Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing as a parent

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When I was pregnant with Mikko, Sam and I were frantic about finishing some writing projects. No, even before then — we had this idea that, since we wanted to write various fiction and nonfiction books, we'd better do so before we added any children to our lives. Because certainly children would sap our productivity, and we'd never write again until they grew up and left home.

But, the thing is — before we had children, we had fun things to do. Writing was there, but it could always be put off till another day. And so it was. We had no real deadlines. We thought having a baby would be one, but it really wasn't.

Well, we had our baby, and three months after Mikko was born, I started a parenting blog. It seemed a little foolhardy, since of course parents have no! time! to! write! — but I did it, and three years later, here Hobo Mama still is.

Mikko has always been willing to help me write.

The next year, with a one-year-old underfoot, I completed my first National Novel Writing Month, finally — ah, finally! - finishing my first novel. Not as a singleton, not as a carefree, child-free DINK, but as a mother, a mother of a toddler. I even got through an edit of it as that same mother.

The year after that, I did it again.

And this year, Dionna and I are launching a new website, and I hope to tackle NaNoWriMo yet again, all while keeping Hobo Mama humming.

I say this not at all to boast. I make pretty much zero dollars writing, after all, and have yet to finish the editing of my novels and realize my dream to become a fabulous, published author attending press junkets and sitting on conference panels and touring the globe. (That last fantasy is not in any way based in reality, by the way.)

It's just: I thought being a parent would stop what I really wanted to do with my life (besides parenting), and it hasn't. On the contrary, I think it's helped it.

I think parenting honed my focus in life. I knew I needed some basic elements:
  • Spending time with family
  • Making enough money to live on
  • Following my deepest passions
  • Taking care of the daily minutiae
  • Remembering to have fun
Before I became a parent, days and months and years were more lackadaisical and unfocused. I concentrated mostly on the fun aspect, and I wouldn't trade that for the world — but following my passions — well, that could always wait for another day.

With parenting, I have minimal time each day to do anything. The first element, of spending time with family, takes most of our energy. Making money's always important, and that goes along with spending time with family, since Sam and I trade off childcare. We've tried to be intentional about having some downtime every night and one day a week. To be honest, it's probably the minutiae that suffer the most (our poor neglected laundry piles, and when was the last time I showered?). Because I've discovered the necessity of grabbing those small, fleeting moments to follow my passions as I'm able, whether it's music or dance or a hobby or whatever it is.

Right now, that passion is mostly writing. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about 10 years old. I devoured books, and it was around that age that I discovered the magical power of making my own words tell a story. Throughout school, my teachers and parents encouraged me in my talent. So it's no surprise that I would have become a writer as an adult — what was more surprising is that I hadn't become one before now, before becoming a mother as well.

What does writing have to do with balance? I find that having a passion I pursue apart from my parenting (even though, in much of my blogging, it's still about my parenting) keeps me grounded and fulfilled. It reminds me of the me I am who's not just a mother, not just in this moment of my life with a young child, but the person who is growing and reaching and striving throughout the journey of life.

I know it might not seem like blogging in particular would be so personally satisfying, but it really is. Feeling a connection with my readers, and finding an outlet for my thoughts, has meant more to me than I ever dreamed. It's not the kind of writing I can brag about at family reunions. Believe me, I've tried, and gotten blank looks in return. But it's a writing that feeds my soul and energizes me to go back to the other, larger-looming parts of my life, that would overshadow the real me completely were it not for these breaks just for me, in my own head — my own words and truth and story coming forth.

I hope you have something that keeps you going as a parent, despite being a parent. I hope, if you don't, that you won't let being a parent discourage you from starting a foolish dream. I hope, if you're not yet a parent and fear the transition, that you know that parenting does not have to deprive you of your goals, or even delay them. This isn't a have-it-all sort of lie; you will have to make some compromises and concessions. But you get to choose what you have, and you can choose something that fills your heart and brings balance to your parenting.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband's commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)
  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)
  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at born.in.japan is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)
  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.
  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.
  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.
  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)
  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.
  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)
  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)
  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some "Me Time" — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants "me" time that includes her daughter.
  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)
  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of KellyNaturally.com aspires to make time for those "non-necessities" this year. (@kellynaturally)
  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)


MomAgain@40 said...

You write beautifully! Glad that you have reminded us again about following your dreams.
It does not end with baby, but only gets enhanced! If we want it to...
Great post!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I have floundered in this area, Tom and I both have. I quit my job as a lawyer, and despite my efforts, I can't find anyone who wants to hire me for either part time or WAH employment. I like writing, it's something I've always done and been good at - but in a more technical sense.
I used to be such a workaholic before Kieran that my dreams now are *completely* different now. Now my dreams are "how can we find employment so that we can both be at home," "how can we give Kieran the best homeschooling experience," "how can I be fulfilled as a person and as a mother," etc.
I do agree with you that you don't have to end your dreams because you have a child; it helps to have a clear vision and the flexibility to be creative :)

Momma Jorje said...

I am amused to picture you attempting to brag about your blog at a family reunion. It sounds like something I would do!

And I can so relate to the focus that having children can give a person. Life just seems to skate along with no *real* point - until you have a child. I can see it much more clearly once I've had children.

