‘I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success’ Gloria Vanderbilt
Does being a mum make any difference to your life as a writer? Should I even be thinking in terms of this category ‘writing mum’?
I think the challenges are pretty much the same for writers, whether they are parents, carers or not. That said I believe women writers struggle more with the sense of entitlement and permission – the ‘right to write’ so to speak.
Added to which, I believe that there’s so much cultural weight of expectation around what it is to be a ‘good mum’, it becomes easier to fall into a self-imposed martyrdom around your creative needs.
Whilst doubtless not universal, these beliefs are rooted firstly in my own experience and secondly through conversations with other writing mums. It is those conversations, born out of my own desire to understand how other mum’s ‘do it’, that have led me to pull together this little mini-series of blogs on the subject.
I spoke to a variety of women who write and have children. Some of them write for a living. Others write for pleasure. Two of the women I spoke to are in the process of writing books – one non-fiction the other a collection of short stories.
The conversations were fascinating enough that I asked each of them to share with me their thoughts on the challenges of being a writing mum in a blog post. I asked whether and what kind of routine they had in place for their writing, and finally I asked them to share a piece of advice they felt would be most useful to other writing mums.
There were common themes – for a surprising number writing was something they’d come to only subsequent to motherhood. Nearly everyone spoke in terms of their writing enhancing their ability to parent. For some writing was a way to understand their parenting journey; for others it was a way to regain a potentially lost sense of identity.
Time was an issue for pretty much everyone. This is also really an issue of giving yourself permission and that can be an issue whether you are a parent or not.
However the reality is that the primary or default parent in most situations, even when you have a partner, is mum. She’s the one that is responsible for myriad tasks, logistics management and just general brain power around remembering and figuring out how to make everything function in the family.
We know from research women continue to be the main bearers of domestic responsibilities and continue to be most likely to be the primary parent. All of this can only detract from the amount of time and energy available at the end of the day to devote to the creative act of writing. What I discovered through these interviews is that those key management skills are often put to equally good use to ensure that some time IS ringfenced for writing.
For my own part I found hearing their stories immensely uplifting and empowering. These are real people who are finding their own way through the chaos of family life to make their voices heard, to tell their stories.
The series kicks off in earnest next week with an interview with personal finance expert and blogger, Lynn James, founder of Mrs Mummypenny. Below are some snippets from those conversations to whet your appetite…
What other writing mums say…
“My most useful piece of advice would be to put no pressure on yourself. Consistency is important in the world of writing, but that could be one post per week or one piece per day. I would also say go with it and write what you are thinking or feeling, and publish it. Get your content out there, don’t stress to much about if it’s the right thing to be saying.” Lynn James, Mrs Mummypenny
“What I have learned is that even if I have no subject for a blog, all I have to do is to begin writing...What I have learned from the discipline of showing up and writing is that I know way more inside than I ever think I will. It is the very process of putting the words on the page that enables me to access the wisdom I hold.” Rebecca Hartnell, Daemon Career Coach
“One little step at a time. 5 min of writing, is 5 min of crafting, of playing, of being more than mum, for me those initial 5 minutes were huge, they have given me a voice.” Claire Gaudry, Writer and Facilitator
“When I finally wrapped my head around the fact that you do not have to surrender your entire being to your beloved child to be a good mother I felt less guilty and less apologetic about saying I need this time for myself.” Louise Birt, Reiki Practioner and Meditation Coach
“Having carved out some initial time to focus on a project, clarifying what I want it to be or where I want it to go sets me up able to dip in and out as much as my availability, schedule, and resources permit. It’s like banking some inspiration to kick me into action when I can go for it…” Nina Ockendon-Powell, Wild Happy Well
How do YOU write and manage the demands and needs of family life? What are your top tips? It would be fab to hear from you. Please do share below or mail me firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to write a post to be included in this series.