In some overwhelmed moments, I still wish I could just be content with the privilege of affording to stay home raising my kids. I wish that the business of mothering could fulfill me completely, because my five and seven-year-old boys’ baby days are bygone, and their childhoods feel fleeting. I already have to bribe my boys for hugs. Kisses are completely off-limits. Suddenly this year “Seven” will barely make eye contact with me in his classroom when I volunteer. I asked him if he’d prefer I stop coming, and he replied that while he still wanted me to volunteer at his school, he’d rather I’m not in his classroom. Gulp.
The truth of matter is, however, the isolation of being a full-time SAHM, combined with the neglect of my huge creative ambition from pre-motherhood, drove me to start my blog in 2008–subsequently launching a new career path. My husband travels for work, and I desperately needed an outlet for my 18 hour days parenting a preschooler and an infant, during five months of the longest, snowiest, coldest winter Wisconsin had seen in decades. I started writing furiously. I found an audience. I became obsessed. For the first two weeks after I started blogging I barely slept. Each comment brought an endorphin surge further fueling my elation over the array of other creative adults available online to collaborate and commiserate with at any hour.
Unbalanced might describe those first months—maybe my whole first year online. I’d sneak away at every available moment to write, read or comment on blogs, or even talk to blog friends on the phone. My writing ambitions felt all-consuming, on top of the all-consuming role of motherhood. When I wasn’t blogging, I submitted my writing everywhere I could find. I dreamed of writing a book. While some rejections were hard, seeing my work published and getting paid a few dollars made up for it. As opposed to my theater days when I had to audition in order to act, I found it thrilling that as a writer I could work whenever I chose and from my own home. One of the huge assets of blogging for me became the fact that I had this supportive audience to share my work with on my blog, regardless of my pieces getting accepted or rejected elsewhere.
When I started LTYM I didn’t know I was starting a new career. The requests to do the show came pouring in from other cities and bloggers, and I found Deb Rox–my mentor/business strategist who gave me the confidence and know-how to undertake a national effort. As I began to understand the scope of the project, I soon realized I had to make some decisions regarding my work/life balance. In a conversation with a career counselor I’d worked with for years, I determined that something had to go. You can do a lot of things sufficiently, but you can only do one or two things really well. If I planned on starting my own business, I had to do it really well.
For reasons financial and due to my overwhelming preference, fulltime daycare for my then four-year-old wasn’t an option. I wanted to spend his last year at home with him, and also wanted to remain available to help out at my older son’s school. So, in order to pursue LTYM in a meaningful way that would give it the best chance to succeed, I had to let my free-lance and book author dreams go for a while. Throughout this process came a letting go of my blog aspirations as well, in a sense. I knew I needed to keep the blog for LTYM and my for platform, but I gave up any notion of becoming a “big blogger.” I allowed myself to publish posts only once a week, and gave up much of my reading and commenting on other blogs.
As soon as I made my decision to take a hiatus from my professional writing pursuits, offers came in. I had to say no to opportunities I would’ve swooned over previously. I had to quit and scale-back wherever I could. I knew my commitment to LTYM was being tested—in fact, I expected it. But, after a couple years of giving myself to other people’s projects, it also felt great to put my project first.
All that said, I still struggle with balance. Currently I have more work than ever combined with less childcare than last year. When I encounter LTYM’s slower periods, my writer dreams come raging back and I struggle to find patience. I question my priorities constantly. I still spend wayyyyy too many hours in front of my laptop, and feel like a total hypocrite as I control my sons’ screen time to the minute. I do make sure to spend quality time playing board games or reading with my kids every day. I cook (ahem–prepare) three meals a day. My husband and I make at least a few minutes for each other every day that he’s home. But if you measured who I spend more time with, my laptop or my family? The laptop would win. Next year, with both boys in school full-time, it will be easier to distinguish working time from family time (from exercise time, from marital time from ME-time-DAMMIT).
My online life, LTYM, and writing has brought me so much happiness, satisfaction, and sense of possibility. As I strive for that elusive “balance” I know that even while someone or something gets short-shrift for a time, overall it’s unequivocally worth it. A friend of mine says a good mom is a happy mom. Because of my work that I love –that also allows me flexibility to be with my family–I’m now, for the most part and on most days, a very happy mom. Even if I’m a little unbalanced.