So not only does having children give one focus... it can give a person purpose! Gosh, that is a lot of responsibility on my lil one's head. lol

Sybil Runs Things said...

You are definitely one of the people I look to when I need inspiration for balancing my desires to follow my passions for my desires to be the mother I want to be. You have struck a really great balance (laundry piles aside!) and it's really lovely to see.

Thanks for hosting the carnival! I love getting to find so many new bloggers through it.

Thomasin said...

I can relate to the way you say writing grounds you, reminds you of the YOU as you travel down life's path, the you that affects those around you. And you're an inspiration to me, writing as well and as often as you do with a family. I struggle with getting projects to the "Publish" point myself but am grateful to those writers out there who are making it happen for themselves (even without world wide tours. Though you never know. Yours might be coming).

Jessica - This is Worthwhile said...

My writing has totally saved my sanity, time and time again. I mean, I literally can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't have this amazing world to be myself in. So, I hear you on that one, totally.

Melodie said...

I remember my best friend being scared to death that I wouldn't be the same person after I had kids. That she and I would no longer relate (because she doesn't have kids, has never wanted them and never will). But here I am the very same person as I was before. Perhaps now even slightly more interesting because I have more interesting tales to tell now that there are two new characters in my life! A part of staying who I was and am, has been always liking who I am. I didn't become a parent to make myself be more responsible or more focused or more anything. I had kids to enhance who I am and to be responsible for two other human beings who bring joy to my life. But me, I've stayed pretty much the same. Most people who've known me since school days say I am the person they think has changed the least. While I don't think this is any better or worse than anyone else, I appreciate knowing this because it means I've held on to my dream and ideals this whole time. I'm still an optimist, an idealist, a dreamer, a hard worker, a perfectionist, a good person. And what this has to do with your blog post I barely remember but I'm pretty sure you will be able to find the thread somewhere. Awesome post Lauren. And hey, When do we get to find out where to buy your novel? What is it called?

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

I found the same thing - always wanted to be a writer but never really made the time for writing before I had kids. Now that I have way less free time I am more motivated to write. Also, I have something to write about! And a place to use my BA in Psychology - I read loads of parenting books! I read somewhere that a large percentage of woman entrepreneurs started their business AFTER becoming moms. So yay for following (or discovering) your passion while parenting.

Deb Chitwood said...

Great post, Lauren! I was lucky that my passion for education worked well when I was a SAHM. First, I channeled it into my Montessori-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd work at our church and then into homeschooling my children. When my youngest was 16, I had the opportunity to get my master’s degree. Now I use my passion for education in my blogging and other writing.

Even though blogging wasn’t around when I was doing most of the raising of my kids, I can see how it would be a wonderful outlet for younger moms. And what a great keepsake a blog makes! I think I would have done a much better job of recording my family’s milestones if I would have had a blog back in the day!

By the way, I loved your post about your ballet experience – awesome!


Unknown said...

It's funny, we do SO much more now than we did before we had a baby - we often comment on what were we thinking not seizing the moments we had pre-baby?! Not in a trying to regain life before type of way, but more in the realization that we were totally missing out!

Having Ella has been a dream - I've been able to tap into my artistic side which lay dormant for YEARS (pretty much since I graduated high school). It's the thing that keeps me balanced (even though "balanced" to me is a bit of a moving target!)

Anonymous said...

I have become much more intentional about following my passions since I became a parent. This is for similar reasons as you, I think. Suddenly time is at much more of a premium. I also have much greater focus, mostly because I have to. I need to prioritize and live deliberately, and make time for what matters. And so I don't spend all evening channel surfing anymore, I pursue my passions and craft a life for my family.

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

It's been almost a year since I tried to step up my blogging, and man, have I found it satisfying. I, too, have always wanted to write, and now I feel like I have this topic (parenting) that just begs to be written about, daily.

And if I were at your family reunion, I would totally enjoy hearing and talking to you about your blog, ha ha!

stefanie @ very very fine said...

this is really well put. i grew up in san diego, and now live in bellingham. whenever my san diego friends and family come to visit, usually in the spring and summer, they marvel at how many people are outside doing stuff. riding bikes, playing frisbee, just walking around. it's not something you see a lot of there, i think because the weather is always so nice. if you'd rather sleep in and putz around today, the beach and the sun will be there tomorrow. i liken this attitude to what you're describing here: when you have a kid, you've gotta kind of cram it in when you can. long winded, sorry, but the short version is: i'm with you!

Betsy B. Honest said...

You are, quite simply, an inspiration!

Joni Rae said...

Oh I LOVE writing. I've wanted to be a writer for a very long time- it is why I started my first blog, ten years ago!

You write beautifully- <3

Rachael @ The Variegated Life said...

Good gosh, I don't know what happened to my original comment here; nor do I remember what I said. Here's what I've got today: I love how your list of the "basic elements" to take care of distills so very much into five simple ideas. And I'll be very curious to hear how you and your family adjust the arrival of your second little one. I certainly don't doubt that you can welcome him or her and keep on writing, too!

Kimberly said...

Yes it is possible to be a parent AND still have passions and interests and a life :) Isn't it a great? There's never a dull moment!

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