The Dishwasher

Guest post by: Jane Byers

Pre-kids the dishwasher ran once a week usually after company: perhaps a dinner party accented with good wine, gourmet food lingered over for hours, then the dishwasher: the final act before we retired, knowing that what awaited us the next morning at 9ish was a quiet kitchen, the Saturday Globe and Mail and the couch. This Sunday morning when I sat on the couch, with a twin on each hip, hopeful that my caffeine would bring me awake at 6:30 a.m., I stumbled over some stray doll clothes and then sat on a monster truck. We don’t even bother with the Globe and Mail anymore. My five year olds have hijacked that with chronic sleep deprivation, the constant low-grade demands, the illogical mood swings and tantrums that leave all of us shredded.

My worst fear was that my twins would swallow my creative-self whole. Though I have more time pressure, having young ones has opened me up in ways I couldn’t have known. My poetry has stretched to include seeing the world as a parent, observing my twins seeing the world for the first time, and the riches that brings: feeling the soar of them noticing mountains, or heartache of having a sad child or trying to make sense, myself, of the legacy of loss and love that adoption brings. Moments, so many moments, and what is a poem but a deep observation of a moment. I call these moments being “knife-edge” alive.

Most mornings, I sneak downstairs, while the house is still quiet. If I’m lucky I get an hour of writing in before little feet come tramping down and a sleepy hug interrupts my quest for just the right word. My writing resumes once the kids are taken to school, the dog walked, the errands complete. I write at my 70’s teak dining room table with my laptop. I eschew every ergonomic convenience and recommendation in my “office”, not insignificant given that in my professional life, I am an ergonomist. It is a testament to how much creativity transports one’s mind that a wooden chair will do.

Silence is the best gift my twins give me everyday when they go off to school. Silence, which I find precious, and hence do not squander. Which brings me to the curiosity of the dishwasher, it runs daily now, and usually, it seems when the kids have gone off to kindergarten and I start my creative workday. I find it soothing, like an auditory reminder that the mundane work is done for a few hours, or at least a signal that I will ignore the mundane for a while and get down to poetry. It is what rotting apples were to Flaubert. It is not silence but it doesn’t squeal or squabble and is known and not to be taken care of. It whispers in the background “the mundane tasks shall take care of themselves while you are off in paradise.”

Who is Jane Byers?

Jane Byers is a writer living in Nelson, British Columbia. She writes about human resilience in the context of raising children, adoption issues, sexism, local geography and health and safety in the workplace. She spent many years working for the City of Toronto in corporate health and safety and now works at WorksafeBC where she continues to facilitate resilience in injured workers. She is interested in how the landscape and our local geography relates to resilience. She has had poems, essays and short fiction published in a variety of books and literary magazines in Canada and the U.S., including Grain, Rattle, Descant, The Antigonish Review and The Canadian Journal of Hockey.

Jane kept a year-long chronicle of cooking her way through Whitewater Cooks, the same year that she and her partner adopted twins.  Take a peek here – you’re in for a treat.


Soundbites is an ongoing conversation about creative life and work, moderated by Deryn Collier.

For the past few months we’ve been talking about writing and parenting, with weekly guest posts from writer/parents who are really way too busy to bother with guest blog posts. And yet, here they are.

Your comments are always welcome!

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4 Responses to The Dishwasher

  1. Tanya says:

    That was just lovely. Of course, I have a sick kid on the couch this morning. But as soon as she’s off to school again, I’m going to appreciate the morning dishwasher run in a whole new way.

  2. Laura Zera says:

    I bet if you went to someone else’s house and ran their dishwasher and tried to write, it wouldn’t be the same at all. The rhythm would be off, because it’s not *your* dishwasher in *your* home. These are the little things that make us want to always return home. For me, it’s a snoring pug. Great post, Jane. And hello, Deryn!

  3. Lovely post, Jane (and great blog, Deryn). Anyone who’s ever raised children AND managed to write is a star in my books. When Jesse was born I didn’t write for 10 years!

  4. Thanks for your comments Linda, Laura and Tanya. It is a lovely post, isn’t it? We’ve had weeks of great posts on this topic, I’m so thrilled with all of them, and pleased that so many writers took part.

    Funny how a few parents have said that having kids actually helped their writing, but clearly it’s different for everyone!

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