A Balancing Act, Part II

March 26th, 2014 • Kate

AmySonnichsenauthorpicthumb_Krista Van DolzerWelcome back! On Monday, I turned this space over to debut authors and KT Literary clients A.L. Sonnichsen and Krista Van Dolzer, who discussed the tricky balancing act of motherhood (with multiple young ones) and writing. Here’s the thrilling conclusion to their conversation!

A.L. Sonnichsen: I like how you talked about leaving your afternoons free so you could write. Is it hard to keep that writing time guarded? What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to protect that time?

Krista Van Dolzer: Guarding my writing time hasn’t been terribly hard because I’m an introvert and don’t really like going out, anyway:) But as my kids get older and more involved in their own lives, I’m not sure how I’m going to balance it. Like you said, though, when you have a will to write, you find ways to squeeze it in. (Which isn’t to say that I think writers have to write all the time, mind you. Not everyone writes every day, and sometimes, you have to take a break, even an extensive one, to refill your creative well.) Even though I don’t know exactly HOW I’m going to balance it, I feel confident that I WILL, because I can’t not write.

As for the sacrifices I’ve had to make, it’s funny that you mention housework, because my house is never, ever clean. That’s definitely one of the sacrifices I’ve had to make to be a writer mom (and I do see it as a sacrifice, because I’d rather live in a clean house). I’ve also had to give up the illusion that I can do and be it all. I’m never going to be the Wonder Mom whose kids look picture-perfect every second of every day, whose house is neat and spotless, and who has dinner on the table at six sharp every night. (I’m very fortunate to have a husband who genuinely likes to cook and often spends his evenings experimenting in the kitchen.) I’ll admit that I’ve had a hard time with this transition, because I’ve always been the sort of person who could juggle however many balls life decided to throw at her. Giving myself permission to put some of the balls down has been tough for me.

Of course, there are some balls I won’t put down, and those are my husband, my kids, and my church obligations. I don’t always feel like I have those things in the proper balance, but at least I haven’t stopped trying. I think–I hope–that counts for something.

Do you ever feel like you’re not living up to your own expectations?

AS: Yes to being an introvert! (It does make it so much easier to hole up at home and write. I don’t know how extroverts do it!)

Yes to the messy house! (I’m convinced that if people are going to make writing with children work, they have to be okay with a little mess every now and then. Most of the time, a lot of mess.)

Yes to the “important balls” analogy! It’s so important to figure out what those things are to you personally. Maybe to some people clean houses are up there on the list, but for me, like you, it’s God and family, then writing (plus daughter’s gymnastics).

The biggest struggle I have with expectations is the clean level of my house. I don’t like living in a messy house, either–it causes me a lot of stress. And I feel embarrassed if someone drops in and it’s a disaster. At the same time, I have to remind myself that it was my decision to be this busy. When I try to think of giving up something (like writing, for instance), I realize I’d rather live in a messy house. But it’s still hard.

There are other times when things slip through the cracks. I remember one particularly hard couple of months where I forgot week after week to take my daughters to their ballet classes. Those kind of slips make me feel like Flake of the Year, especially when they happen more than once. But they’re bound to happen when my brain is as full as it is, so I try to give myself grace, even when I feel horrible for letting my kids (or their teachers) down.

Lately I’ve been feeling occasional guilt about not blogging often, and not visiting my friends’ blogs like I used to. My blog attendance really fell flat when my daughter started gymnastics this year. The good thing is, I’m using my afternoons to write! The bad thing is, I try to stay offline so I’ll be focused, which means I’m not thinking about blogging as much. But to me, blogging isn’t one of the “important balls.” It’s one of those things I have to let slide if I’m to stay sane.

The balancing game. Not easy. But very cool, because the fact that we’re playing it means we’re living the dream!

Thanks, ladies! Readers (and fellow writers), what do you find falls to the wayside when you’re writing? What do you wish didn’t, and what are you glad you have an excuse to ignore?

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7 Responses to “A Balancing Act, Part II”

  1. Susan Adrian Says:

    A third on the messy house. Some might even say "dirty" house, occasionally. *sigh* I also feel guilty about it sometimes. I also–after several years serving on my daughter's school board–let go of nearly all volunteering this year. Sometimes I feel like a jerk letting those emails just float by, but I have to remind myself that I honestly can't do EVERYTHING, and that's something other people can pick up and handle.

    Though apparently I still can't stop myself from stepping up for other things, like both of you. *cough, Fifteeners, cough*

  2. Amy Sonnichsen Says:

    It's obviously your gift to organize things beautifully, Susan, and we all appreciate it! <3

  3. Susan Adrian Says:

    Except my house. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. kcallard Says:

    I hear you on the 'messy house' thing. That was one of the first things I let go when I decided to take writing more seriously. What gets me are the little things (like grocery runs) that take away from my precious five hours a week that my kids are in pre-school. They always seem like no big deal, but they add up to sucking my time away. I've started leaving early and taking them with me to the store before pre-school to save making the trip during my time.

    Thanks for sharing how you balance work and family.

  5. taradairman Says:

    A fourth voice chiming in here on the clean house…and I don't even have kids. ๐Ÿ™‚ My husband and I both love to cook, so we usually eat pretty well, but sadly, neither of us has a great passion for cleaning.

    The only thing I'll say is that I can occasionally trick myself into doing a chunk of housework if I have a good audiobook to listen to at the same time. I can wash dishes and fold laundry for hours with my earbuds in and an exciting story flowing into my brain!

  6. @Telesphorian Says:

    Thanks for this! It's really easy to let your priorities get out of whack. I'm lucky enough to have a job with free time, so I get most of my writing done at work. I try to keep all my home-time family-time. Occasionally if I'm really in the groove, I'll stay up late and sacrifice my sleep.

  7. Bess Says:

    I just wrote a 25-page paper on this very topic for my low-res MFA program, so I have a lot of thoughts about it! Even though time is a major issue, so many women have said that being mothers inspires them, rather than just takes away from their writing. Sometimes kids inspire people to write about parenting, but sometimes kids make parents want to do something special, or spark the imagination, or inspire us in countless other ways. What I find fascinating is how our opinions of mothers who write have changed over the years. It used to be socially unacceptable, and even now I think there's some guilt, like we're not being as good of moms as we can if we have creative passions. But a lot of moms also say they are better parents for pursuing intellectual endeavors!