Thursday, August 11, 2005

Balancing Parenthood and Other Passions

[The following is a first draft.]
As parents, we are all happier and more effective when we set our own priorities. We often find ourselves trying to live up to others’ expectations that we lose sight of what’s important to us. This is what usually send us wandering into the kitchen in search of something buttery and sweet. If we sit down and take the time to figure out what’s really important in our busy lives, we’ll become more focused and effective.
Perhaps you’re really into home improvement. Nothing makes you happier than wandering around the nearest Home Depot checking out light fixtures and kitchen tile. You get a thrill out of ripping out the seventies-style brown paneling out of rec room and replacing it with drywall. You can happily spend a weekend spackling and painting a room.
Trouble is, you have children who get hungry three times a day, children who are much too young to help you out with your projects. You can keep them penned up in the playroom watching Dora the Explorer for only so many hours a day and speed through the drive-thru for dinner only so many times a week.
Everyone else you know expects you to be thrilled about the opportunity to spend an afternoon playing blocks with your toddler. Your mother thinks you should be delighted to spend your time making delicious healthy meals for her darling grandchildren. You, on the other hand, are itching to wallpaper your kitchen. Your husband is happy to do it, of course, but then you’d miss out on all the fun.
Instead of occasionally hiring a trusted teen for the afternoon and indulging your remodeling jones, you settle resentfully into your “good mother” role playing let’s pretend with your child while the noise of the siren on the toy firetruck steadily bores a hole into your brain. Or you try to squeeze in hanging your bedroom curtains into your already packed weekend and end up exhausted on Sunday evening.
I began writing in earnest when my daughter was nine months old. At the time, I was starting an exciting new day job, working a part-time job on Saturday mornings, and managing a busy household with my husband. Looking back, I can’t imagine why I waited until I’d crossed the threshold of motherhood to pick up my writing again. It would have been so much easier to write volumes when I had only myself to look after.
Then again, I didn’t start writing out of any desire to share my stories with the world. I simply wanted to get them out of my head and into the computer where they wouldn’t interrupt my life with unproductive daydreams. Perhaps it was just a consequence of mommy brain—a mind too full of the all-consuming task of nurturing and raising another human being. Or perhaps my characters were simply getting restless.
So I sat down to the computer one day and began writing about the imaginary folk who lived in my brain, their struggles, their adventures. With one toddler in the house, I learned to pop in a video and dash to the computer as the Disney jingle flowed forth from the television. I stole time in feature film length segments and wrote down my stories while the dishes piled up and the laundry sat unwashed.
Eventually, I learned a little discipline. I slowly began to realize that I needed to make writing a priority in my life and fit everything else in around it. Perhaps nothing I wrote would ever see the light of day, but I still had to give the effort a place in my life. I had to have a place to put my stories where they would not crowd my busy mind.
When my second child arrived, I learned to make some important adjustments. I began getting up an hour or two before everyone and writing until it was time to get the children up for breakfast. Even though I’m a morning person by nature, this required large amounts of discipline. It still does. However, I’ve learned to make writing a priority in my life, and that requires making time for it.
Maybe your passions are firmly entrenched in domestic life—cooking, sewing, gardening. Or maybe, you find peace of mind spinning a potter’s wheel or gliding down the slopes of a mountain on your skis. When you have a family, their well-being is paramount, but so is living life on your own terms.
It may be true that you have soccer games and birthday parties to attend, but if you let someone else set your priorities and follow someone else’s agenda you won’t have time to enjoy your child. Becoming a mother doesn’t mean you have to give up a part of yourself. It means that you eliminate that which is not important to you so you have time for yourself and your family.
Copyright © 2005 by Allyson Denise Walker-Lawrence. All rights reserved. No part of this piece may be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

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