“I honestly don’t know how you find time to write, blog and teach with all the things that you do.”
“You just amaze with all the publishing stuff that you’re doing. I’m just too old to change my life.”
I get these emails and Facebook messages from other bloggers and authors who are in awe by how I manage to “squeeze” blogging, writing, teaching, mothering and probably something else I’m currently forgetting into a twenty four hour period.
They all want to know my magic recipe for making it work.
So when do my needs come first? When do theirs? In the midst of a push-pull life, I learned I wouldn’t be able to take forward action without learning how to let go.
“You make it look so easy,” they clamor. But they don’t know how I struggle to let go and just write with young children at home. Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my children, but I also need a certain number of hours to write and prepare for authorship as a memoirist. I fought for that space two years ago with my then baby, and it’s a constant struggle. I used to be able to write well at coffee shops, but now, I need the safety and space of my own house to write. In the back of my mind I’m always thinking, “What trouble could she get into? Who’s with her? What’s she doing?
This situation got even further complicated on the weekends as my husband works in retail. It’s usually just my eleven-year-old son, my two-year-old daughter and myself. So the pressure is on me to make sure the house is not falling apart and everyone is somewhat happy.
I used to constantly hover over her making sure she wouldn’t get into physical trouble. I used to be able to live for her naps, but now she hardly naps and so I’ve been busy trying to come up with ways to entertain her so she doesn’t fuss and cry, “mommy, mommy!”
I waited for the perfect “nap-time,” but that never came. So eventually, I learned I’d have to make due writing in short chunks of time when she played by herself. I would ask my son to watch her. I tried waking up early to squeeze in quiet time. I even tried staying up late.
Occasionally, another mother who also had a toddler would watch both of our children. How I wished that these small gifts of time to work uninterruptedly would be more frequent!
One day, I just looked at the cards I was dealt and said to myself, “So what if the house gets messy? So what if you aren’t with her right now? So what if you have to hire a babysitter?
I came to the realization long ago, that if I wanted to change my life and take my message and books to the masses as a speaker, I would start with baby steps because that was all I could do. Look at all the well-known speakers and authors and yes, the author mommas too, and you’ll learn from their stories. It took them years to put their dreams into action even though their Facebook photos show them enjoying the glamorous life.
But even taking those baby steps wasn’t easy. From behind the closed door, I often heard the voice of “fear” telling me to hang out with my kids. And yes, I felt guilty. I hear screaming and fighting and doors slamming. That’s when I intervene. I need to nurse, change diapers and feed. It’s always hard to switch between writing and mother and mother and writing – the pressure’s on me.
One day, I just looked at the cards I was dealt and said to myself, “So what if the house gets messy? So what if you have to hire a babysitter?
But I had to trust my instincts that writing made me a better person and thus, a better mother. I had to give myself the one thing I needed each day – time alone and to write. After I was able to do that, I would be more present with them.
I let go of being with my children all the time
Right now, I am writing this piece behind closed doors. I just told my eleven-year-old son to play with his sister so that “mommy could get some writing done” and I’ll probably tell him the same thing later this afternoon. I even allowed him to do a “lego” game for fifteen minutes on the ipad. Sometimes I hear them laughing and having fun and then I think: It’s okay to let go.
Five minutes later, I hear my two-year -old daughter shout and cry, “Mommy!” Apparently, my son did something that aggravated her. At least I got to write that paragraph. It’s okay to let go.
I let go of resentment and anger
A biggie. I woke up at 5 am this past Sunday so I could get some writing done, excited for the precious quiet time to write, when suddenly my two year old screams “mommy” which can only mean one thing: thirty minutes of nursing. I woke up early!
I trampled into her bedroom lifting up my nightgown instead of opening my laptop. Ugh. But eventually she went back to sleep and I slowly crept down the stairs to where my writing pad was waiting for me on the dining room table. And I got to write for a good hour before I heard her little feet pitter-pat down the carpeted stairs. It’s okay to let go.
I let go trying to do it all
I outsource when I can. Instead of baking cakes, I order them. (I do bake challah for our Friday night meal, though.)
I outsource the cleaning, computer repair, and grass mowing – anything that will help me “buy” more writing time.
I delegate the cooking to my husband. I don’t crowd my son’s schedule with extra activities that will tie up my schedule and stress me out.
I put more responsibility on my son to work harder with schoolwork.
I try not to compare myself to other parents and caregivers who are able to do the things I can’t right now.
It’s a trade-off. I remind myself that I’m investing in my second career so when I’m become an empty nester, I won’t be empty in my soul.
Letting go means being at peace with yourself and your decisions. I do not have the perfect writing conditions. I am just like every other parent out there trying to figure it out. It’s okay to let go.
In truth, it all boils down to commitment.
By letting go, I was able to write and publish a memoir, deliver a podcast series, write an essay every week for a writing course, write commissioned articles for clients each week, prepare lessons and grade student papers and enjoy family and girlfriend time and even catch up on some much needed sleep.
So, how do us driven moms get it all done? Like this: If you want something so badly, you just have to find a way to make it work and you’ll get it done. If you have the courage or the perseverance to take action day in and day out, you might even see proof that your dreams are coming true.