Kids · Non-Writing · Randomness · Writing-Life balance

World’s Okayest Mom: Sometimes Something’s Gotta Give, Preferably Not Your Sanity

A while back, maybe 4 or 5 months, I was browsing Pinterest, and came across this little gem:

http://pinterest.com/pin/410742428485104920/

Like many of my writer friends, I wear multiple hats besides writer. And one of the most prominent hats I wear is Mom. I’ve got 3 1/2 year old MissA and 18 month old G-Man. They’re great kids, and compared to a lot of kids, very well behaved and easy to take carMissA & G-Mane of. But they’re still kids. Which means they require a lot of time and even more energy. And more love than I thought I had in me – which, fortunately, is the easy part. But, as any parent knows, just because you love them beyond compare doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes want to strangle them.

And in this era of Pinterest, where Mommying is a highly competitive, full-contact sport, there’s a lot of pressure on us moms. I try not to, but I feel it, sometimes from family, sometimes from moms I don’t know, occasionally from friends. The one group I’ve never felt it from are my fellow writer-moms. Because as writers, we’re in a unique position. Whether we’re stay-at-home moms or working moms or a combo of the two, our writing is often relegated to spare time status. Sometimes even after we start making money. I’ve yet to meet a full-time writer who works from home who isn’t at least sometimes cast in the role of stay-at-home mom.

And, when you’re trying to build a career in something as difficult and emotionally draining as writing, well, something’s gotta give. Frankly, I think even for non-writer moms, something’s gotta give, because it’s just not possible to be Martha Stewart all the time. Hell, even Martha spent time in prison.

I made the decision pretty much right away that the thing that gives isn’t going to be my sanity. I’m not living up to anyone’s ideal of motherhood except my own. And for me, that ideal means sometimes I have to put myself first. Because the best thing I can give my children is a mom who doesn’t resent the time she spends with them.

In a perfect world I would be independently wealthy so I could feed my children all the “right” foods, prepared by a hired chef so I don’t have to do it. We’d have hired people to clean the house. And, I don’t know, I guess I’d do other things in my quest for perfect momhood.

But reality is my husband and I both work 40+ hours a week. We make just enough money to squeak by. I write on my lunch break and when the kids are asleep. My kids eat french fries and chicken nuggets. If they really want, I’ll let them have pickles and toast for dinner because it’s just not worth fighting over (and hey, it’s whole wheat bread. And pickles are more-or-less vegetables). Yesterday, my husband worked all day. I really wanted some diet Coke but didn’t want to deal with taking them to the grocery store. So we went to (gasp!) McDonalds. We go to Gilles, the local frozen custard and burgers joint 4 blocks away, so often, they know MissA’s regular order.

My house is a mess. We try to pick up and put away and we mostly succeed. We try to do all the dishes before bed, and we sometimes succeed. I won’t talk about how often we dust or vacuum. And I freely admit I’ve never washed the windows in any house or apartment I’ve lived in. It’s all I can do to keep up with the laundry.

So do I sometimes let my kids skip bath night? Sure. Do I sometimes let Curious George or Yo Gabba Gabba babysit so I can squeeze in 200 more words? Yep. Do I suggest MissA and I sit at the table and color together so I can work on a character sketch? Absolutely.

Am I going to win any World’s Greatest Mom trophies from the PTA? Probably not. Do I care? Not a bit. Because I love my kids, and there is no

doubt in my mind that they know that. I encourage them to be independent and have fun. With or without Mommy. They’re healthy and happy and smart and funny and all the other positive adjectives I can think of (with obvious moments of more negative adjectives).

So, after I saw the pinterest mug above, I looked for somewhere to buy one. Because I absolutely am a candidate for World’s Okayest Mom (but dammit, I am the okayest okay mom there is). When I couldn’t find one, I decided to check out the possibility of making one. I went to VistaPrint and ordered 1 for myself and 1 for my husband.

image

A bit later, after a few conversations with Andee Hannah and Leigh Ann Kopans, along with one of my BFFs, Ambha Lessard, it was clear the 3 of them needed mugs, so I sent

Leigh Ann with her mug
Leigh Ann with her mug

them on. And in that time, a number of us had started using the hashtag #worldsokayestmom on Twitter. And people would respond “Oh my gosh, I need that mug!” or “I need a t-shirt with that!” Well, far be it from me to deny the public their wants. Since you can’t set up a store on VistaPrint, I moved to Cafepress. Because of pesky things like copyright, I couldn’t use the exact same image as I had at VP. But I’m happy with the

Andrea and her mug.
Andrea and her mug.

new one. It has the same sort of geek-girl comic book feel. And, of course, CP allows me to expand beyond mugs to shirts, notebooks, and the ever-important flask (because every Okay Mom needs to get her drink on from time to time).

