I have two small children whom I love with all of my heart and then some. They're fantastic, both of them in their own ways, and I can't imagine life without them. My four-year-old is bright, silly, perpetually indignant, loves carbs, does parkour off every surface he can find, and asks about 7,592 questions a day. And I just gave birth to another little boy on February 10 of this year, a squishy little thing who's very alert, very chill, and very cute. Needless to say, I've got my hands full. And while Dad is amazing, he and I taking on parenting equally in our house, there's no role quite like that of Mama.
Pre-children, I would wake up with the dawn every day, do a quick workout, brew a gigantic cup of coffee, and sit down to write for about four hours. This is how I was able to finish both manuscripts for We Are Eternal and Way Down Low in a month's time each -- wake up, write maniacally, then go to work at the library (at the time, I worked 20 hours a week). Sometimes I would write after I got home from work, too, depending on how loudly the characters had been screaming at me all day. I subsisted on writing, caffeine, and stolen moments with my husband, a police officer who worked nights at the time and who has dealt with my writing fits that cause me to sometimes ignore him since I was in college.
When I got pregnant with my first son, I had terrible morning sickness that lasted the entire nine months. After he was born, I had to adjust to waking up every 2 hours to feed him, moving into a new house, and experiencing a drastic reduction in alone time. These are the reasons for the writing hiatus between finishing my manuscripts and actually editing them.
While I was grateful to have some raw material on my computer just waiting for me to play with, I barely thought about my manuscripts between May 2015 and May 2016. I was too wrapped up in new mommy love, the joy of making my baby boy smile, all of his milestones, and all of the excitement that comes with being a first-time parent. Then, as it does, the itch came back. I knew I had to learn how to juggle writing and parenting; there was just no way I was going to be able to give up my biggest creative outlet.
I unearthed We Are Eternal, in all its rawness, realized I still loved the story, and set about making it better. I worked on it at my desk during downtime at my now full-time library job, and once my son developed a more normal sleep schedule I began editing at night. So committed I became that I started willingly surviving on less sleep; instead of an infant keeping me awake, it was Olive, York, Selma, Uncle Joe, and all the other characters I'd created. After forcing a daily writing habit upon myself -- dragging myself downstairs to my office to do "at least 30 minutes of work" when I'd have much rather stayed in bed watching The Office reruns beside my husband -- editing We Are Eternal became routine, enjoyable, and necessary. Suddenly, I was a writer and a mother. And I was killing it in both categories.
Managing to achieve my dream of getting a book published while being a mother showed me the journey that so many well-known authors -- like J.K. Rowling, Nicola Yoon, Gillian Flynn, and Jhumpa Lahiri -- went through to manage their passions, careers, and home life at once. It also gave me the confidence to keep trying to make writing a full-time job, even while expanding my family, and the knowledge that it could be done.
I had several goals to complete before trying for a second child, pretty much all of them writing-related: I wanted to see my story in print. I wanted to develop a plan for getting representation for my story. I wanted to go to Ireland to collect first-person experience for a story I want to finish (also to drink beer and see the cliffs of Dingle, all fodder for the creative process). After I checked off all these goals, I got pregnant with my now 3-month-old.
Once again, I was sick for nine months. Once again, writing did not happen. This is, in part, why I neglected this blog for so long. But I bounced back into writing way quicker than I did with my first because: 1. I'm used to being sleep-deprived, 2. I'm used to a more hectic schedule, 3. I've developed a habit of writing at work (during breaks, of course), and 4. The drive to find representation for my work is stronger than ever now that I have a published book under my belt.
I've accepted my position in both the creative and maternal worlds. When we purchased our house in 2016, I immediately claimed the first room off the foyer as my office, and my husband didn't fight it at all, moving our computer desk, computer, and all of my bookshelves into this space. He helped me hang inspirational quotes on the wall. He helped me organize my papers and books on writing. He even found a floating shelf to house my ever-growing book collection,
and he stained and hung it for me. It was the ideal "writer's space." But as our son got older and acquired bigger, more colorful toys, some of his collection spilled into the office and came to live there. His easel -- with all his crayons, paints, and chalk -- stands right beside my desk, and sometimes the dust from the chalk ends up on my chair or beside the mouse in a small, handprint-shaped smudge. Every time I sit down at the computer to write, he comes up behind me and starts playing with a vibrant toy that teaches him his letters and his shapes and makes far too much noise, or he climbs into my lap and tries to type something, or I can hear him behind me pulling books off the bookshelf. We even refer to the space as a playroom more often than an office now. And I'm perfectly fine with all of that. In fact, it feels right. The office will be a "perfect writer's space" once again one day, but my boys will only be little for so long, and I'm not ready for the clean floor, the perfectly arranged books, the total quiet. Not yet.
I just keep going. I stick with my daily writing habit, I keep all my writing ideas organized, and I keep striving toward that illusive major book deal. At the same time, I keep giving my little ones all the Mama they need. They're still my greatest source of motivation; being a full-time writer would allow me to stay at home with them instead of parting with them at daycare every day. I'd love to give them everything they need from doing what I'm most passionate about. And I'd love to say I achieved everything I wanted while still being a great mom. The two most important jobs of my life don't have to be mutually exclusive -- I just have to figure out how to keep all the juggling balls in the air.
Juggling is what motherhood is all about.