The family MUST come first

Contrary to common societal belief, as a wife and mother, I do need to put my family first. That’s why book four—The Falcon in the Barn—is a bit delayed. I’m now hoping for a January 2015 release (and that’s ambitious, too, so I apologize). I understand your frustration; I feel it too. I had planned to have Falcon ready by November but circumstances won’t let me.

Because I have a family that needs me.

Financial constraints have required me to get a part-time job. And another part-time job. One is only for 12 weeks, and requires me to grade papers at home for many hours. The other keeps me out of the house for 20 hours a week. All together, this means that the four or five hours I used to enjoy writing each day has diminished to 30 minutes (if I’m lucky) and usually late at night when I’m wiped out because I had to catch up on taking care of the house, homeschooling my kids, and figuring out why we’re out of milk again.

Writing progress is pretty grim.

On the other hand, I have enough income to keep the electricity and water on, and the car insurance up to date. Never mind that my joy of writing—along with all other hobbies—has to take a back seat for who know how long. But that’s ok, because my life’s not about me; it’s about taking care of my spouse and children.

Virginia Woolf famously wrote 85 years ago that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” If I had plenty of money, I could quit my jobs and write.

But not only do I not have money, I don’t have a room of my own. My computer is perched in the corner of my bedroom, where—just now—my 7-year-old and her friends trudged in to ask for Otter Pops (we supply the neighborhood). Of course I said yes, then skimmed what I had written to find my spot again.

Interruptions define my life, because my life is all about family. I can think of only a handful of times over the years that I actually shut my door and told my family that no one was allowed in for the next half hour. Otherwise, the carpet to my computer has been worn thin, because they know they’ll find me here, either writing, editing, or grading papers. And I will never turn them away. They have to come first. I committed myself to being their support long before I committed myself to writing a book series.

virginia woolf

She wasn’t the happiest of women, committing suicide by drowning when she was 59.

Virginia Woolf didn’t have children (but likely was bi-polar, which some may argue is just as grueling), so she didn’t understand the pull and yank between being me and being mom/wife. I know it’s counter-culture to claim that I need to be mom/wife first. (“What about your needs? What about your development?” goes the familiar crank.) But frankly, I’ve known too many women who put themselves first, and lost everything else that was important. One writer admitted to still pounding on her laptop during the labor of her baby, and was so obsessed that she devoted all her time to her book . . . and none to her marriage, which ended.

It’s popular to say, “Oh, I’ve worked so hard! I need me-time,” but I’ve discovered over the years that “me-time” can be accomplished in about thirty minutes a day, even less if secret chocolate is involved. Some women I’ve known spend hours on themselves/hobbies/pursuits to the benefit of no one, not even themselves.

Oh, I’m not perfect. I’ll confess to fantasies about everyone going away for a week or so, leaving me with a perfectly clean house, full fridge, and absolute silence so I can write nonstop and really get something accomplished. I’m jealous of friends who take vacations without husbands and children, and drool over what I could get done with so much freedom.

But I also know that after an hour of such freedom I’d get fidgety, and would be on my phone to make sure everyone was all right, that clothes were on (we have “free ranging” issues with our toddler), and that they ate something more substantial than Nutella sandwiches again.

Because honestly, I’m not entirely all right without them. Working away from home, while leaving me with desperately needed cash in our bank account, also leaves me with great anxiety that I’m not doing my duty to my family. When I come home, I’m a mixed bag of relief and disappointment; relief that my 14-year-old remembered to change the toddler’s diaper and the living room isn’t too chaotic, and disappointment that my 16-year-old reports that everything was just fine without me.

Until circumstances change, I’ll lurch and strain and struggle to fit in 135 things where there’s space only for 97. I’ll forget a few things (note: I ended up doing the dinner dishes at 11:30pm) and maybe later tonight I’ll squeak in a half hour of rearranging book four, but only after I’ve gone with my husband to an alumni event at the college, and picked some apples with my kids at a neighbor’s, and did some sewing for Halloween costumes (curse the church for having a costume party TWO WEEKS before the actual date!), and run a load of laundry, and finished dinner, and helped my daughter with homework, and my son with homework . . .

So, yes—Falcon’s coming, my friends. But while I so dearly love writing it, I need to love my family more.

Thanks for understanding. (P.S. Took me another two days to actually post this after writing it. Sigh.)

Mahrree sighed and said, “My children have me tied?”

The thought had never occurred to her. True, her life was completely different now. But caring for these little children, who she thought were funny more  often than frustrating, loving more often than loud, was an honor. It said so in The Writings, and she’d chosen to believe it from the moment she knew she was expecting her firstborn. And choosing to believe it had made all the difference in her attitude as a mother. ~Book Two: Solider at the Door