So, for every mom out there who has felt judged for not being perfect, for every mom out there who is barely hanging on, I’m giving you permission to embrace your okayness. Even revel in it like Andee, Leigh Ann, Ambha and I do. And shout it to the world!

http://www.cafepress.com/worldsokayestmoms

It should be noted, since I first looked for an OK Mom mug, it appears others have had the same idea on Cafepress. There’s even a store with almost the same name, which is why Moms is plural on my store. But in my completely biased opinion, this one is the best design.

And feel free to check back. I’ll play around with other designs (hell, if you have design skills, let me know). I’ll probably add Dad, maybe even kid/son/daughter, aunt/uncle or other various people. And I’m totally open to suggestion.

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Kids · Randomness · Submissions · WIP · Writing-Life balance

Writing Through The Pain

Some days just suck. It’s part of life, whether you write or not. For me, today was one of those days. I had pain coming at me from every direction.

There was the physical pain. I’ve been in physical therapy for a few months from the muscle weakness that results from 2 c-sections then hauling around a pair of kids. This was exacerbated by somehow injuring my back yesterday doing the ever-dangerous task of…napping. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a new mattress. This new back pain is fairly staggering. Breathtaking at times. Painkillers didn’t take even a bite out of it. The heating pad makes it tolerable. Icy Hot just makes it tingle and hurt. So, I dealt with this. And, in true writer form, part of my brain is registering “so this is what pain this bad feels like.”

There were all levels of emotional pain. In the form of parenting. MissA, my 3 year old, threw what I’ve referred to as the Epic Tantrum. It started because I wouldn’t let her put on her swimming suit and get in her kiddie pool. Because it was 55 degrees out. The crying and screaming and thrashing went on for over an hour until she finally passed out on her bedroom floor. She woke up and picked up right where she left off, until my wonderful husband finally got her to pass out again and put her to bed.

There was the pain of getting my first real rejection on my book. And by “real” I mean a rejection of the book itself and not just the query. I’ll be waxing philosophical on rejection in an upcoming post.

There was the pain that often comes with my job, meeting a patient who is far too young to be as sick as he is. And has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And finding out that another patient has died from that same disease. Add to that the news that Roger Ebert died today, also from cancer. Twitter and Facebook were full of 2 sentiments – RIP to a good man, and Fuck Cancer.

And there was the pain, or at least frustration of being 3,000 words behind on my April writing goals. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is essentially NaNo in April. I set my goal at 30k, which means 1000 words/day. And I started out with exactly 0 words on the first 3 days.

So, with all this pain, from all different angles, it would have been easy to let myself slide for a 4th day, make excuses about how today was just too hard, too busy, too painful. And write no words. Again. But life is always going to happen. 3 year olds will always have tantrums, cancer will always take my patients. And rejection will always, always be part of being a writer. But that’s what I am. A writer. I have been on some level since I was 7. And if I want to continue to be, if I want to continue to be serious about writing, then there’s no choice. I have to write through the pain. There’s no magic potion that makes it go away. You have to find a way that works for you, so you can compartmentalize your brain and your life. Turn the rest off and climb into the world of your story. Maybe this is easy for you. Maybe you need to do meditation first, or read from a favorite book. Maybe music helps you get in the right mindset. Maybe you just need to reward yourself with something like this (oh yeah, my husband and I earned these).

Bad Day Cookie Sundaes

Whatever it is, find it. Waiting for the right mood and the right mindset and the right circumstances and the right day will leave you waiting forever.

I’m an optimist, but also a realist. There will always be plenty of pain coming at you to make excuses for why you can’t get those words down today. But they’re mostly that. Excuses. Do you want to make excuses? Or do you want to write a book?