Balance of Needs

I’ve been through the whole gamut of parenting emotions as a writer. I’ve felt guilt over taking time away from my children, selfish for yearning for time to myself to “play” with my characters, and condemned by others for, in their estimation, putting my “hobby” above my family.  But then again, I’ve also had the sincerity of being able to truthfully say to my children, “If you really want something, you’ll work hard for it. Even when it seems impossible.” I’ve had the joy of introducing my creative daughter to NaNo WriMo and discussing characters and plot with her. I’ve encouraged her to express her appreciation to authors whose books she’s read, and shared the excitement of her first Readers’ Luncheon. I’ve encourage my children to read outside of schoolwork and find it amazing that they don’t whine when they get books for Christmas and birthday gifts. Most recently, my son has started creating his own comic books based on a video game he enjoys, with actual story lines. I can marvel over the story AND the artwork.

"I sprinted over to my hidey-hole!"
“I sprinted over to my hidey-hole!”

Being a writing mom, or any mom who has a passion and dream for something in addition to family, is a 2 sided coin. Sometimes it’s hard, and it hurts, but there are joys there to enrich and encourage your creative life. Ideally, that’s how this would work. The encouragement from family would feed into that creativity, helping it flourish and expand. Sadly, that’s not true in many writers’ lives, those who have family who either ignore or openly disdain their efforts. And even in the best family situation, trying times can drain a mother of the energy she needs for her work. But I’ve realized a few things that help me along:

1. The balance of family and writing will sometimes be unequal. I’ve faced the fact that I won’t get nearly as much done during the summer, when we juggle babysitters and the kids are with me 99% of the time I’m not at the day job. And that’s okay. I just have to find a way to work around it.

When I’m on deadline, I need more time and quiet to create faster. That means less time-intensive meals, more TV watching, and the house stays a little dirtier. But since it isn’t that often, we’ve still got some balance overall.

"I made a workbench out of planks and used it."
“I made a workbench out of planks and used it.”

2. I need space, and that’s the way it is. This need doesn’t take away from my family, but enhances it. When I am happy and creative, I’m a happy mother and wife. Doing what I need to take care of myself and refill my internal well is not selfish. An occasional hour alone, savoring the silence. The chance to read, losing myself in another author’s story. Setting boundaries around writing time and expecting my children to respect them. All these things teach them respect, that dreams require hard work, and that mommies are people too.

3. That said, there are times when family will have to come first. Kids get sick, crisis happen, and life doesn’t stop just because I’ve got a deadline. This was never more true than when I was pregnant. Mentally, I simply couldn’t write, and I had to let go of the guilt from that. My family and my body was changing and that had to take priority. Sometimes it requires me to drink a 5 hour energy shot so I can write after the kids go to bed, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

4. I have a planner/plotter nature, but I also try to remember that the best laid plans won’t work every time. I try to look honestly at what I’m capable of, what my day job demands, what kind of events are going on in kiddie land, and whether or not my husband is going to be available to help. Then I write it all down (it’s the only way I can remember anything). That’s the fun part for me, but then I have to walk it every day and sometimes change it as needed. Not so fun for me, but I try. 🙂

The balance between me, my needs, and how I operate isn’t always ideal for my life, but I try to realize that and work around it. What needs and personality traits do you have that help you in your daily life? Which are a hindrance?

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