Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm a mother (parent), can/should I also be a writer?

I received an e-mail the other day about being a good mother and being a writer. The woman who sent it is passionate about her writing, but concerned that the entailments of pursuing this in her life could detract from her role as a mother. I've included a brief excerpt from her e-mail to me, and, with her permission, posted the somewhat edited reply.

Will my career as a writer, take away from being a good mother as the Lord wants me? How will being a published author interfere with the raising of my children, and meeting their spiritual, as well as their temporal needs. What will it take from them, my writing? My meeting deadlines? My conferences? My writing groups? My signings? My whatever-comes-with-the-territory with writing? Should I pursue it?

Well, first of all, the fact you worry about this is a sign, in and of itself, that you are a good mother; a very good mother. Your responsibility to your family is obviously something deeply ingrained in who you are. I don’t think you could/would do anything that put that in jeopardy. That said, being a mother was not the only reason you were sent here and I don’t believe God would have sent you a gift, and guided you as he has, if it was not part of your fulfilling the measure of your existence in some way. However, for fear that sounds simplistic, I will be very honest with you in regard to my own experience, which continues to play out every day.

No matter what you do with the time you are given, there are only 24 hours in a day. Every one of us determines how we spend that time. If we choose to spend it doing, say, piano four hours a day, we would become a great piano player, but we would have to give something up for those four hours. There are definitely times in my life where I feel that I’ve neglected my family for my writing. Usually, this is not the case, but there are times when it is true for me. I’ve come to learn I can not pursue this writing career of mine and still mother the same as someone who does not have a hobby/passion as intensive as mine—like I said, there are only 24 hours in a day. (if there was a way to find a few extra hours, I’d have found them)

There are times I’ve wondered if I’m choosing ‘fame and fortune’ over my family, there are days when this thought terrifies me. However, there are other days too when my kids come home with something they are passionate about and they KNOW they can do it, in part because they see me doing it. Part of my own success is because my dad is an artist and is passionate about his art. He had nine children and no money, but when he had some time, he pursued his art. When writing became a part of my life, I pursued it in part because I’d seen him do it. My kids are still young, and yet they are beginning to define themselves, discover their talents, pursue their dreams. I absolutely LOVE seeing this in their lives. As they get older they run into people who know me and my writing, and they are proud of me, they are excited for what I’ve accomplished. I take them with me to presentations and book signings when I can, and it’s one other sphere of the world they are exposed to, that they wouldn’t be otherwise. As I said before, your purpose on this earth is not only to be a mother. You are raising children who will one day be adults, they will leave home and have lives and families and hopefully pursue their own talents and passions. Setting an example for them is a good thing, so long as you find a balance. That is the key, but it’s not an easy one.

There are days that I feel horribly stretched. There are days when I wish my kids would just disappear for a little while (like, two weeks) so I can get my thoughts down. Every single day is a balance of ‘my’ things and their things. As the years have passed, they have learned to give me my time, and I have learned that sometimes I can’t sit down and do what I ‘need’ to do because their needs supersede my own. And many times I wonder if it’s all worth it. However, when I’m prayerful, when I request a blessing from my husband, when I sit down with my patriarchal blessing and search for answers, I can not deny that for some reason, I’m supposed to write. I do very much believe the Lord smiles on me for pursuing a gift he’s given me and making it into a talent that if nothing else, entertains some of his other children in a way that does not offend the spirit. So far I don’t have to choose between my family and my writing, so far the balance seems to be working—even if I’m frustrated by it at times.

In part through my writing, I have come to further understand that I am a wife and a mother, but before all these roles I am also a daughter of God, I have my own individual purposes and measures to fulfill in many arenas. Being a mother, or an attorney, or a salesperson, or a writer takes work and dedication—not just doing the job, but in the balancing out life to make it all fit, even if the corners get scrunched sometimes. For me, it’s worth it and though my meals aren’t as home made as they should be, and I don’t get on the floor and play like some moms do, my kids are blessed to see me working toward something I’m passionate about. I know that this is a gift I am giving them.

If for you it isn’t worth the balancing, the stretching, then don’t write. There is no shame in realizing there is not room for both in your life. Perhaps it’s not the right time for you, perhaps your writing is a gift that will manifest in another way and writing a book isn’t it. You’re ‘plan’ is not the same as anyone else’s—it’s your plan. And definitely, your children, the souls entrusted to your University, need to come first, but it doesn’t mean that writing can’t factor into your list of priorities. Only you and the Lord can figure out if writing is part of your plan, and if you seek answers, you will receive those things you stand in need of.

I wish you luck and admire your dedication to your family.


Erica Ridley said...

Wow, what a great post!

I don't have children, but your basic points hold true to anyone who has other responsibilities besides just being a writer.

For me, it's running my own business. Every hour I spend writing is an hour away from doing the stuff that pays the mortgage. (As I'm currently unpublished.)

But for me it's worth it, and I'm not yet willing to give up! =)

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

That was amazing Josi. And I really, really needed to read that.

Annette Lyon said...

I could pretty much sign my name to this and call it mine. You nailed every point--from feeling like I'm supposed to be doing this to having to stretch to fit it all in, to being an example for my kids.

I have three daughters, and I feel strongly that I need to be a good example to them of both being a good mom and following my talents. I had one of the most rewarding moments of my life when one of my girls told me that when she grew up she was going to be a Mom and an artist. She took it for granted that she could be an artist because Mom wanted to be a writer when she was her age and became one. But even more significant to me was that being a mom came first for her, because she knew it was a valuable role. So as crunched as time gets here and there, I feel like I must be doing something right.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks for sharing this, Josi. You've hit some nails right on the head.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I agree with you, Josi. Different times in our lives allow for different goals. I also believe it is so important to develop who we are.

Personally, I love being a mom but I feel somewhat empty when that is all I do. When I allow myself to pursue my own dreams, it not only sets an example for my children, but also rounds me out as a person. And when I feel like my hopes and dreams are as important as my children's, I think I am a better mom.

Karen E. Hoover said...

A very timely post, Josi. I so needed to hear this today. It has been a constant battle not to feel guilty for spending time on myself and too often I've given in and done nothing - which leaves me an empty husk of myself. I can't not write and still be me, but how to get over the guilt? I wish there were an easy answer, but thank you for giving me something to chew on for a while. Very, very good.

Jenna said...

Josi, I loved this post. I struggle with many of the same feelings, and appreciated the wisdom you have shared. I wholeheartedly agree with you!