Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Will being an author cut Into time with my children?

I was recently asked by a fellow writer not yet published if a writing career was going to cut into her time with her children and family. She was very concerned with the effect her 'career' could have on her kids. She wanted reassurance. I'm not sure I gave it to her, but she caught me in a moment of painful honesty and that was with what I answered her. I thought I would include it here, not to discourage anyone, but simply to put into focus that while we all have our own 'plan' there are sacrifices to be made for all things we bring into our life and no one, NO ONE, gets out of that. I edited this a little bit for space and for relativity. If Writing isn't your thing, insert something else that fills your mind and heart, something you long for and yet fear at the same time. We all have them:

Yes. Writing will cut into your time with your children. It will cut into your time with your husband. It will cut into your housekeeping, gardening, exercise, reading, church callings, community responsibilities, family vacations, and at times your personal hygiene. Everything we do that is not right there next to our family takes us away from them. Sometimes it hurts. I have had times when I am blinking back tears as I drive to a presentation because I know my home and family are ‘undone’ yet I’ve made a commitment to whoever I’m presenting too and I can’t simply NOT do it. I’ve had times when my husband has told me I’m overdoing it and my focus is not where it needs to be. We have argued about it. My kids have said things like "You're always on the computer!" or "I don't want you to leave again?"

Sometimes I wish I’d never started because then I would have one less thing to worry about, one less piece to cut myself into. But when these moments come I remember that I was missing something before I started writing. I AM happier now than I was then, but simply being happy doesn't take the hardship away.

I have always been ambitious and busy and when I discovered writing all of that energy went into something that felt marvelous—sharing my thoughts within framework of characters and plots I grew to love was just . . . right. At the time it was so much fun that it was easy to fit in and enjoy every moment. It was a hobby. It isn't anymore. Since then it’s grown into a BIG thing in my life and it takes up a lot of room in my head, on my calendar, on my hard drive and in my house. I’ve chosen to make a place for it and I try to make wise decisions about how much space it can have, but it is there, it is always there. I’ve missed plays my kids are in, classroom parties, sporting events, and other significant moments because of obligations tied to my writing. I hate that, and yet writing is part of my reason for being here, I know it is. My kids are part of why I’m here as well, I know that too. They aren’t going to be in my home forever and writing might not be a part of my life forever either—there is no way to know what will happen next year or five years from now and so I try to do my best and enjoy both phases of my life as best I can. Right now I find myself at the top of my game, my books are doing better than ever and it thrills me to the core, but it also demands more of me and creates more stress in my life and that of my family. To stop now would be to lose what I've worked so hard for, and it's not an option. So I keep going, and I keep asking the Lord for help in finding balance, and I keep working on my mothering so that I don’t feel so guilty when I’m not physically present, and I schedule my presentations, and read writing books, and I brainstorm and edit and live in fear of the day when this might all be over. And I write.

Every day is a balance—sometimes my family is on the losing end of it. Sometimes my church calling is, or my husband, or my own peace of mind. But I love writing. I need it. And so I sacrifice for it with my eyes wide open, always looking at the scales to see if I’m off base, always watching for empty hours I can fill with words, and always praying that the Lord will let me know when I need to pull back.

He usually does, but that hurts too.

I can’t promise that adding a writing career won’t upset the balance in your home so much that you bleed. I also can’t promise that you will set such an example to your children that their lives will be forever blessed BECAUSE of your writing, not in spite of it. Every writer I know has to find the balance, has to make the choice to move forward, and then they have to commit to all of it—family, church, writing, and themselves. If you’re not ready, don’t do it. It is hard. If you’re ready, take a deep breath, get on your knees and pray for courage, faith and that you can keep your priorities straight.

Only you can decide if you're up to this, only you can add something this big to your life and find the balance. No one can do it for you, and no one should. Your life is your own journey, and no one carries your pack for you. Decide what you can carry, and then commit to do your best. I wish you luck.


Kristina P. said...

Well, said, Josi. I think that pretty much anything that can take time away from your family. And unfortunately, many moms have to work and help provide for them, so finding a balance can be tough.

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, amen.

Thanks; I needed to read this today.

amberargyle said...

