How motherhood improved my writing

I always wanted to be a writer.

When I was six, my school principal pinned one of my short stories up in the library.

When I was a teenager, I would stay up way past bedtime, scribbling furiously in a notebook worlds and people that existed only in my mind.

When I was choosing a university course, creative writing had to be one of my majors. No ifs or buts.

When I was 22, I finished a draft of my first full-length novel. I submitted it to a couple of publishers, had no success, and put it away in a folder on my computer, never to be seen again.

When I was 24, I applied for a writers residency at the local writing centre, and I was successful. For two weeks I was PAID for the luxury of writing all day, every day without interruptions. I still didn’t finish another novel, though. I was taking it slowly, treating it like a hobby, and yet becoming more and more disillusioned with my unfulfilled dreams of being a real, published author.

I had all the time in the world before I was a mother. But I frittered it away for the most part, and only wrote when I felt inspired. That meant six months could go by and I wouldn’t write a word! Crazy, right?

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When I first brought my daughter home from the hospital, writing was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to bask in the glow of newborn days and sleep whenever I could. I’m so glad I gave myself those months to savor how small she was and accepted that I was basically useless because I was so tired.

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When she was about three months old, I was able to get around a lot better and started to feel more like myself. But I still didn’t write. I wanted to, but there was no time. I was busy living an illusion, cleaning like mad, baking (pfffft, seriously, me, baking?), and spending hours just sitting, watching my daughter. Some of that watching was with adoration, but some was also because I felt guilty at the prospect of doing anything myself.

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I became pretty miserable and disillusioned with motherhood for a while there. It was like a part of me had died. I couldn’t imagine that for the next eighteen years, I was so entwined with my daughters welfare and my image of being a perfect mother and wife that there was nothing left for myself. Mostly, I felt ashamed that I wanted to teach my daughter that she could do anything in life – but I couldn’t show her that, because for me, in those months, it wasn’t true.

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I wanted to be able to say to my little girl, “Having children doesn’t have to be the end of you as a person. You can do whatever you want in life. Go wherever you want, be whoever you want.”

I started listening to those words and decided I had to practice what I wanted to preach.

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It seemed impossible!

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When my daughter was six or seven months old, I gritted my teeth, gave the house a once-over spring clean, cooked a bunch of freezer meals, and then abandoned most cleaning, cooking and washing (clothes) duties until I had finished my novel. My daughter was eight months old when I hit the publish button on my book.

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Why didn’t I wait until my daughter was older? Until she went to school? Well, I knew that once she went to school, my small window of being a stay-at-home mum would most likely close and I would go back to work. I didn’t want to wait until then to go after my dreams, because then work would just be another thing piled onto my to-do list and I’d shelve my dream.

I hate having regrets. So I try my hardest not to have them.

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Having a child made me so much more determined. Before, looking in the mirror each morning, it was hard to tell how quickly time was passing. But now, each morning as I’m greeted by a new tooth or her first steps, I realise how incredibly fast life flies by.  It is so fleeting. I don’t want to have regrets.

So I keep writing.

 

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