Every three weeks or so, I see some over-worked writer-mom who is juggling SO MUCH tweet about how guilty she feels taking time to write. (Sorry men, I'm not including you in this because I have never once in my decade on twitter seen a man express this emotion. Ever.) So here's my love letter to you writer-moms.
This is your child speaking. You know, that 4-year-old monkey who wants to be an astronaut, or that 7-year-old diva who will NOT stop ruining your favourite lipstick, or that 10-year-old who wants to be Megan Rapinoe when they grow up. That kid. Mom, I'm begging you, please write your book!
Right now, it probably feels like if you turn your head for a second, I change so much that you don't want to look away. Maybe you want to cherish every single second while I am small. Maybe you're afraid I'll think you don't love me if you ask for a few hours to yourself to write that novel that's been living in your heart. But the truth is? I'll survive.
You've told me where the snacks are. I have a book or an art project or a friend to keep me busy. And, if there's an emergency, I know I can always scream for help and you'll come running. I'll be fine for a few hours.
A little independence is a good thing for both of us and seeing you prioritize something that you're passionate about is more valuable than you know. It will stay with me for decades. It will also teach me by example that parents are whole people, that everyone is complex, with countless interests and sides to their person, and that everyone deserves to have time to themselves to focus on what matters to them.
It's also not all about me. Kids have to learn that eventually. We learn that our parents were people before they had us, that, often times, they had really crazy lives that we'll spend our teen years trying to reconcile with our own experience of our boring parents! But you're a person, a whole person, and I shouldn't stop you from being a big part of yourself for two decades. That's insane!
So, Mom? Please write your book. And when it's published, and you maybe win an award for it, please invite me to the party. I want to see that part of you, the non-mom part, the whole-person part, the award-winning writer part, even if I whine that I'm bored after a couple hours...
You have no idea how much that will convince me that it's possible to accomplish all my dreams: from having any career I want, to being a parent, to doing both and being great at both. And not just me, but my brother too. It's so important for him to see you this way, for him to grown up with the inherent assumption that women can do whatever they want and kick ass at it. He'll have healthier relationships with his female friends, colleagues, and romantic partners (if he's interested in women) because he grew up watching you. He won't underestimate his female co-worker who has a toddler at home, or stop calling his female friends once they have children, he'll know that there's more to any life than just one part of their life. He'll have you to thank for that.
So, take those few hours. Tell us to occupy ourselves. We have toys or games or dress-up clothes or art supplies. Write that book. The book you don't want me to read for a decade, if ever. One day, I will read it, and I will know you a little better for it.
And, should the absolute worst happen, and something happens to you, please know that your books will become almost incalculably valuable to me. They will be a part of you forever, a piece of you printed onto the pages, a key to knowing your adult self the way I didn't get to as a child.
So, please, Mom, write that book.
My own mother, Diana, was a work-from-home-mom, who published three books of poetry throughout the 1990s while my sister and I were growing up. Each of those books won an award. (She also battled two bouts of breast cancer in those years. She was an utter rockstar. I genuinely have no clue how she did it. I look back and I'm stunned by what she accomplished in those years.)
She routinely gave us coloured pencils and paper, some crackers and cheese and closed the door for a couple hours. She took her writing seriously. She forced us to take it seriously. If we bothered her during those hours, she was never awful to us, but she was not kind about it. It taught us both the value of letting people have the time they need to do what is meaningful to them and to respect the space people tell you they need. That has never left me.
Obviously, the bar is different with one child or four, with a toddler or children who are six or seven. There's no one way to do this. There's a sliding scale, but it is possible to carve out these chunks of time in age appropriate ways. Sadly, it's not always possible (financially, medically, etc) for everyone, and I regret that I don't have the answers to those struggles. Here, I'm speaking to those moms who are struggling most with the GUILT.
I worshipped my mother as a child. (Ironically, it was not what made me want to be a writer. For the longest time, I didn't want to ever be a writer because she was SO accomplished and it was her wheelhouse.) It made a selfish child (me!) a lot more compassionate about other peoples' needs. It made me respect people when they want time for hobbies or passion projects. It made my impatient little heart see how the long game starts.
Play the long game with your kids. The fear of missing out is immediate, but the patience and respect I learned has lasted decades. At the end of the day, be the whole person you are, and show your kids how valuable and powerful that can be.
They'll thank you for it.