My third book, The Distance Between Us, is an honest exploration of marriage and motherhood. It delves into the intricacies of being in a long-term relationship, both the highs and the lows, the joy and privilege of knowing someone inside and out, balanced with the humdrum of everyday life that is the reality of marriage and co-parenting. The school run, the laundry, the housework, the endless juggling, the temper tantrums, the sick bugs, the bickering, the family celebrations, the outings, the cuddles, the bedtime stories: the true fabric of family life.
Three months before I started writing this book, I became a mother myself. The wondrous, insane, exhilarating, exhausting whirlwind of motherhood hit me with its full force. Never before had I felt such overwhelming indescribable joy or such physical and emotional tiredness, the crazy hormones, the dramatic change in the pace of life, the time taken to achieve even a relatively small task. In the first weeks of my daughter’s life, before I even began writing this book, I was editing my second novel, One Summer in Positano, with a laptop balanced on my knees, my daughter over one shoulder and a breast pump in between, and so the juggling began!
As a mother, whether working or not, there are always a million and one things to do at any given moment and never enough minutes in the day to do them. You are either feeding, washing, winding, sterilising, bathing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, tidying, laundry… the list goes on, not forgetting the need to sleep! The broken nights start with pregnancy, then night feeds and it never really stops – it is likely that you will not have a single night of uninterrupted sleep for years and years to come. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth it, but it is undeniably exhausting.
To top it all off, your partner will have more than likely returned to work a couple of weeks later, by which time you probably won’t even have begun to recover from the birth, and from then on in, you are on your own. That is why friendships and family become so important, to keep you sane, offer you company and, most importantly of all, keep you laughing. There is no better tonic! When you add working into the mix, especially if you work from home (like I do as an author) or run your own business, then there is no such thing as maternity leave! It is a truly mind-expanding time, and it gives your relationship with your other half an entirely new dimension, drawing many couples closer together but also, sadly, driving some further apart.
In writing this novel I wanted to explore what happens when the novelty of new love and the first flames of romance have simmered down, and the monotony of family life and the accompanying weight of responsibility takes over and whether this can at times cause a certain distance between a couple who were once inseparable.
I wrote the first draft of this book in six months, (thanks to an extremely motivating deadline!) inspired by the conversations around me as well as the issues facing my friends and peers as both parents and partners. I am a huge believer in the importance of looking after our own mental health and happiness in order to nurture the other relationships in our lives. I was inspired in particular by a wonderful cartoon that went viral by French comic artist Emma entitled ‘You Should Have Asked’
(To view the illustration in full click on the link: https://tinyurl.com/lfp7pgz). As a result of social conditioning, women have to bear a continual invisible weight as they shoulder the responsibility of running the household (and if they are a mother, looking after the children). It is a truly insightful look into the “mental load” of being a woman. The cartoon really piqued my interest and the idea of the “mental load” was something I wanted to investigate further. Since returning to work (I am also a teacher) I have noticed that even on the days that I am away from home, the “mental load” is ever present.
I hope that this story will make you laugh, cry and rejoice in the crazy, beautiful, all-consuming wonder that comes with sharing your life, either with one person, or, if you have children, with more than one. It really is an incredible journey, and one that I am grateful for every day.
(Emma’s book will be published in English with the title “The Mental Load, a Feminist Comic”, for her website visit: http://english.emmaclit.com/