Today’s guest post is by my friend and fellow Nashvillian Amanda Williams. She is a writer, wife, and full-time mother. You can read her fantastic (upgraded!) blog here and follow her on Twitter @life_edited.
I am a writer. I am also a full-time mom of three kids under 5.
Other mothers of littles often ask me the “How do you do it?” question, and for years my answer was the same. “Not gracefully,” I’d say with a nervous laugh. The answer still holds.
Lately I’ve been attempting an honest, long look into this way of life I’ve embraced, this Writing that has worked its way into the fiber of my being and my family. What am I doing? How am I doing it, and at what cost? These are questions worth considering.
I’m not much on advice. Love to take it; I hesitate to give it. But there are some discoveries I’ve made about being a mother-writer and some hard lessons learned. I offer them here, to you fellow writers-at-heart, in hopes they help you find your creative space and self. She’s in there somewhere, The Creative You. It’s okay to let her breathe.
Here are five observations on mothering & writing:
1. Find your time and claim it, but be realistic and flexible.
When you’re a mother of small children, “spare time” takes on unicorn status. It doesn’t exist. You’ll have to make it. When and where do you feel most creative? What pockets of time can you make within your regular day/week? Start small. You’ll be surprised where an hour alone with your words will take you.
2. There will be a trade-off. Be proactive in choosing your currency.
“The laundry and dishes never pile up at my house. I always have plenty of time to do everything!” No mother in the history of mothers has ever said this. If you add writing to your routine, something else will have to go.
Maybe it’s sleep, though we all know what a rare commodity that is. Maybe you can trade in TV time or what I call “wall-staring time.” Or, maybe you’ll have to let the house be a little messier, the laundry tower a little taller, the dust bunnies freer to multiply. It is ok. Your family and your pride will survive. Make your choice, own it, and tell Guilt to take a hike.
3. Accept your limitations, but don’t let them kill your dream.
Life is insane right now. You’re juggling sippy cups and school drop-offs, diaper changes and naptimes and tantrums. Running errands feels more like running a marathon, and managing to get a homecooked meal on the dinner table feels like winning a gold medal. I’m there. I get it. You can still write.
Your Writer’s Life is just that – it’s yours. Not mine. Not Steven Pressfield’s. Not Anne Lamott’s. They may write five hours a day, you may write ten minutes a day. Write anyway. This is a hard season, but it’s just a season. Free your words anyway.
4. Choose mothering over multitasking.
I’ve been known to attempt writing with my kids in the other room. This is a very bad plan. Some mom-writers have systems to allow for this, but for us, for now, it just doesn’t work.
I go from zero to irritated in five seconds. Every snack request feels like a grenade thrown into my creative space. Every whiny voice, a bomb exploding in my ear. I can parent and write together, but I cannot parent and write at the same time. When the two come head to head, choose your kids.
5. Invest in yourself and your dream. You’re both worth it.
Mothering is a wonderful, difficult, all-consuming job. Being a mom plus anything else is even harder. Depending on what your anything is, it can also be refreshing, life-giving, even fun. It can help you find that part of yourself you’ve missed, the part that you’ve struggled to find beneath the stack of diapers and dishes and sleepless nights.
Giving voice to your dream – finding a place for it to run free and grow – is worthwhile, even appropriate. Even as a mother. After all, the world – your kids included – need to hear what you have to say. So say it. We’re listening.