Once upon a time I was single and didn’t have any offspring and had all the time in the world to write. I had so much time, in fact, that I rarely wrote anything because I figured there would always be time to write later but this dance party would be over in five hours.
There were dance parties every weekend; sometimes two or three a night. So that was more or less how I spent my twenties.
These days I have to claw out time to write with my jagged, bleeding fingernails. When things are running smoothly I have childcare twice a week. That’s sixteen hours a week to write a novel, promote another novel, complete copywriting projects for two clients, and do basic self-care like going to the dentist so my teeth don’t fall out.
Of course, I also sneak in work when the baby’s sleeping (challenging, since he prefers to nap in a moving stroller) and also bargain, haggle, cajole, and wheedle my husband into taking him so I can write. Of course, he invariably sleeps like a little angel the entire time my husband’s watching him and wakes just in time to be handed back to me squalling and dirty and needing 100% of my attention for the next seven hours.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this baby more than I love life. I went to the ends of the earth to get him, and even the squallingest, dirtiest moments are filled with joy. When I’m with him I try to be with him 100%: not to be checking my phone, watching TV, or trying to get things done. (Keyword “try,” because I am human.)
Being a good mom and a productive writer are the two most important things in my life right now, and in order to do both something has to give.
For me, that something is aesthetics.
In an ideal world I’d be a good mom, a productive writer, a respected and high-earning freelance copywriter, and I’d also have a beautiful home, an impeccable wardrobe, perfect hair, a lovely figure, and I’d do adorable craft projects and cook Pinterest-worthy gourmet meals three times a day.
But we don’t live in an ideal world, and I reject the notion that women can and should “do it all.”
I think it’s time to admit the things we believe women should do effortlessly (the beautiful home, the perfect hair and body, the Pinterest-y projects) actually take a crapload of time and effort, and sometimes we would rather put that time and effort into writing a novel.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t put time and effort into living an aesthetically lovely life if it brings us satisfaction and joy. I’m not even saying that I wouldn’t enjoy having a blog-worthy home and fingernails with tiny boats painted on them and being able to fit into the same pants I wore when I was 25. I would enjoy those things very much—but not enough to sacrifice my next novel to get them. When it comes to balancing family, work, friends, sleep, and things looking good, the looking-good parts are what I choose to put on the chopping block.
So for now my home is going to look like an explosion at the plastic-toy-and-cloth-diaper factory, my culinary skills remain stalled out at avocado toast, and I’ll spend the summer hiding my baby weight under drapey muumuus. Maybe I’ll get around to prettifying my life later, or maybe I won’t. But my novel will get written and my kid will be fed and loved, and that’s what’s important to me right now.
What have you sacrificed to create balance in your life for the things that matter? Share in the comments!