A few weeks ago, an acquaintance told me, “Why do you need to write more books? You’re already famous!” I wanted to laugh loudly in his face and tell him, “Famous!? Do you have any idea what it took to write those two books? Most authors I know are not famous.”
Most people out there think writers just publish a book and let the cash come rolling in regardless whether that writer is a parent or not. Much has been written about mothers who couldn’t handle the pressures of mothering and writing and as a result, left their kids. Very few people in my tribe understand what it’s like to under the surmounting pressures of motherhood and the ones that do.. yes, you got it: they are usually writing mothers themselves. It’s an inside-outside job.
To be a parent or caregiver is the ultimate sacrifice, but being a writer mama or parent is like saying to yourself, “Hey I need to give back to myself right now and write because it’s the way I process the crazy times.” But very few people get that and the ones that mainly do…yes, you got it: they are mothers themselves with some exceptions.
I’m just a writer mama. If I had to take a pie chart and dissect the hours of writing versus parenting, it would be 20-80%. Not to mention the time it takes to transition from parenting to writing. That’s brain power too.
As a writer mama, I have my fair share of battles. One well-known scenario: I get into the writing and immediately, I’m summoned by one of my children who need this or that. On the weekends or late nights when my husband works and I have no help, I summon my son just so I can squeeze in some writing time. Many times, I’m too frazzled to write, but I do it anyway because it’s what my brain and soul need to do.
When I was a young and inexperienced mother, I wrote but I always felt guilty and selfish for doing so. Now I understand this what I need to do to emotionally survive as a parent and to validate who I am.
The other day, I cried when I realized that I shelled out three times as much last year to get mentored and supported for my memoir Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Faith, Courage and Love. Now, as a forty-four year old mother of two, I needed to give voice to that nineteen year old who left New York City and her mother to volunteer for the IDF. But sometimes you take risks and give your career the wings it needs to fly. You can never time these moments just like you can’t time when is a good moment to write while parenting.
There’s always the emotional whirlwind of time management as a writing parent There’s almost always something going on in the background. You’re constantly trying to navigate both worlds – feeling chained at no ends. You feel vulnerable because you can’t seem to find a solution to the fact that no matter how hard you try, you can’t write in peace for more than five minutes. It is during these moments I want to hide under the covers and just write. But I can’t. I know that.
I have to sometimes beg my son to watch his toddler sister just so I can work uninterruptedly. My personal circumstances could have stopped me in my tracks long time ago. I could have thrown in the towel. My son is now at the point where he doesn’t quite understand why I don’t have anything to show for my hard work of slaving over the computer screen.
My personal circumstances could have stopped me in my tracks long ago. I could have given up big time. But at the end of the time, I figure I have no choice but keep slaving and learning. If you’re a parent who happens to be a writer, there are ways to keep the momentum going even if you’re up against limited time. Even with limited time, there are things you must do or accept to maintain your sanity:
1. You keep the naysayers or the ignorant well-intentioned people at bay, and at the same time, you seek out emotional support because you know what you need as a writer.
2. You understand the emotional ups and downs that are factored into writer’s life but you continue ploughing on. You need to write.
3. You understand that every now and then, you need a break from the real world. But then you can’t wait to go back to writing. Because you need to. This is what validates you beyond the dirty diapers and potty training.
4. You learn the value of maintaining your writing space even if it’s just a small section of a large table or desk to honor yourself as a writer. Because writing is important to you.
5. You will continue to set writing sessions no matter how difficult the circumstances because you know one thing: You are a writer. Writers who are parents have to make it work. It’s an every day uphill battle.
So the next time someone saddles up to you and tells you why do you need to write because after all, you’re famous, tell that person exactly why you do need to write. Educate him. Be proud of who you are. After all, you’re a writer. It’s what you have to do no matter what.