Picking Up Where I Dropped Off

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.


12 thoughts on “Picking Up Where I Dropped Off

  1. Anjali,

    To take away guilt, call it “mothers morning out”. 🙂 Even thought you are not “out” but at home typing away!! Can’t wait to hear about all the new adventures this path is going to take you toward!! So happy for your new view on your writing. “oh the places you go”…..

  2. I am very proud of you. For two reasons: one, for prioritizing yourself and your hopes and dreams. That’s very important. Two, because you’re recognizing that identities can change over time.

    And a third reason? Because you’re ADMITTING that you feel guilty and you’re going to go ahead and DO IT ANYWAY. That takes courage, and strength, and determination — all traits that you have in spades.

    I have never ever ever been sorry that my girls went to playschool so I could tutor. That money has paid for our lawn care, for my vanity appointments, for my quilting habit. And the girls have been exposed to social environments that I’m too much of a loner to have organized for them. It was great for all involved, I think. And FANTASTIC for their immune systems — Helen hasn’t been to see the pediatrician in almost two years (yeah, yeah, I’ll get on that) because other than the stomach bug that went around each year, she simply hasn’t been sick. At all. I definitely attribute that to the early suffering through every thing that got passed around at the playschool — and I still don’t regret it.


    Can’t wait to see your name in lights!

  3. I am with Elaine and will love seeing your name in lights and tell people “I knew here way back when…..” 🙂

    Before all of our moving around, I was able to stay fairly busy in Oxford with calligraphy…. Lots of sororities needed certificates and lots of wedding invitations… Maybe now that we are settled again, I can get back to that! You have inspired me!

  4. You have to do what is important to you, too. You matter too. You do. Also, I owe you an email. I’ve been nursing Daver’s balls. Ew. That came out wrong.

  5. I needed to read this today. Lately I’ve been just plain sucking at everything…at my job, at my writing, as a wife, as a homemaker, and most definitely as a mother. Instead of calling time out and allowing myself the room to make much needed changes, I’ve just been limping along, trying to make it all work, when it is a goal that is destined to fail. So this weekend, I did the unthinkable for me. I left my kids with their grandparents all day and I worked on my book trailer. In that process, I got some much needed work done, plus I was able to visit with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (who were helping me with the trailer), and I was with my husband (who was also helping me) without kids screaming for our attention. It was bliss. And I left thinking, this is a priority. This is a must. And your resolve has helped solidify that for me. Thanks Anjali!

  6. What an inspirational post. Thank you for writing it, and calling attention to it on shewrites. I am impressed, and pleased for your success, and your choices. Write on Mama!

  7. Is anyone criticizing your husband for going to work every day and therefore being a terrible father? Is your husband spending hours flogging himself with guilt over having a career? ( I’m assuming you have a husband, if not- sorry! but you get the point.)

    I have a little one at home, but I also have two grown kids, so I have the advantage of their feedback. I worked when they were little. I had to. Surprisingly they have very few memories of being little, just a general overview of the way the felt. And they felt loved, because they were. They were proud of me and my accomplishments.

    You usually have to wait a looong time for this positive feedback from your kids. Don’t expect it during the teen years! : 0

    KUDOS to you on getting an agent!

  8. Thanks so much for stopping by, Hollye. I do have a husband, and incidentally, he actually does feel guilty being away from the kids!

    But my issue with guilt and using childcare stems more from the fact that I’m putting my childcare without earning any income. The guilt would be a little different if I earned a paycheck. But putting a child in daycare when my only future earnings are pinned to the mere hopes of selling a book — that’s what I have a hard time with.

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