Mothers are expert jugglers. They juggle family, relationships, chores, sports, school, friendships, church and a myriad of other things. But for a mother who is also a writer there seems to be an added and sometimes complex level of juggling. Questions spin round in the mother/writer’s mind, accusing, rousing doubt and frustration. Questions like: How can I justify hours of work on a novel that may never come to fruition? Or: How do I even find those hours I know to be necessary? How can I keep myself creatively alive enough to write when I’m exhausted at the end of the day? Is this writing dream just a waste of my time and energy? Should I be putting into another ministry? Another passion with more quantifiable ends?
Sometimes the advice given to such mothers is to write when the kids are asleep. To those of you for whom this works I say ‘Yippee for you!’ But this is something I have never been able to do. I’ve been a mother/writer for 14 years now and I’m suspecting there are other women like me who cannot juggle anything without enough sleep, let along pull off a manuscript! So here’s some of what I’ve learned along the way for how mother/writers can keep writing in a time when writing itself seems like the one thing that will never fit in a juggled life:
* Give yourself permission to take time. Once,when I was crying my heart out over what I thought was the end of my writing career, my husband said ‘You’ll still be writing when you’re 50′. At the time it didn’t really encourage me! But I’ve learned that the essence of what he said was true (and I’m not 50 yet). The current season may not be one for 90 000 word novels, but that’s ok. Life comes in seasons. Keep your eyes on the long term view of your writng.
* Seek times when you CAN write. Is it a couple of hours a week when Grandma takes the little ones to the park? Is it half an hour while the kids are having down time/screen time? It’s amazing what can be achieved in a little amount of time if we’re disciplined, and the creative permission of such a time can actually refresh you!
* Squeeze your writing in. Ok – maybe not the novel if that requires too much head space, but write in your journal, write emails, jot down ideas, or take notes on character development. Allow your skills and resources to build as you wait for the season when you can give your writing longer periods of time.
* Enjoy what you write. When life feels hassled and frazzled with young children and the writing ball is the one that continues to slip through your fingers, make sure you are enjoying what you do when a catch is made! You can force yourself through the drudgery of more work like writing tasks later, when time is more generous, but for now - enjoy what you write. Write from the heart and listen to God’s leading in your creative self.
* And don’t give up. God wired you the way he did for a reason, and he has pulled your family together with all it’s quirks and strange dynamics on purpose. If he has put writing as a passion in your heart, you don’t need to panic. Just keep plugging away, even if it feels like nothing in this particular juggling stage. Keep learning, keep dreaming and keep reading your kids stories! (They think it’s a bed-time story, you know it’s also exposing yourself to literary forms and encouraging your critical thinking – wink, wink.)
So, happy writing – and juggling. What you are doing in these important parts of your life is worth it!
PS. One book I’ve found particularly helpful when trying to balance my juggling priorities has been Tricia Goyer’s Balanced.