One of the most startling moments of my life was when I realized I was going to like being a working mom.I grew up in the suburban ’80s of leftover-stay-at-home moms, as did my husband.
I loved having a mom at home and I vowed that I would be a stay-at-home mom for my kids, as well. When I had my little bundle of joy in 2004, we were not in a financial position to have me stay at home, but we stuck to our guns and did it anyhow. We moved to a smaller house, we sucked in and scraped by, and nine years later I am looking down the barrel of an August when my last baby goes off to kindergarten.I have loved staying home with my kids. I wouldn’t back up and change that. But last summer I finished my first novel, a book that took me, while raising kids full-time, ten years to complete. Last fall, I started an indie publishing company, Owl and Zebra Press. Last month I published Benevolent. And now I am immersed in marketing and publicity with my pen poised over the third chapter of The Date and the Roach. And I can’t wait to get back to my converted dining room table to work on it.
Mothering will always have its time drains and its challenges, and having six hours, five days a week to “myself” isn’t going to completely change the playing field. More like, it’s going to be a different season. So I’m going to take this moment to reflect on what I have learned over nine years of staying at home while I freelanced and wrote, completed several poems, short stories,and finally a whole novel, and then became a publisher and entrepreneur: typing and wielding a box cutter with one hand while holding onto the waistband of an especially adventurous young boy with the other. And I am going to share these lessons with you.
1. The name of the game is endurance. It helps if you are stubborn.
2. If you don’t have a focus, you need to get one. Where are you headed? Prune away everything else that can possibly go(including the painting and crafting, as well as gourmet dinners and self-catered parties).
3. Connect with the kids (and the husband), everyday. That’s one thing you know you won’t regret (as opposed to cover photo choices or splurging your last savings on a book contest).
4. Remember that there are others just like you, working eighteen-hour days to synthesize two dreams into one life.
5. You are way cooler than all those people who “always wanted to write a book.” In fact, you’re going to write like twenty, so you’re not even in the same league.
6. It’s not too late to start. Teenage prodigy authors are like one in a billion. When I think of what my first novel would have looked like at seventeen, I thank my lucky stars I’m on the flip side of thirty.
7. We’re not going for fortune and fame here, just enough to keep it going. No more delusional goals. If it happens on the way, enjoy it and give as much of it away as you can.
8. You can’t please everyone. You can’t even please everyone around your dinner table. Decide what one person you really want to please, and make that your north star.
9. Someone, somewhere said that all it takes to be a career writer these days is about 10,000 readers per book at the rate of a book every couple years or so. That, and it takes about a year to get tread on a self-published book. So work really hard, and then calm down.
10. Write. Read. Hug a child. And repeat, ad nauseum.
11. Finally, enjoy your blossoming career, with all its undulations and unexpectedness, guilt-free. You were created to be a mom, you were created to be a writer. They are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, the world could use the voice of moms as the voice of its writers.
There are lessons learned while changing pukey bed-linens in the middle of the night that are special and important. Those lessons become voice, and voice is what carries the reader through the novel and speaks to them on conscious and subconscious levels. We need femininity and nurturing in our art.
In a time and place where the every-woman is a concept so common we are drowning the weakest of us under its stress, let me leave you with one parting thought: if you are a mom and you want to be a writer, that’s only two things. No one can be or should try to be every woman. Just be you, focused.