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Finding the Balance

By Erin McCrea

So here’s the story: I was busy trying to motivate myself to write the next piece for my Mom Musings column when I realized there was another topic calling my name.

The one I initially started writing was about our first stressful month with Anthony. As I was trying to pour more words into the story (and believe me, it’s a topic I have a lot to say about), I was having trouble writing, and I was having trouble making time to write about it. Actually, I was having trouble making time to write about anything. So I’ve decided to write about that. I want to write about the trouble I’ve been having fitting it all in lately. Writing, time for myself, time for my son, time with my partner, house cleaning, cooking. All of it. Self care. Finding the balance.

I’m kind of writing this with no real plan. It may seem like it’s all over the place, but I’ll keep it on theme.

Sometimes I think I have self-care down pat as a momma. I know it’s important. I know it’s something that will keep me sane, so I consciously add things into my routine to help me get extra time for myself.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time for self-care. My partner works away from home. He will work away until a job is done, and then he will be home with us until the next job comes. These jobs can be six weeks to six-plus months away from home. I have to be able to find my balance, and I have to be able to ask for help when he’s gone.

At this very moment, he is home... and I should be taking advantage of him being home. I should be writing. I decided to be a stay at home mom, and my reasons for this choice will be unveiled in a future Mom Musings column. For the past year, it’s been about me finding balance between being a mom and being a writer.

I have a dedicated writing time. It’s after my son goes to sleep. During our first year as parents, we had no consistency for bedtime. We worked without a schedule. I thought this was fine until the first long stretch that my partner was gone. It suddenly became clear that I could not let my toddler have the run of the house. If he didn’t go to bed, I wouldn’t get any time to myself. It was a pretty important lesson to learn.

Initially, we had been content in letting him tire himself out. If only I had known that he had actually been tired the whole time, we would have had a lot more time to ourselves. The first few nights of getting him to go bed were rough, but once I figured it out, I’d get him to sleep, and then I had time to myself – time to breathe and time to be alone.

The biggest problem with dedicating time to write in the evening is finding the motivation to do it after spending the day chasing a toddler. But last month, I decided to challenge myself. I wrote a blog post every day. Unfortunately, writing a blog post every day leaves very little time for other writing. I ensured all my writing commitments were done for other platforms, but I didn’t have time for novel writing, editing, or even for writing in my journal. All of my spare time went to my blog. It also exhausted me.

After the month was over, I tried to take a break for a week. It’s now been fourteen days.

Writing every day is the ONLY way to keep me writing. It’s how I get over writer’s block. It’s how I keep going. I know better than to take a break, and yet, I do. I’m also really hard on myself when I don’t write. Yesterday, I was thinking about what happens when I don’t write. I referred to myself as just a mom. Being a mom is never just being a mom, and as a mom, I also need to still be me. I need to do things for myself and not lose who I am. If I’m not writing, I start to lose that piece of me that I’ve worked so hard to get.

“Just a mom” is a horrible phrase to use for a couple of reasons. First of all, it seems like an insult to all moms. It’s a damn important job, and I’m proud (and incredibly grateful) I get to do it. Secondly, you are never just a mom. Even if I’m not writing, I’m never just a mom. I’m a mom, and I’m me. It’s two different things, and once again, I’m stuck trying to find the balance.

In order to stay in tune with my balance, I need to write.

As I said, right now my partner is home, and that should help me with maintaining my balance, but the problem is that when he is hanging out with Anthony I try to get everything else done. We split housework and bedtime duties, but there is always more to do. I also legitimately enjoy hanging out with my toddler most of the time. I don’t like missing out on the fun. If I take a break during the day from him, it’s usually because I need to take a moment to breathe without having a toddler crawling on my head. (This is a true and repeated story.)

Lately, I haven’t been struggling with the happy medium between writing and parenthood; it’s between writing and everything else. Like reading. In order to have time to do other things, I have to fit in any self-care activity – such as reading, crafting, Netflix-watching, and writing – all after my son goes to bed. Reading has been especially tough, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve had so much trouble getting my writing done lately. I want to read everything. I have a goal to read forty books this year. I didn’t make the goal last year, but I’ll try again this year. Instead of writing this March, I’ve read two books, and listened to two others over my library app. To write, you need to read. Finding time to do both is really hard, especially when I am loving a book so much I don’t want to put it down.

I want to do everything, but at the same time, I want to write for anybody who asks me. I am not making money at my craft yet, but I’m okay with that for now. I get to share my words with the world. I am able to be a mom and follow my passion. I don’t think everybody gets to say that. It does mean I have to work hard at it. I have to allow myself to write every day again, and sometimes this means I am not able to do everything else I want to do.

I watch mommas who work outside the home, and I am amazed by them. They balance so much more than I ever have to, but there is still an important ebb and flow of self-care and commitment that I must tend to as well.

Sometimes, playing with my son is more important than writing. That’s why I have trouble doing it during the day. I don’t want to miss out on his smiles, his games, and all that he brings to our life. Now don’t get me wrong... my son is a toddler. He drives me crazy as well. I need breaks. Moms need breaks. (The ones during the day are appreciated the most because I don’t get them when my partner is away.) I am just more easily distracted when I’m writing and can hear my son having fun and laughing.

The truth about finding balance between being a mom and being a writer is simple. Without my son, I would not have the opportunity, motivation, or inspiration to write as much as I do. I’d still be working my day-job, and my creativity would be drained by the end of the day. Finding the balance should actually be easy because, without my son, I wouldn’t be doing this.

I’m so grateful for the life I have, the opportunity I get to write every day about my life, and the freedom I experience to write about anything else that happens in my life. I cannot forget that I also get to write fiction. I get to work on my novels. I get to dream about someday being published!

Having my son just makes me want to follow my dream even more. I want him to see me actively fulfilling my dream. If he sees me constantly following my dreams and goals, he will know how important it is to never give up. Even if things don’t go your way, you have to try. I want him to know that there is nothing he can’t do. Reach for the stars.

Sometimes things in life slow you down. In a year and a half, I’ll be forty. I don’t think I ever imagined I’d still be chasing my dream, but I also don’t think I imagined that I’d be getting to do some amazing things in my late forties that would help me get closer to my dreams. Right now, my only goal for forty is to find my balance and be able to live my life happily knowing I’m doing everything I can to fulfill my dreams.

And for right now? The present? I’m going to get back to writing every day. Being a present mom – every day – and HOPEFULLY finding time to read, craft, and, at times, simply do nothing. Because let’s be honest… sometimes you have to do nothing.

Thank you for reading. Mom Life isn’t always easy, and the Writing Mom Life definitely isn’t always easy... but it is worth it. The frustrations will come and go. I probably won’t remember them anyways. What I will remember is being lucky enough to write and be a mom. I feel grateful that I can get to do (and be) both.

Stay tuned for more Mom Musings from a Write at Home Mom. Next month, I may even write that piece I started about our first month with Anthony.