(Dedicated, with love, to all of my passionate, creative friends, and my NaNoWriMo buddies who will be neglecting… well, everything this month)
If I weren’t a writer, would my children have fresh-baked cookies and beautifully decorated cupcakes to take to school on holidays, instead of whatever I could throw together at the last minute?
Would the laundry always be done, folded, and actually put away? Would the floors shine? Would every meal be made from scratch, would they be planned three weeks in advance and would nothing come from the freezer except for the lasagna I made and thoughtfully socked away for busy nights?
Would I have time to exercise for an hour a day, pilates and yoga and cardio, oh my?
Would I be more involved at the kids’ school?
It’s quite distracting having these characters and random bits of dialogue floating around in my head. This thing that I do, that hurts me when I do it and hurts worse when I don’t, but that brings such joy when it all goes right… well, it takes up a lot of time, doesn’t it?
Time I could use for cleaning, for brushing, for scrubbing, for running, for ironing, for cooking, for planning and organizing and being the perfect wife and mom.
I must be a selfish person to want this time for my work. I must be a waste of space. I must not care, or want to give all of myself to my family.
But here’s the thing:
If I weren’t a writer, I would be a mess inside.
I would have dreams left untended, worlds left uncreated, voices left unheard and choices unmade.
I would do my best to look happy on the outside, but the world inside of me would die. Without this perfect space for my imagination to play, it would wither, and crumble.
And all of that extra time? I’d probably use it to stretch out on the couch and watch daytime TV. I might take up drinking as a hobby to quiet those voices. You never know.
I would resent every cupcake I baked, instead of taking on classroom challenges with joy when I actually manage to remember them. I’m not the type who sees housework as a blessing, who feels fulfilled by a clean home. When I write, I can do these things without hating them, because they’re not my job.
If I weren’t a writer, I would feel like a servant.
And if things got really bad, I’d go back to what I used to be before I started writing, before I let my imagination soar, before I discovered a community of people who share my dream, before I was able to cut back on the antidepressants.
Before I started walking the dog every day, because damn it, I’m worth taking care of.
I would be less than what I am. Less happy. Less confident in my skills and what I can accomplish. Less fulfilled. Less balanced. Less friendly and cheerful and encouraging. There would be less of me, and less to give to my family and my world.
I am a better wife and a better mom for having something in my life that lifts me up and challenges me, even if it hurts and disappoints and distracts and frustrates me sometimes.
So yes, there are dirty dishes in the sink once in a while. Maybe my kids take peanut-free candy to school on Halloween instead of prettily-decorated, Pinterest-inspired bags of home-baked goodies.
When I feel like I’m being selfish for taking this time, for writing these words and imagining these worlds, I will remember:
This is who I am. This is what makes me whole, and this is how I give my family more of myself.
I’m not being selfish. I’m being the best possible version of me.
(PS- I feel like I should add that there is nothing wrong with being a person, male or female, who feels fulfilled by keeping a clean home, who finds creative outlets in decorating and cooking, who takes pride in sending those cupcakes to school. I admire that. Most days, I wish I could be like you. It’s just not me, and I’m done feeling guilty for not being perfect according to standards that don’t fit me. Much love to you all, whether you agree with these words or not. <3)
November 1st, 2013 at 9:18 am
Thank you for writing what I am often feeling. I’m looking forward to this November, where I h e made many provisions for my family so they don’t feel entirely neglected, and I can spend as long as I need getting those 2000 words a day down. I intend to clean the hell out of my house today so it won’t get too disgusting while I neglect it. And if it takes actually leaving the house with a laptop, I will. This month I intend to go from “I want to be a writer” to “I am a writer.” And your blog makes that seem more possible. So thank you.
And I know for a fact that I would become an alcoholic if I didn’t have a pen to get some of the random crap out of my head some days.
November 1st, 2013 at 9:28 am
You ARE a writer. Maybe not a professional yet, but you are a writer and a storyteller, and I hope you’re proud if that now, even if you feel like you still have a long way to go (like I do). 🙂
Good luck with the cleaning!
November 1st, 2013 at 9:18 am
Be the best you you can be. You are loved and the rest doesn’t matter.I am married with no kids in the house now. My desk is a mess, the blue jeans are still in the dryer, there is more dog hair on my floor than you would need to stuff a mattress. My granddaughter who trick or treated here last night was drawing pictures in the dust on my living room table last night…and she still loves me.
November 1st, 2013 at 9:30 am
Eew, can you imagine the smell of a dog hair-stuffed mattress? I know what you mean, though. My dust bunnies are a vicious blend of short, sharp dog hairs and fluffy, floaty cat fur.
It’s good to know we’re still loved, isn’t it?
November 1st, 2013 at 9:33 am
Have you ever seen the beautiful picture drawn in dust on car windows, or on glass tables covered in colored sand? I owe this to my granddaughter to provide her a means to expand her creativity.
November 1st, 2013 at 9:34 am
Totally! Expanding creative horizons is very important for children.
November 1st, 2013 at 9:19 am
This should go out to writers everywhere! You are amazing. I highly suspect the only one making you feel really guilty is…you. Once again, a chip off the old Marmee. YOU are an amazing woman!!! To be fulfilled creatively is to be happy and blessed inside and out and the best you can be for your family.
November 1st, 2013 at 1:03 pm
[…] Writer’s Guilt. […]
November 1st, 2013 at 10:04 pm
Very well expressed. Sure is good to read your clear expression of what it is like to be a young mom and writer.
November 2nd, 2013 at 12:54 am
This is such a great post, Kate, and I totally know how you feel. I don’t have kids, but sometimes I feel like I’m neglecting my friends and should just try and get out more and be with them rather than at home in my room… but then I bail on things so that I can be at home in my room anyway, and I feel like a bit of a monster for that. But then I get all absorbed in my world and I forget about that.
November 2nd, 2013 at 1:49 am
Oh how I’ve struggled, and continue to struggle, with this very thing. Well, not with the mother or wife thing, but, well, you know what I mean. Seriously, this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with as a writer. I sit down to write and … bam! … the guilt overtakes me. It’s almost paralyzing. I sit and think about how awful I am and how I should be spending time doing just about anything else that would be “productive” so that I usually get very little done. Can’t blame it on my wife, either, because she’s consistently very supportive of my reclusive existence as a writer. Guess I just have a guilt complex. Oh well, I’m trying to get over it.
Thanks for a great post, Kate.