Balancing Act

Kids, writing, and taking over the world

Balancing Act

I grew up in the generation that said you could — and should — have it all. That sounds fantastic in theory. But in practice, not so much. I learned this the hard way. A few years ago I took my daughter to Kenya for three months on a project I was working on. Sounds great, right?

It was a nightmare.

Too many hours in the field, not enough time with her, no sleep, and a terrible accident that could have ended very different than it did. And, of course, absolutely no time or energy to write.

That work trip forced a reevaluation of life goals, career aspirations, and personal and family needs. I made the hard decision to come home, to be more present in my family’s life, and to begin to carve out miniscule blocks of time to write.

Best decision ever.

But even though I have ZERO regrets, it hasn’t always been a cake walk. Adjusting to being the primary parent at home was…challenging. Not going to the office every day was a huge change. I never thought I would be a stay-at-home parent. I’ve always needed to have something that was my own.

And that’s where writing came in. It kept me sane. It kept me engaged. It gave me hope that there was something else out there that I could love and do for a living.

Yet, for me, and I think for many writers I know, writing time is often sacrificed for the “greater good.” If one of my kids is sick, I go pick them up from school. If we’re getting ready for a family vacation, I’m the one to get everything organized and packed. I take kids and pets to all the appointments — doctors, dentists, vet. I handle the after-school activities.

Now, let me assure you that my husband is not an ogre. He doesn’t make me do any of these things. It’s a choice borne out of practicality. Until recently, he had a three-hour commute every day. If he was home by 7 p.m., I would practically do cartwheels. Lately, he’s been able to telecommute, which has opened up a whole lot more time for my writing and given him more time to spend with us.  

Of course, there are still plenty of interruptions and other items clamoring for my time. We moved last year and we still have lots of things in boxes. Shouldn’t I take an hour or so and empty a few more? I promised a friend I’d make a quilt for a raffle that will be raising money for a charity I care deeply about. It needs to be finished in the next month. Um, I better get cracking. With the new school year, there are meetings, activities, and homework — loads of homework. There are also good days and days when one of my kids comes home in tears and needs a hug and some Mom time.

The list is endless. And each thing I feel I should or must do take a bite out of my writing time. As I write this article, I have a sick child who wants me to play Legos with him, visiting relatives, and I’m leaving for a conference tomorrow and still need to do laundry and pack. I’ve got several scenes for a story I’m working on bubbling over in my head, and chances are I won’t have time to write them today.

It’s frustrating.

It’s also a measure of how full my life is and I try to remember that when I get moody for not getting enough writing time in. I’m lucky. Sick kid aside, my children are happy and healthy. My parents are in good health. I have a strong and happy marriage. And I’m currently able to write “full-time” instead of continue with a day job.

I am also gifted with a flexible schedule. If I choose not to write for a day, that’s on me. The less I submit to publishers, the less I make, but that decision is in my hands. There are times when I’m needed more than others. I have more and less productive periods. But I keep at it.

Having children actually made me a better writer by forcing me into making hard choices. I am a master of time management. I can accomplish in an hour what would take many people three. Because I have to if I want to keep writing.

Now that my kids are both in school, I’m starting to have longer blocks of time to write. I’m giddy with all the options in front of me.

Even though, on days like today, I can’t seem to get anything done.

It’s not always an easy balance, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like a balance at all. Eventually, I will truly write full time, but it won’t be for a while yet. Still, more and more, I’m able to carve out several hours in a day. In comparison to a few years ago, that feels like world domination.

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