This is so incredibly hard for me. Sometimes I feel like a piece of pie that's been sliced so thin no one really gets a piece.

I'm with you though. I can't not write. I'm a better person if I have that time to myself.

And yes, writing takes time away from everything else.

Jordan McCollum said...

Although I have really struggled with balance, too, and although I do feel like I'm neglecting my kids sometimes, I feel like a better mother and a more fulfilled person since I've taken up writing again.

Thank you for sharing this, Josi!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed to hear it today. You are an amazing author, and I'm sure a wonderful mother as well, and it sounds to me like your "balance" is just right.:)

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm so very glad you were painfully honest. This is something I consider often. I'm grateful for your shared wisdom, your honesty, and your passion for all areas of your life. You consistently make a huge impression on me. I admire and respect you for so many things. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Beautifully said. That balance is so hard to find sometimes, but so worth it when it is found.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Amen and amen. You said it so, so well, Josi. And I love the carrying the pack image. That's really good.

Annette Lyon said...

So true and so well put. It's something you really have to make a matter of prayer and constant reevaluating. It's not something to enter lightly.

Heather Moore said...

Did I write this? Did you steal it? Just kidding. All so very very true!

Once the writing bug hit me, I slowly started to leave other things out of my life. Like sewing or scrapbooking. I used to start a sewing project and literally sew for 8 hours straight without even eating. Maybe that's why I was much skinnier then. At least with writing, I can't go more than 2 hours or maybe 3 tops. After that my brain gets fuzzy. But all of the other stuff that goes along with it takes time--editing, marketing, etc. I'd compare it to a part-time job. If you took any job and did it 3-4 hours a day, you would have less time for everything else. I've had to learn to really limit my night-time presentations, etc. For example, if I have to teach a workshop or something at night, I won't go to critique group that week. But there are times when things invariably stack up. I've sworn off Saturday booksignings unless it's an "event". I do most booksignings on a Friday lunch hour. Less people in my family are affected.

Sometimes I have to literally tell myself to take a break when I have that break. Because I feel like if I have a few hours to myself, I need to be writing.

Anonymous said...

You hit a homer with this one. I struggle all the time with feelings that this is such a selfish pursuit for me. I need it, but it's not benefiting others, at least not yet. I suppose, in a very roundabout way, it benefits my family because it keeps me saner. Still.

Gotta find the balance.

Grandma 'D' said...

It seems to me your priorities are right where they need to be. GO MOM!!! Go Author!! and most of all Go JOSI!!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I have to echo Luisa here. I needed to read this too. Love your honesty.

hi, it's me! melissa c said...

I think I know exactly who asked you about this. It's one of those things where you have to ask yourself if you really want your dream to come true.

Since I am not yet a published author, I can't say how it will affect my life, but I know I love to write, I get better all the time. I want my stories out there.

As a mother, you have to have your own dreams and your own goals or you'll drown. Our children are a wonderful gift, but I also think if we devote everything to them, we will have nothing left to nurture ourselves with. This is not selfish, it's smart.

Why are so many women unhappy? Isn't is obvious? Too often they've traded their dreams away. Sometimes I think we give up our dreams because of insecurity too. We are afraid to fail so we tell ourselves that it's not what we really want. That way, we aren't humiliated when/if we don't make it!

Shame on everyone who quits like that! God gave us all talents. He expects us to use them and grow with them.

But, on the other hand, you're right, if you aren't willing to commit, don't start. It takes a lot time and energy. But I think it's worth it. I have made so many wonderful friends because of my writing. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Cheri Chesley said...

I have recently learned how much writing is a part of my life path. And rather than running, this time I embraced it. I've learned, mostly through hard knocks, that I have to be the best ME I can be before I'm of much use to my children. It's not about being rich, famous (ha ha) or anything like that. But I love where you said "every day is a balance" because that's so true. This is a great post.

Savanna said...

I can't even imagine how hard it is to balance everything. I can relate a little with doing hair, but I think you do a great job, and I LOVE YOUR WRITING!! So think of all of us "fans" that you are making so happy and giving us a "break" from our everyday lives and letting us enjoy a good read. :) Oh, and I think your hair makes you look young and sassy.