Mommy Guilt & Unexpected Dividends

A little change of pace here.  I’ve been writing lots about Bohemian Gospel, but I promised to weave together the threads of homeschooling and professoring, too, because I imagine that many of you are also trying to figure out how to manage a writing life with all the other “stuff” that fills your days.

When I started taking my writing seriously, clearing chunks of time from an already packed schedule, I knew lots of things would suffer the consequences.

My house, for example, has not been fully, wholly, scandalously clean in a few years.  We tackle the necessaries so it’s never gross or unhealthy, but it most certainly doesn’t hold up to my mother’s standards.  And the kids have learned the oh-my-goodness-someone-is-coming-over cleaning dance (feels a little like the Mary Poppins scene when everyone takes their stations in anticipation of Admiral Boom’s daily cannon-fire).  I have resigned myself to knowing that our very lived-in home will never take on the magazine-spread look of some of my friends’ houses.

Ditto for the yard.

See? Weedy garden. Judge at will. : )

But our neighbors love us anyway.  We ply them with excess vegetables in bumper gardening years and with  Wookiee Cookies (BEST chocolate-chip cookies EVER).


Good food can make you blind to OVERGROWN GRASS and WEEDS. (Plus, the neighbors are just wonderful people.)

Weedy yards and a less-than-pristine house are consequences I find easy to live with and well worth the gains of time to write and the joy that comes from having written.  An added bonus is that my daughter and my son will not grow up with unrealistic expectations of “keeping house.”

But my Mommy-guilt has been far more difficult to master.

At first, I stole hours late at night after the kids were in bed.  I worked my way up to claiming a few hours on the weekend, cloistering myself in the back room–one earbud in for tunes and an open ear turned house-ward, listening in case someone needed me.  Surprisingly, I got work done, some of it even good.  But it took being awarded sabbatical to nudge me toward really carving the time I needed to research and write and edit my first novel; writing was my JOB that semester, and my university would be expecting results.

Adjusting to me being home BUT WORKING took time.  My husband and I always managed our teaching schedules so one of us was at the university and the other was at home, schooling the kids.  Only now, I didn’t head off to teach; I closed a door and clocked my hours researching or writing.

And it felt good.  It felt right.

But there was still a twinge of thinking I was being selfish.  In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls that nasty voice filling us with guilt and self-doubt, the Censor.


I worked on not listening to it, but it was my daughter who finally slayed the beast.

She started writing.  Every day.  For months.  Until she completed her first novel, 80 some odd pages.  She was not yet 10.  And then she finished her second, over 100 pages.

She’s 120 pages into novel three.

My son is dictating a book about a dinosaur named Maple to his sister, who diligently types every word.

And my husband is working through revisions on a forthcoming book about comics. (Here’s a sneak peak from one of the chapters.)

These unexpected dividends happen, not like magic, but when you scuttle other people’s expectations of how you should live and make room for your own.

Sure our house might be a little cluttered; it’s full of stories.