Before I had James, I was working on the first draft of a novel. It wouldn’t be the first novel manuscript I’d completed, but it was going to be the first that wasn’t absolutely ridiculous. I started it before conception, and as soon as I announced my pregnancy, all my mom-writer friends said, “Finish your book before the baby is born!”
Honestly, I thought they were being overly cautious, but I did finish the rough draft pre-baby! I felt so accomplished. And because of the type of writer I am, I didn’t plan on revising for a few months (I can’t revise without some distance). So, I waited. I had James. I didn’t sleep. I pumped for the baby (for more info on that lovely period of my life, click here). I ate whenever I was hungry, which was often. I cuddled my newborn. I cried. But I didn’t write, or revise, or even think about my story.
Until one day, I did. Months and months after the rough draft was done and my son was born, I decided it was time to polish the very rough story I had churned out. So I did. In stolen moments while James slept or played, in moments when I could have been doing laundry or sweeping, I revised.
It was a small revision and I knocked it out relatively quickly, but man, did it take it out of me! Suddenly, I couldn’t just sit down for twenty minutes or two hours and write. I had to make sure the baby was OK, dry, fed, happy, and then I might get five or ten minutes in broken intervals. But, I did it! I revised (sort of), and I got through every page of my manuscript.
Well, as any writer knows, one revision is just the beginning of the beginning. So, I started a second revision–this one to be more in depth, more brutal, than the last. Only now my baby (who was immobile the last time around) is a toddler, and he is into E V E R Y T H I N G. If I thought it was hard to steal a minute before, now it’s nearly impossible. Nap time is mostly off limits, because I have an online job with Signature HealthCARE that I have to cram in there (oh, and showering every now and again is kind of nice). I could work on it after James is in bed, but that’s really the only time my husband and I have to talk without being interrupted every few seconds by sweet (and sometimes not-s0-sweet) toddler sounds. I could get up early, but…sleep!
So, how does one be a good mother, which I really hope I am, and still pursue her writing, her art? How does one maintain her identity in a sea of diapers and dried bits of food and tantrums and spoiled milk stains? By getting creative. While he eats, I sit with my computer open, and between giving him handfuls of cereal or torn up bits of veggies and chicken or spoonfuls of yogurt, I revise a few sentences. If I have to go to the bathroom, the laptop goes, too. If he’s playing happily for a few minutes in the floor, the laptop is out and the fingers fly until I have to get up to make sure he doesn’t pull the TV down on his head.
I may not have the time I once did–I used to stay up until three or four in the morning, writing until my fingers ached joyfully–but having to fight for the time to work on what I’m passionate about somehow makes it more real, more substantial.
So, mommas and mommas-to-be, don’t give up on what you love. Whether it’s writing, playing music, something super athletic and amazing, painting, other arts and crafts, whatever, you can find time for it, even if that time looks nothing like it did before. Be an amazing mommy and still maintain that beautiful, unique identity! If I can do it, even in bits and pieces, anyone can.