I did it. Especially times Nine!!!
I think domestic tasks are more evenly divided now between men and women than they used to be, or at least I like to think so. With a husband who was of another generation then, he was not an active participant in household chores or Christmas preparations, although he loved Christmas. Sometimes I wonder if people realize all that women do by the time the turkey is on the table and the tree is decorated, all the gifts are wrapped, and the Christmas music is playing. I was lucky in two things, or many things, but one is that I worked at home, on my own schedule, so I could work at night when the kids were asleep, and I was also lucky in that I don’t need a lot of sleep. I still do many things at night, because there are fewer interruptions, and I love to write at night, for the same reason, few interruptions. But as a working woman, the bulk of holiday tasks still falls to us, and somehow it’s expected. We shop for the gifts, and wrap them, if there’s cooking to be done, we do it (lucky for my family, I don’t, but I used to. I am not an outstanding chef, and never was). I did the Christmas cards, the baking (I’m a fairly decent baker). I went to every Christmas school performance, AND auditions, sports games, and all activities, not to mention the orthodontist, doctors’ appointments, and less exciting tasks even right before the holidays. And when the dogs had to go to the vet, I took them. My point is that women have always done an incredible number of ‘unofficial’ jobs, while holding down a real job, and taking care of children.
It’s true all year, not just during the holidays. My generation was told that we could “have it all”, an active satisfying, challenging career, AND a family. Women in earlier generations had to make a choice between family and career. We decided, and I did too, that we could have both, and succeed at both. And many women did. What no one told you were the sacrifices you’d have to make, the things you would simply not have time to do if you chose to “have it all”. I used my kids’ school hours to write my books, as well as writing at night. I don’t think I had lunch with a single friend for twenty years, until my kids grew up, and even now I rarely do. (It cuts right into the middle of the day and interrupts my work, to take the time to dress nicely, go somewhere, eat lunch, and get back. it takes 3 or 4 hours out of my work day, even if I enjoy it). I never had time to read a magazine when they were little, and fewer books than I liked. I had worked in advertising as a copywriter, and as a high school teacher, and was able to give that up and work at home on the books before I was thirty. But working at home meant juggling all the household and family tasks, AND doing my job of writing. I wore my hair long and pulled back because I rarely had time to get to the hairdresser. I loved to go shopping, but had little time for that. I think most men, and women who have opted for careers and not kids, don’t realize all the things you don’t have time to do for yourself if you have a family and a job. And they still ask “Have you done the Christmas cards yet?” I don’t know a single man who does them. There’s a lot you can do on the Internet now, but I think as women we take pride in doing the things that are supposedly part of our ‘job’, as mothers and partners. Most of us like doing those things, even if it means that we skip doing something for ourselves. I am amazed at all that I see women do, for their partners and families, and the sacrifices they make without a whimper. They really are the unsung heroes of our busy times.
I recently spoke to a female friend who is the head of a conglomerate of 5 publishing houses in France. She works incredibly hard, is married, and has two young children in lower school. It was midnight when we were speaking. She had been to three different book fairs that week in other cities. And while we were talking, she was making lasagna for a class event at her daughter’s school, and had a breakfast meeting with an author the next day.
I salute these brave busy women who do so much that no one even notices, and rarely thanks them for. No one realizes all the personal time they give up to do something for themselves that they might enjoy. Most of them don’t complain, they don’t remind us of all they do, whether during the holidays or during the rest of the year. Sometimes women really are heroes, for what they give up, for all they do, and for the incredible juggling acts they manage, to make their families and friends happy. My own life is a lot easier now, but I remember so well the many nights I fell into bed exhausted, or wanted to, but I still had a Halloween costume to make, or a doll house to decorate with tiny little rugs and miniature furniture, so it would be ready on Christmas.
So for those of you racing around madly, with no time for yourselves, doing everything—–I salute you with the greatest respect and endless admiration. It really is a juggling act, and in the end, even with little or no praise for it, it is well worth it. There is an enormous satisfaction that comes from it in the long run, and precious memories. I don’t regret a single lunch with a friend that I gave up, and the memories of the baking, making, and running around to make the holidays a success are a tender memory now.
Have a wonderful week, and even if you are racing at full speed, doing things for everyone else—take just a minute to do something for yourself!!!
much love, Danielle
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I am new to reading your blog but am a long-time reader of your books. I just finished “Lost and Found”. One thing – on page 31 Maddie learns she has a clean break in her ankle, no pin required (no surgery). Yet on page 217 she is told the pin will help strengthen the ankle. Hmmmmm. I read on your FB page you write 4 or 5 books at a time! That’s crazy – I can see why an occasional inconsistency might happen. Really though – thank you for what you do. I just love your style. The way you bring people to life is great and the level of detail when you describe the surroundings- it is just top-notch.
Thank you for being you!
Ms.Steel I remember somewhere that you had a lot of books in your basement that had never been released. If this is the case would there be anyway that I could purchase some of them. You are my favorite author of all time and I cannot imagine having novels that have never been written by you that would not be released. Thank you in advance for your help and response. MErry Christmas to you and your family.