Mother-Writer: On Achieving Balance

Literary Mama

After Page One, blog post

February 19, 2018

By Lori Duffy Foster

I once told a fellow writer I would miss two appealing conferences because of conflicts with my children’s lives. One fell on the weekend of my son’s first-ever prom and the other clashed with summer camp drop-off.

She commended me on my “sacrifices,” but suggested I reconsider. I needed to prioritize writing over my kids if I wanted to succeed, she said.

What?

I chose my career, but I also chose to have children. I believe in balance, but when I must tip those scales, they will always tip in favor of my four kids. My husband is no different in his approach to his career, though he doesn’t have as much flexibility. Motherhood has made me a better writer, so if it slows me down a little, that’s okay.

My perspective is unpopular, at least that’s what I gather from forums, blogs and books on the subject. We female writers are supposed to protect our writing identities at all costs and forgive ourselves the selfishness required by our career choices.

Don’t get me wrong. I am selfish sometimes. Lots of times. The house could be cleaner. I could make healthier meals. I could do projects with my kids more often to keep them off their iPods and computers.

But no conference is worth missing my son’s first prom. No networking opportunity is worth missing camp send-off. And no novel of mine is going to suffer because I didn’t go to that one workshop.

We women have good reason to be protective and defensive when it comes to our identities as writers. Despite the strides we have made as a gender, society as a whole still tends to see male writers as professionals and women as hobbyists. But we don’t have to deny one identity in order to reinforce the other.

I completed four novels while my children were in the most physically and emotionally demanding stages of their lives. They still need me now, but their needs are less intense. Achieving a balance is easier and it will only get better.

My kids are old enough now to understand I need quiet time to write. They support me, get excited for me and are proud of me. And I am secure enough in my identity as a mother to do all that without guilt, to enjoy success as a writer. I have not sacrificed. I have compromised to get what I want, an entirely different concept.

We are not going to change society’s view of female writers by mimicking the success of stereotypical male writers. Why would we want to do that? We need to show the world something different. We need to show that parenthood (fatherhood included) is an asset for writers, not a complication or a burden.

I will go to a conference this year, but I won’t miss a child’s birthday, a school event, or a milestone to do it. Childhood lasts so long, but I intend to write forever. Where is the sacrifice in that?