Thursday, April 12, 2007

Motherhood, Writing & Friendship

I once read an interview with a poet who was asked how she was able to raise children and write. She answered, "I was a bad mother."

I have three children, write, and I am not a bad mother. Even when I was a single mother working two jobs and writing I was not a bad mother. I never thought I would say this, but it was probably easier to be a writing mother when I was single because I had every other weekend to myself.

There is a 12 year spacing between my first son and my second. A two and half year spacing between my second son and my daughter. Still, I find time to write, revise, read, read, read, submit, apply, and still my immediate family comes first. The second priority is the writing.

This means I will never be a 'famous' writer -- for famous writers the writing always comes first.

What this also means is I have become a bad friend. Friendship requires time and thoughtfulness and effort. As my life gets busier taking care of my family -- a family that I adore -- I have come to jealously guard my free time. There is such a limited amount of actual free time that it is impossible to ration it out.

My husband has cultivated a new group of friends over the past year. Last Saturday they found us a sitter so I could attend one of their parties. Nice people. Social people. He forwarded an email to me full of complimentary comments about his wife -- I suppose they thought I was his imaginary wife after bowing out of so many of their previous events -- another comment regarding the abundance of babysitters they have found us and the many invitations forthcoming in the future filled me with dread. Once again, encroaching on my time. MY time. Selfish? Yes. Lonely much? Oh yes.

Hindsight tells me that all of this guarding will pass soon enough -- 17 months to be exact --when one child starts kindergarten and the other pre-school. I hope my friends will still be around, will forgive me, will understand. I know at least a few of them will, those few that have remained constant over the years. The new ones? I hope they will too.


Charles said...

You are a success story.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

A mother is sacred. And, a mother who is also a writer - more sacred still.

Lyle Daggett said...

Your post made me think of an interview I saw on T.V. once with the rock musician Patti Smith. She was talking about the effort, over the years, to balance or juggle her family life with rock musician life, touring on the road, recording, rehearsing, needs of her children, etc.

She was talking more or less offhand, freeform saying whatever came to mind about it, the constant effort of it, that the responsibility is always there, and then -- as if she'd reached a kind of conclusion -- she looked straight into the camera and said, "Babies are cute, but they're not puppies."

Clearly you're a great mother, and clearly you're no less a poet for it.

Valerie Loveland said...

For the last 3 years, I rarely had the chance to talk to a friend of mine who had a baby, and had to relocate for a new job. She finally has free time again and we just picked up right where we left off.

greg rappleye said...


Thank you for this. What you have to say is pretty much also true for fathers who are trying to write and have a "real-world" job (or two). I printed a copy of your post and left it for my wife with "See!" scrawled on it.

We thought we were the only ones.

Nic said...

Great post. Mother-writer-friend. I think that's my priority order too. Not sure if the whole formula is working properly all the time though -- there seem to be vast quantities of guilt available to be applied to every situation at every minute. Sigh.

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Lovely post, S.

early hours of sky said...

The first time I read this post it was right after I had “forgotten” to pick poor Isabel up from school so I think I hit the bad mom part occasionally. On a side note, I think I hit the spectacular mom role occasionally too so it all averages out to normal—which might make me more depressed.

All these struggles are mine also: do I spend enough time with my kids, partner, friends, my writing, my self---somebody always gets the short stick but at least I know they all take turns carrying the stick around and maybe that’s somethin ;)

jenni said...

Give yourself a pat on te back--you're doing a great job juggling all of these things while still keeping your priorities straight. It's definately difficult to have friends and write. My closest friends -- ummm I have never met them in person -- we talk on the phone!