When I was pregnant with my second child, I felt myself slipping away. I’d recently left my job teaching Kindergarten and had become a full-time stay-at-home mom for my oldest. Suddenly, my entire existence revolved solely around my son and the yet-to-be-born baby. I felt like I was an afterthought.
As I prepared for birth and having an infant at home, my mind raced constantly, spinning over the most mundane things. I couldn’t fall asleep at night, though I was tired and cranky. I kept starting and stopping these large-scale projects revolving around teaching, education, and homeschooling. To put it mildly, I needed a hobby.
A friend suggested I write out a list of things I loved to do when I was younger, before kids. At first, I thought it was silly and self-indulgent, but I’m a rule-follower, so when she told me to do it, I got out my pen.
The first item spilled out before I had a chance to think about it: creative writing.
I hadn’t written anything other than a lesson plan for years, and I’d gotten in the habit of telling people that “I used to be a writer.” In fact, I’d been writing for most of my life when I started teaching and didn’t have time (or, didn’t make time) for my own passions.
So I listened to my inner-child, who was screaming at me to sit down with a notebook, already. At first, I wrote extensively about motherhood. I had all of these reflections, thoughts, and feelings that had been marinating inside of me, and I finally let them out through writing.
I wrote a novel. Then, I wrote another novel, and I got better and better at the craft I’ve always loved.
I’d expected to feel selfish about taking the time to pursue something of my own. With my first child, I felt tremendously guilty whenever I did anything purely for myself, while another adult (even my own husband) watched the baby. Plenty of deeply ingrained cultural messages claim that a mother who engages in pursuits not involving her kids is narcissistic, self-centered, and generally “bad.”
But now, whenever a sitter comes over or I spend nap-time writing instead of cleaning the house, I feel wonderful. I feel whole. I feel more like myself.
The hard part is carving out that creative time with two small children at home. Even though there are days when I don’t write anything more substantial than a grocery list, I try to get inventive in finding ways to write.
I have a special writing space set up in the house. To maximize alone time, I often wake an hour earlier than my children so that I can get to work immediately, before the day starts. I take advantage of nap times, playdates, and quiet time to write what I can. I even organized a writer’s group with creatively-minded friends so that we all have a designated time to work. It also helps to have a supportive husband, who is also a very hands-on and loving dad.
When you have kids, their needs come first, especially in the early years. In the past, though, I spent the entirety of my energy meeting the needs of my children, my husband, and “the household.” When I had children, I thought I had forfeited my chance to express my creative dreams – that the obligation of a family would take up all of me.
But I’ve since discovered that creative work and motherhood are not at odds. They can coexist and feed off one another. It was motherhood that drove me, heart and soul, into the creative sphere. Every day when I open my laptop or pick up my pencil and paper, I say a silent “thank you” for the opportunity to nurture my creative side.