on work-life balance

17 Nov on work-life balance

I’ve lost count of how many blog posts I’ve started and deleted the past few weeks. Every time I sit down to write, a certain towheaded boy bounces in and plasters himself against me. My phone buzzes. B needs help with schoolwork.

Juggling parenting, magazine assignments, household chores, blogging, and a book in progress sometimes feels like I’m working a puzzle and the pieces don’t quite fit together. When I get overwhelmed, I set one piece aside… usually household chores (laundry and cooking are the first to fall off the table) or the book. Lately, the blog.

Confession: After Kris and the kids, writing is my greatest passion….and actually, I fell in love with it long before I knew them. Since I was a child, it’s been my sanctuary, a safe place to keep the stories and feelings I couldn’t speak. Today, I feel fortunate that I get paid to do the thing that I love. But more than that, I get to use my writing to help others, which brings me so much joy.

I can’t not write. But also, I can’t not love my children, make lunches, read to them, snuggle, play, and do all the things parents do to keep life running smoothly.

The balance feels off when, say, I’m hit with a wave of inspiration at the precise moment Miles needs me to help him build a Lego rocket ship. Magazine deadlines don’t budge for carpool or swim practice. I’ve learned to be very efficient with my time, filling in blank spaces in my schedule with article edits. Using my iPhone to answer emails and peruse new markets for personal essays while I wait for B’s class to let out of school. When I don’t have large blocks of time to draft stories, I eke them out a couple hundred words at a time.

Add to that the criticism that comes with being a writer (figure for every piece you see published, the writer faced about 10 rejections), and I feel defeated some days. It’s just too much. Too much rawness. Too much walking around with my skin on inside out…because that’s what we already do as mothers, isn’t it? We love our kids fiercely, and in loving fiercely, we feel raw and vulnerable. We wonder if we’re doing it right.

Now I can’t remember where I was going with this post. Oh, right. Work-life balance? I don’t think it exists. It’s all life. It’s life-life balance. And persistence. You keep trying to make the pieces of your life fit together, however sloppily, because you won’t ever really know what you’re capable of until you try and fail and try again. Becoming a good writer (and a good mother) requires a certain comfort level with failure, I believe.

It also requires celebrating the successes, no matter how small. So, here goes: I just found out that a couple of my most precious essays will be published in literary magazines this winter (I’ll link to them when they’re available online). And Kris has encouraged me to take some time away to write and interact with other writers, so I’m applying to conferences and fellowships in 2014. Wish me luck!

Also, in the interest of getting the pieces to fit together more smoothly, I’m looking at how I can house this blog and my other websites (writing, photography) under one virtual roof. I’m open to ideas. Stay tuned (and thanks for reading!)

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