Before I started having children, I attended a writer’s workshop in Salt Lake City. Five hundred dollars to attend classes and panels discussions, meet editors and agents. I remember one such panel vividly, five or six successful (published) writers/poets bedecked behind a long manila-colored table. I don’t recall the specifics of the discussion but I remember several statements from the writers:
You can’t spend an hour here and there on your writing and expect to do well. You must make the necessary sacrifices. You must put in the hours to work on your craft.
I made the decision not to have a baby. I wanted to be able to dedicate everything to my writing. At first I sat around the house restless and aimless, cleaning out a lot of closets and making detailed recipes. Then I began to work and the success came.
The only way I have been able to be successful and met deadlines is because I have no life. I have no children. I don’t see how you could be a successful writer if you have children. It seems impossible to me.
At the time, I dismissed these statements. As much as I was in love with the written word, I couldn’t imagine making that sort of ultimatum in regards to children. And although today I still believe they were wrong in matters of the heart, they may be right in many practical ways. It IS hard to find time, energy, and inspiration with kids skylarking in the background.
This dilemma- writing verses children- has haunted me through the years. As each child has come, my personal time to pursue my dreams shrinks ever smaller like drapes slowly closing on a window. As a mother, there is a certain amount of immovability you must honor so that your children can move and sprout. You must try to be emotionally constant, steady in the daily routine. Children need your time. I cannot spend eight hours writing. I cannot. This knowledge has pained me greatly. I felt like I must give up one dream or the other. Since my precious children were already breathing on this planet, I thought I must give up my writing dream.
But now, I’ve made peace with the conflict. It was a matter of simply acknowledging (accepting) the order of my priorities. If push comes to shove, my children will win. I’ll choose them every time. And if in the end, this choice prevents me from being a successful writer, I’ll never regret it.
However, I don’t want to use my blue-eyed kids as an excuse for failing in my writing pursuits. On most days, I don’t have to choose between writing and being a good mother. Writing will come second when necessary but I will continue to write when I can. Right now that’s a few hours a day if I’m lucky.
Even after all these years, I cannot halt the itchiness in my fingers to write, write, write. Likewise, I cannot plot a world without my kiddos as the main characters. I’m glad the choice isn’t one or the other. If my children are the foamy waves crashing against my soul than my writing is the gentle undertow.
CS Lewis wrote: I read so I know I’m not alone. Reading/writing allows me to experience feverish emotions without upsetting the balance of my life. Through writing I can have wanderlust and bohemian dreams.
And through my children, I can see the face of God.