When I was pregnant with my third daughter, I joked with my husband that this last child would be the “daycare baby.” What I meant by that, was that the sand was running quickly through the hourglass on my stay-at-home-mom time.
I’ve been writing for 8 years now, but for most of those eight years I was squeezing in just a few hours a week of writing time around my family’s needs. When my third daughter was 10 months old, I hired a sitter 2 mornings a week, and started to gradually focus more time on writing. I loved having this extra kid-free time, but I still didn’t feel like it was enough time to get a substantial amount of work done.
In late December, Aunt Becky told me something that really helped me turn things around. Amidst my belly-aching to her, she told me quite directly — you need to treat it like it’s a full time job.
That’s when I changed how I treated my writing.
In early January, I came up with a book idea, worked 30-40 hours a week putting together the proposal, and then had the incredibly rewarding outcome of signing with an agent.
I didn’t have any more childcare hours, I just structured my days to get the work done.
Everything — cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills — came second to my writing time. I forced actively taught the baby to learn how to play by herself. I’d set up the kitchen table with play dough or markers, then sneak off to my dining room to work on the laptop, stealing away a few minutes here, and a few minutes there — resisting that urge to take out the trash or file a few papers. When the older two came home from school, while the baby was napping, I’d work next to them as they did homework or read.
Since January, I’ve been treating my writing like a real job that other people in the family also needed to work their lives around — just as if I was working outside of the home.
Once this anthology proposal is complete and our agent is shopping it around to publishers, I’ll be delving right into my next anthology idea — putting together the proposal, getting a list of contributors, etc. I’ll also attempt to sell my children’s book. And I’m still thinking seriously about my web-based business idea.
In other words, I’m going to keep going. Because this is the only way I feel like I can be a functioning writer — when writing is the center of my life — not a hasty appendage to all other household tasks.
So in a few months, I’m ready to make good on my promise that my third daughter would be the “daycare baby.” She’s signed up for three mornings a week, with an option for me to add more mornings if I need them.
I suppose I’m writing this post because I feel guilty about what I’m doing. My former self from years ago, the semi-militant attachment parent/stay at home mom, would never have done such a thing. She was a different person — one who defined herself as a “mother.” But the longer I parent, the less I feel like a “mother” and the more I feel like a “writer.”
The writer label is neither better nor more important than the mother label — it just feels more like the real me.
Have a great weekend.