Question of the day: It seems like you wear so many hats - mom, writer, blogger, etc - can you give us a little insight as to how you juggle them all? As a fellow working/writing mom, I feel like I'm starting to drown in everything!
Sure, absolutely. Let me say from the get-go, as I always say when I address this issue, that I have fantastic childcare help, so that, right there, helps me tremendously. I know that I'm lucky to have this, and I also know that not everyone does have this, so I'm always honest when someone asks me about my productivity levels: there's just no way that I could get things done without my babysitter. If you're a mom who doesn't have help, I do suggest that in some way, you ask for it: your relatives, swapping playdates with a neighbor, hiring a mother's-helper for a few hours a week. Anything that can give you a LITTLE time to yourself to focus on your writing AND the person you are outside of your kids.
But I've been thinking about this question a lot since you asked it, and I do think it's more than that. Actually, rewind: let me be clear here - there are times when I am INSANELY busy but there are also times when I'm pretty slow (work wise - intellectually, there might be a case to be made for that too :), so I don't ever want to give the impression that I'm guns-a'-blazing 24/7. Certainly, there are plenty of women who lead busier lives than I do. But, with that out of the way, I think it comes down to two things:
1) I am very good at compartmentalizing. When I am in work-mode, I'm in work-mode. When I'm cranking on a deadline, that's when I am a writer. Period. When I'm not, that's when I am a mom. This extends to parts of my day, as well as overall arcs in my life. What I mean by that is that if I'm in the thick of a book, I close my door, even if my kids are home and maybe want to hang out, and I write. (Weekends are no-work zones for me. Always.) That obligation to my work is there. Maybe I do that for three hours that day, and then I open up my door and go have lunch with my kids. Or maybe it means explaining to them that for those few weeks, mommy really has to work a lot but once she's done, I'll have a lot more time to hang around. My kids get this. They see me working, and they know that I'm there for them - I don't miss anything important, don't miss karate ceremonies, don't miss taking them to school every day, don't miss making them dinner each night, don't miss reading to them at breakfast. I do ALL of these things just about daily, but then, I can close my door, put that mommy-role aside and put on my writer hat. I guess what I'm saying is that I can turn things on and off pretty well, and that works for my family - my kids wouldn't want me hovering over them all the time, and god knows that I wouldn't want to be hovering. When I'm on a really crazy work schedule, they're okay with it because I still find snippets of quality time in the smaller moments of the day, and when I'm NOT on a crazy work schedule, I devote a lot of my time (as much as we can all stand) doing things with them. So I think in that regard, anyone is capable of this: it's about feeding all parts of yourself equally - for me, being a mother is the MOST important job in the world, but you know what, being a writer is important to me too, and my kids know that and see the pride I have in myself, and I think they are the better for it.
2) This pertains back to number one - and not everyone will agree with this - but I simply DO NOT believe that moms have to be all things to all people. And I firmly believe that moms should reward themselves for doing the best that they can - especially working moms who often feel like they come last on everyone's list, often their own. That's definitely one area in which I related to Jillian from Time of My Life, as well as Tilly in The One That I Want - they're so busy running around tending others' needs that often times, no one is tending theirs. And I think a lot of moms can relate to that. So I say - and believe - that you just try your best. I'm not the mom who is going to bake homemade cookies for my son's class dinner (if you followed my tweets last week, ha!). But does he care? Are you kidding me? NO. But am I going to attend the class dinner? Of course! There are ways that I can preserve my energy and not feel badly about myself or my parenting or my sacrifice to my job. I think that often times, we moms really fall into the supermom trap - I can be class mom, I can be a bestselling author, I can be a sexy wife, and a great chef, and a marathon runner, and...well, you get the idea - but isn't that just frigging exhausting??? Isn't that just when you want to throw your hands up and go into the basement and drink a bottle of Merlot until you pass out??? So I don't - don't even attempt that. I give what I can to my kids and my husband and my job, and when I need an extension on my deadline, I'll talk to my editor, and when I need my husband to deal with the kids, I'll talk to him, and I find the ways that I can give pieces of myself - this year, I'm class photographer for my son's class and am working on the book fair and auction at his school - so that I'm committed but not over my head.
All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I believe in balance. I believe in asking for help. I believe in saying NO, and I believe, when you can, in saying YES. I also believe that supermom is a fictitious entity that makes us strive for something that likely won't even make us happy. I want to run the marathon next year, but honestly, I don't know when I'll find the time to train. And if I can't, and I don't, well, that's okay. I know when to limit myself, and besides, there's always next year too.