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The Elusive Mother Writer

Before having my son, I was terrified that somehow crossing the threshold from individual into the territory of mother would somehow strip me of my identity as writer. I think this came from reading an article in The Atlantic years ago that said the only way you could be a mother and a writer is to only have one child. This scared me because I knew I probably wanted more than one.

Writing has always been so important to me that I didn’t want to let it go. It is my creative outlet, my way of making sense of the world, my way of expressing myself and connecting with others. I may be able to sacrifice my time and my body and my emotional balance to go through pregnancy and birth and motherhood, but I wasn’t sure I could sacrifice my writing.

Well, I’m here to officially report from the other side of motherhood that yes, I am still a writer even though I have a toddler, a teenaged step-daughter, and my mental sanity to boot! I feared with motherhood the desire to even write would slip away from me like an old snakeskin, dropped on the sidewalk somewhere in my neighborhood as I pushed my baby’s stroller. But instead, the opposite happened.

My identity and desire to write after having a baby didn’t change at all. In fact, I felt the drive to write (albeit, personal essays) stronger than ever when my son was a newborn because I was going through such a new, life-changing (re: very challenging) experience. In the first year of my son’s life, I also wrote the entire draft of a new young adult novel. I was able to accomplish this in small 30 minute chunks of writing time.

I always tell my writing students they don’t need a special desk or the perfect candle or a sexy muse or an expensive writing retreat or eight hours of free time a day followed by a two hour stroll through an idyllic pine forest in order to be a writer. You can be a writer in tiny chunks of stolen time. In your phone’s notes app when you are waiting for your next Covid test. Typed furiously into your laptop at 5:30 a.m. before the rest of your household wakes up. Scribbled in that little notebook you keep on your nightstand just before falling asleep.

There are no rules here. Only persistence. Only a dedication despite the demands on your time or attention or body. Only a love for a craft that may not always be easy, but that will always be there for you no matter what direction your life takes.


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