With 'My Mummy is a Monster' launching on May 5th, children's author Natalie Reeves-Billing talks about the mental challenges of remaining focused amidst lockdown chaos. Well, the big day’s nearly here. There are now just two days until my big Monstrous Me book launch. What's strange about it is, no matter how many blog reviews, interviews, iMovies, retweets, or press comes in, nothing feels real.
Batches of tester books arrived a few days ago. A day like this would ordinarily signal some sort of family celebration or a glass of wine with friends. Reviews would be the perfect excuse for a lunch meet and a good chat. The everyday stuff that keeps us uplifted, proud, and focused; connected to our goals, aims, and objectives. Schoolyard conversations once helped remind me of my target audience, and the people who would benefit from the books and content I create. But I don't see people anymore. I live within the confines of my house, six of us weathering the storm together, in a bubble, waiting for the world to restart. I am inspired by those who keep powering on through uncertainty and worry. I try so hard to be that shining light for the people around me. Still, inside, there are the same worries and insecurities everyone else feels. I push them to the very back of my consciousness by keeping myself busy.
It's so tiring. Most of the time, I'm functioning in a sort of autopilot. It's often the only way to get through. I'm also very susceptible to shifting moods, and this scenario would, in years gone by, be immensely trying. I’m proud that I can handle things better for the sake of my family and the dreams I hold dear. Juggling children and their needs has made me face up to one of my most significant trials. The creative process is such a mysterious and fragile thing. The slightest distraction can bring the zone crashing down around me. Wearing multiple hats and combining varying roles is not something that comes naturally to me. I am compartmentalised as a rule. In the past, I would visit my writing room, located in a small barn across the way from the main house. Now, with the children at home, I find ways to write inside the house. Amid sibling wars, dogs demanding affection, and a husband who wouldn't mind a conversation every now and then.
A house that just will not stay clean, a garden that continues to grow. Bills that need paying. Deadlines that still need to be met. And then there's the guilt. Wow. Crushing. Am I giving the kids what they need right now? Should I forget everything else and be there solely for them? Am I focusing on the right things? Should we be exercising more often? Eating more healthily? Doing more schoolwork? Am I slacking with the kids' discipline? Am I becoming a distant wife? Should I dress up every now and then? Mental health is so important, but how do we prioritise what we truly need? Spiritually, mentally and physically. There is so much vying for our attention. We need to be kind to ourselves.
Like everyone at the moment, I'm all at sea, but I'll weather the storm. We can't control mother nature, but we can cling onto the side of our boat and wait until we reach land again. Our toils make us stronger. One thing I've learned from this is that we are more resilient than we ever imagined, and when the world returns, we will appreciate it like we never did before. We will suddenly have all this time, and be productive with how we spend it. We will value catch-ups with friends, and try not to wheedle out of them, looking for excuses to not wash our hair or wear a cute dress. I will respect myself. I've proven myself capable of coping with more than I ever dreamed of. I can cut hair, I can change plugs, I can fix shelves, I can create videos, I can homeschool, I can do fractions. I will launch a book in a global pandemic. I hope you enjoy it.