We all want attention. I don’t write blog posts and books because I want to be ignored. I don’t post photographs to Instagram because I don’t want them seen. I don’t engage on Twitter because I want my opinion to be secret. I want attention from my friends, my family, and the world at large. I want attention.
As an adult this generally isn’t seen as a bad thing. For my blogs and books it’s wanting recognition for my work. For photos it’s just sharing my life with those who are in it. I live a very isolated life in many ways. I spend more time in my house than anyone else and I rarely socialise. Social media interactions give me the attention I crave and nobody comes to any harm.
Children, however, do not have that outlet. And children, especially Miss Rose, crave attention above all other things.
I spend a lot of time alone with my daughters, and a lot of that time is spent working. If I’m not doing housework I’m working on my computer. I’m updating websites, I’m writing books, I’m posting blogs. I’m publicizing, creating and editing. I have more work to do than can be limited to the three hours she’s at nursery in the afternoons, and so a lot of time my attention has to be taken from her.
Of course, I could sacrifice my career and focus my attention on her far more, and honestly I sometimes feel like I should. She will be small for such a very short amount of time and I have the rest of my life in which to work. But now is the time. I am on a moving train I have worked my entire life to climb on, my books are coming out now, my blog is being read now, this is the time. If I walk away I will be sacrificing everything I’ve worked for and what message is that to send to her? I’ll be unhappy because I’ll have lost my dream, she’ll be taught that a woman shouldn’t work.
Miss Rose craves attention and I have to remind myself that if she’s being good, she needs the attention otherwise she’ll start misbehaving to get it.
“Mummy can you play jigsaws with me?” she’ll ask as she sits quietly at my feet playing with puzzles and causing no chaos.
“I’m just updating this, darling, I can’t right now.”
“Mummy would you like a pizza?” she’ll ask me as she plays with her toy food, going shopping by herself and building picnics for her My Little Ponies.
“That’s lovely sweetheart, just set it down next to me and I’ll eat it in a minute.”
She’s being so good, so lovely, and I’m using that time to work without problems because she’s looking after herself.
But you know the moment she starts knocking things down, or having a strop, my attention is straight on her. If she throws something, I’m there. If she stamps her foot and shouts, I’m there.
If she hurts herself, I’m there.
“She’s just doing it for attention,” I’ll be told about various things. “Ignore her.”
And in some instances I completely agreeing that ignoring is the best policy. Trying to incite attention through negative behaviour I think should be ignored or it feeds the beast. It teaches her that if she is bad, she gets the attention she craves, and that is a step onto a completely unhealthy spiral that I don’t want to push her down.
But that has to mean good behaviour is rewarded WITH attention or she’s just abandoned to loneliness whilst surrounded by family.
She needs attention. She deserves attention. Attention isn’t a bad thing. Getting attention from those who love you gives you feeling of satisfaction and peace, the knowledge that you’re valid and wanted and appreciated, that your presence brings happiness and you matter. Attention means you’re important. And there is nowhere in the world you should feel more important than in your own home with your own family. And she really is important.
So now I have to make sure I find the balance.
I will not begrudge her attention. If she’s singing and dancing for me I don’t care if it’s just for attention, she deserves that attention. Why shouldn’t she have it? If she offers me a pizza I will take it and I will fake eat it with enthusiasm. I don’t care if I’m in the middle of something seriously important, it takes 30 seconds and it matters to her. She doesn’t have important work stuff that matters, she has her games that matter. And it probably matters on an equal level in her brain to my work does in my own. I should respect that.
But I also need to ensure I give myself the time I need to work or I’ll never have the success I crave so desperately. I’ll never achieve what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.
This is a balancing act that is filled with potential pain and frustration on all sides and I’m on a tightrope that I keep slipping on. But does anybody ever really get this perfectly right? Does anybody ever give their children the exact right amount of attention that they’re happy but not spoiled, and they feel important but learn to occupy themselves? Does any working parent ever feel they have a work/family balance at exactly the right place where they’re successful and fulfilled in business but not at some expense to their family?
Is it even possible?
My daughters matter to me more than anything or anyone in the entire world, but my career comes a close second and I cannot pretend that it isn’t important. I cannot pretend that my happiness is intrinsically intertwined with my career. And I shouldn’t have to. I love my daughters but I love myself too.
So onward I forge. Attention should be given to my children, they need it and they deserve it. But attention needs to go to myself and my work too, because I need and deserve that.
I just hope they know they’re loved. I hope they know they matter. I hope it’s worth it.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!