Writing Wednesday: Motherhood Plus Writing

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is how I manage to be a mom, and a writer.

(Pulls up soapbox, stands on it) Friends, mothers, writers, lend me your ears!

Here is the answer. The answer to life, motherhood, everything.

I’ve never really thought about it that much.

I have never awakened in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, wondering how I can be a mother and a writer. It’s like asking, “How I can be a mother, and have brown eyes?”

I am simply a writer.

On Twitter the other day, novelist Caroline Leavitt asked, “Were any of you told, now you’re a mom, forget the writing?”(She is @Leavittnovelist on Twitter, by the way). It got me a-pondering.

My answer is no. Nobody told me to forget the writing.

Now, I remember being told by this woman in a writing group, after the instructor proudly announced I’d found an agent, that I had it easy. I had no real job, she said, I was only a mom and had plenty of time to write.

Oh, snap.

I told her that it was a real job, that I did freelance writing and mystery shopping to help bring in money, that I had no sitters, and I also had ulnar nerve compression (like tennis elbow) which means that sometimes my fingers stop working so well; and that she must not have any children.

She said, “Oh.”

She probably never said anything like that again.

Look, being a writer, or wanting to express yourself creatively, doesn’t make you a bad mommy. It makes you a BETTER mommy. Do you really want to be one of those moms who doesn’t have her own thing going on, so she’s waaay too into her kids’ lives? A smothering mommy-manager? The next thing you know you’ll be buying liquor for the teenage baseball team so you’ll be cool to hang with. That is a dark dark road, my friends.

I treat writing like a job, and I think it’s perfectly okay for a mother to have a job. It’s a creative job, and some people think it’s a made-up job, but that’s kind of their problem, not yours. Every day, I sit down after the kids go to school, and once my caffeine kicks in, I write. Sometimes I write a lot, sometimes a little. But I always write.

And in my opinion (I guess I don’t need to say MY OPINION on my blog; everything here is my opinion), life experience can only make you a better writer. Having a family also makes you focus on something outside your own neurotic head.

Besides, having kids makes you kind of tough. You can shoot out blasts of writing anywhere, even if kids are screaming at 1000 decibels and the only place you have to write is locked briefly away in the bathroom. You just wipe chunks of who knows what off your keyboard and soldier on.

And sometimes, yes, I put things into my calendar, and I work on a story (which includes thinking about the story) and forget to even look at the calendar or at the phone which has a pop-up reminder, but that’s okay. Because then, you can simply tell people, “I forgot, sorry. I’m a writer,” and they will excuse your eccentric behavior and your pajama pants at school.

Now I am looking at the clock and realizing that I was supposed to start dinner, but I started this blog instead. So once again, I must rush off from a writing task to a mommy one. That is fine with me. Tummies will be fed, even if it’s with turkey dogs and carrot sticks and not the lasagna I’d originally planned on.

The world keeps turning.


Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

5 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: Motherhood Plus Writing

  1. Hi, Margaret.
    I write on a daily basis, but I don’t have the knowledge of how to actually get my work published (besides on my blog, one Redbook magazine article, and several websites–none for pay I may add). I don’t think you give yourself enough credit for how amazing you really are. 🙂

  2. Loved this post, Margaret. This line made me laugh aloud: “The next thing you know you’ll be buying liquor for the teenage baseball team so you’ll be cool to hang with. That is a dark dark road, my friends.” 😉 I dabbled with writing until I became a mom, but having my son (for whose cross country team I will *not* be buying liquor, LOL) was actually the reason I began to take it seriously. I wanted him to witness his parents pursuing their passions, rather than just saying, “Hey, you should follow your dreams…”

    1. Thanks! Me, too. I think it’s been valuable for them to see their mom pursue a goal for many years and overcome rejections and all that. My kids are actually really proud of me and so excited to “visit” my books when we go to stores.

  3. For a long time, I felt as if I had to sort of make up for the fact that I wasn’t working outside the home–I got myself involved in too many things and began dreading all of it. This year, I’ve been steadily and thoughtfully paring down my external obligations so I can simply focus on my two favorite things: my family and my writing. It’s encouraging to hear another writer-mom’s take on the two. And some days, turkey dogs and carrot sticks just work. 😉

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