Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Writing vs parenting

A rare quiet moment for self.

There are times that I've gone days without blogging. Usually it's because I have a lot on my mind. But the reason I've not been blogging the last few days is because I haven't got a thought in my head.

The family is in town and when family is in town, there is very little internal thought process for me.

I'm so very blessed to be able to see my nieces more than the usual hour before they go to bed. That's how it used to be. I'd get up, go to work, come home and hang with them for an hour before they went to bed. Then a few weeks later, they'd head back home and I would have barely seen them.

How do parents with full time jobs do it?

Beats me. 

But now that I quit my job last month, I am within arms reach of one or both of them 24/7. In fact, the 5-year-old niece has her head on my shoulder right now as I write. And the 1-year-old is trying to climb up on my lap, which makes typing difficult to say the least.

All this family time has made me wonder about writing and parenting. I've always thought that I'd be a parent one day, but how does parenting affect writing? Can they exist harmoniously together? I'm not sure. And I truly have fallen deeply in love with writing. Perhaps the love I feel for the little people already in my life can be enough to fulfill any parenting impulses I feel. I keep waiting for my biological clock to start ticking. Maybe there is a screw loose.

Elizabeth Gilbert has explained in her book Committed that she takes her role as an aunt very seriously and that satisfies her enough to forgo having children of her own. She also writes on her site:
"I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began."
Me, too. And I wonder how full-time children of my own fit into the calling.

You've probably read the works of writers you love, then they have kids and all they write about is kids. That's usually when I lose interest. The writers shift to another audience and I'm left to find an author that fills me literary heart with joy.

And I understand! I understand that they have nothing to write about except their children because their days are filled with maintaining these little lives in their midst. And everyone wants those little lives to be happy. We all want the next generations of childhoods to be better than our own. And sometimes that means playing with Strawberry Shortcake and forgoing the blog post.

This guy will say it's all about time management. He's a writer and a parent. He figured it out.

Anyway, I don't have an answer. I just have a curiosity about what I thought I wanted (children) and what I know I want (writing) and I wonder how (or if) they can live harmoniously together.

In the meantime, I'm taking the kids to Disneyland today.

And I'm packing my journal.


  1. janice darling, you're correct to consider whether or not to parent with sobriety. obviously it's possible for some people to do both, while others seemed consumed by parenting. and the funny thing is, you probably wouldn't know which camp you fall into until after you have a kid.

    life with or without children can be rich. personally i waited until my last moment of willingness to parent to pull the trigger. and while i find my daughter wonderfully charming and loving and adorable, a real babysatva, the first 8 or so years of her life did consume me.

    only now am i reemerging and thinking seriously about my passions and intellectual life. i have started writing again, but i also lead her brownie troop, run the annual campaign at her school, run mommy camp during holidays and school breaks, etc. so balance is still a work in progress.

    all i can think of right now is something that my imaginary grandmother always says: you can have ANYthing that you want; but you can't have EVERYthing.

    jacqueline (which continues to rhyme with beauty queen)

  2. I have asked myself the same question. And actually, asked just generally how to balance an adventurous life with parenting. Things have to give. Travel isn't easy like it is when you only have to worry about yourself. Heck, going to dinner or the grocery store isn't easy.

    I think in order to have both things, you have to sacrifice a little for each. Your kids would have to learn to live without you for stretches of time and your writing would go unwritten while you spent time with the kids. The question is - would you resent anyone in the process?

    I think I may end up being one of Liz's Auntie Brigade members. It's sort of like getting some of the joys of parenting without having to deal with the trials.

    Oh - and Dad writers are a totally different story. 90% of the families I know require a lot more parenting/house-managing/juggling work from mother than they do the father. I think it's easier for men to strike the balance.

  3. Well.... deciding to bring a child into this world is life altering. It will penetrate and influence all areas of your life. Of course your recent decision is also life altering - quitting your job to take on a new career/adventure. You knew in your heart and trusted the Universe to let you know how and when to do it. I would imagine that if this is in your path inspiration will come and the path forward will be brought to your attention.

    Until then... enjoy the decision you made about your new profession/adventure. No need to worry about it now.... the time for that choice isn't here yet. :)

  4. Maybe it's not about sacrificing. Maybe it's just about changing your perspective. Having children may bring you to an emotional depth you didn't know was possible. Imagine the joy and creativity they could bring to one another? Your children could inspire your writing and your writing could inspire your children. ~H

  5. Oh girlfriend! I have been thinking about your blog today. I keep bouncing around different comments in my head. I'm not sure what the answer is. On first thought, I'd say my children are exactly the reason why I haven't written my book yet. But then I tell myself if I really wanted it bad enough I'd MAKE the time for it. I gotta run now and take off snow pants and pour cereal. Rox

  6. will be as good of a mother as you are a writer! When the time comes, your children will have no choice but to adapt to your lifestyle, because you will raise them that way! (i said the same thing to my BFF when she asked, "will i still be able to market garden and have a child?" my answer, "of course!!"...and I was right. her child is now 6 months and during the summer she had her brand new baby sleeping in her carrier, out in the garden, with her while she picked raspberries, for example.
    love what the new year has brought for you! I look forward to reading about your travels!!!!!


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