A sweet friend on Google+ recently wrote this blog post: Why I’m Scared to be a Mom and an Entrepreneur.
If you are a working mom, or a self-employed mom, or a creative mom, or probably any mom at all, parts of that will resonate with you.
I wrote my first two books (The King’s Sword and A Cold Wind) before CutiePants was born, but I published them after she was born. I didn’t think of myself as an “AUTHOR” yet, with capital letters and everything. I was just someone who wrote a book or two. That’s actually still how I think of myself, to be honest. Authors are cool, you know? I just… write books.
I wrote my third (Honor’s Heir), fourth (Things Unseen), fifth (The Dragon’s Tongue, due out in a week!), and sixth (the third book in A Long-Forgotten Song, as yet untitled but drafted and being edited) after CutiePants was born. Honor’s Heir and Things Unseen were published three weeks before Giggly was born last May.
In addition to writing, I also do some consulting on the side in my other career. I’m involved in my church. Pre-Giggly, I taught karate a few times a week; I’d like to get back into that, but it hasn’t happened yet. I am perpetually behind on something.
But here’s the thing:
I cannot do only one thing.
I love being a stay-at-home mom. I love being here for them every day. I loved seeing the very first time CutiePants realized we had a dog and acted all startled about it. I loved seeing Giggly roll over for the first time. I love being there every time they fall down, every time they play with blocks, every time Giggly tries to eat a dandelion, every time CutiePants goes down the slide.
I also need to create. I believe it’s a God-given part of my personality. I need to write. I need to work with my hands. I love making jewelry. If I didn’t make jewelry, I’d do something else. Creativity is part of what makes me fulfilled on a daily basis. It stretches my mind.
I remember being told that being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but it has been true for me. The early years are challenging. My children are absolutely beautiful, wonderful, bright, cheerful blessings, but they are small children. Small children have needs, and I have a double-dose of mommy guilt for every second I don’t spend actively and deliberately enriching their lives and stretching their minds.
They’ll be fine if I don’t spend every second of every day actively engaged with them. They can play by themselves for short periods of time, especially as they get older. They don’t need to be actively entertained every moment (and, truthfully, it probably wouldn’t be good if I did that anyway).
Being a mom is an exercise in self-denial. Sometimes it’s joyful, sometimes it’s easy… and sometimes it’s not. Playing at the park is fun! Realizing that yet again I haven’t been able to write for three or four days in a row is… not as fun. There are always tradeoffs. I only have twenty-four hours in every day. I must sleep some of those hours. My writing does not come first; as much as I’d like to say I’m a “full-time author”, as if that would make it real, I’m not. I’m a mom, and I write during nap time and sometimes after the kids are in bed.
I’ve finally started having a babysitter come over once or twice a week for a few hours so I can get my consulting work done in the morning, leaving nap times free for writing. Housework? It’ll get done eventually.
I cannot do everything all the time.
Some days I don’t get a moment to myself, much less to sit and focus on writing. Some days CutiePants and Giggly nap at the same time and I have two uninterrupted hours in the middle of the day to write (or catch up on laundry, or whatever). Some days I feel like a rock star, being a mommy and having play dates and raising beautiful, intelligent, polite children and writing books and having a side career and making dinner and adulting like a REAL grownup.
And some days I don’t. Some days the laundry piles up and we have leftover Chipotle for dinner and my work-in-progress (WIP) sits untouched, and I go to bed feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck and got nothing done all day. Some days I feel like a failure.
But that’s not true. I still kept my children safe and healthy and taught them to be compassionate. CutiePants can read at 3.5 years old and identified a picture of a Saturn rocket in my grandfather’s room at assisted living and explained to my father how a rocket worked and that that rocket went to the moon! My day was worth something. I did something of value, even if it’s not easily quantifiable in words written or books sold or money earned. I’m raising little people.
I’m trying to realize in my own life, and hopefully my friend will also realize, that yes, there is failure. There are those days that just… fail. It looks like no progress was made on any front. Give yourself grace for those days. Tomorrow is a new day. A career will wait. A writing career, or any other kind of career, while being an involved mom, may not look the same as it would if you focused on your career exclusively. It probably won’t. It might be slower. It might never reach the glorious heights it would if you spent every waking moment doing only one thing.
But I wouldn’t trade my children for that. I wouldn’t trade those moments with them for another hour to spend writing. It’s a choice I make every day. What will I do with these hours? What will I focus on for this moment of time? There are tradeoffs. But I’m not willing to… I’m not sure I COULD… give up any of those things completely. Even if I didn’t write at all, I’d still imagine stories; I’d still lose myself in my imaginary worlds every night as I fell asleep, just as I did for years before I started writing.
So I’m trying to embrace that fact that I am divided. Mr. Brightley and my children come first. My writing and other pursuits come second. Doing so many things does mean that I can’t “give 100%” to any one thing. For now, my life and time are divided between different things. My books come out more slowly than they would if I spent 10 hours a day writing. I hope my readers will be patient with me. I don’t sacrifice quality, but yes… I do have to sacrifice time.
I am divided. I am content with that.
Who am I kidding? Of course I’m not content with that! I’ve always thrown myself into things with intensity and focus. This is hard for me. But it is real. This is raw. It is something I struggle with. I want to spend all my hours on one thing, but I love too many things to do that. I love my children. I love writing. I love having a beautiful house and I want to plant more flowers. I love teaching karate. I want to keep consulting (I don’t love it the same way, but I do enjoy it).
I should say that I’m trying to be content with this. Being divided is hard. But… it means my life is full of things I enjoy, that I love, that I want more of.
I can’t complain about that.