Lazy Letters: How Do I Justify My Desires Without Feeling Completely Selfish?
This is a real email from a real reader, and I have the sneaking suspicion that many of you could've written this, too.
I'm up to my eyeballs in being a mom almost every hour of the day. (My kids are 6, 3, and 18 months.) I love my kids and I'm so grateful to be able to stay home with them, but this job does not play to my strengths. What reminds me that I am actually a person and not just an automatic bottom-wiper and personal chef is taking time to read and write. (Reading is easy to squeeze in wherever; writing, not so much.)
Now here's the dilemma: My husband is great, and my mom also lives nearby and is always happy to help if I ask for it. But it feels like a totally crazy indulgence to ask either one of them to take their time to watch my kids so that I can get away and write, especially with any kind of regularity.
Right now I just write at a hobby blog, and I don't feel comfortable asking for time to work on it any more than I would get babysitting so that I could scrapbook photos or get pedicures. So I think, "If I could just build up the blog into something 'real,' I wouldn't feel bad taking time away from the family to work on it." (Real, of course, equals lots of readers and maybe generating income. Which I don't even believe is an indicator of something's value. But, it IS what separates the amateurs from the professionals, in this case.)
But to take any hobby to the next level requires quite a bit of investment. With blogging, of course, it costs money to buy the domain. It takes time, time, time, as you well know-- not just for regular writing but all the extra stuff-- edits, pinnable images, widgets, analytics, networking, etc. It sounds ideal to keep the monetary investment minimal and experiment with "my own time," but I don't have that-- if I'm not on duty with the kids, it means someone else has to be. So how in the world can I justify pursuing personal goals and interests without being a totally selfish person?
I'm going to respond to Lindsey here so that we can all figure this out together.
Hi. You're delightful. And also 100% normal. This is why I'm sharing the words you vulnerably sent me with the Lazy Genius Collective. But I asked your permission, so no take-backsies. Let's look at your words a little at a time.
"I love my kids and I'm so grateful to be able to stay home with them, but this job does not play to my strengths."
OhmygoshYES. It's such a misrepresentation of SAHMness that we all are made to do this. Sure, we all have the capacity to love our kids and the general human intelligence to figure out how to keep them alive and function in society, but outside of that, not all moms are created equal in their desire to day in and day out be a mom. Even the ones who are home all the time. I'm proud of you for not only realizing this about yourself but for saying it out loud. It's a scary thing to acknowledge that motherhood doesn't play to your strengths; I know this because I've done it and feel it, too. Some days, I feel like I'm going against how I'm wired in order to be around for my kids, and that can do a wonder on the ol' psyche. But the more comfortable you are speaking your truth, the more comfortable others will feel in saying theirs. That's a beautiful gift, my friend.
"It feels like a totally crazy indulgence to ask either one of them [husband or mom] to take their time to watch my kids so that I can get away and write."
First - and I've talked to you before, so I know you don't see your husband this way - but their his kids, too.
When I see the disconnect between the role of mother and father, it's no wonder women feel the way they do. On TV and often in our own mental constructs, men are dumb when it comes to their own kids but so smart at work that of course they need their downtime on the weekends. And women are the overbearing ones who single-handedly keep the house afloat but need it to be Mother's Day in order to write at a coffee shop without guilt.
For most of us, our husbands don't cause the guilt; we do that just fine on our own. It took me a super long time to believe my husband when he said, "Sure, go write!" without analyzing his tone like I was a CIA codebreaker. Or that one time I asked him if I could go away for an entire weekend to write on a space that was making Zero Dollars, and he said, "Absolutely. We'll miss you!" I mean, what crazy voodoo is this?! You're supposed to demand a divorce because how dare I spend time doing something that's just for me when the kids are still awake!
Making time to get away and write is not crazy. It's not an indulgence. And you're not the only one whose responsibility it is to take care of the kids.
"I think, 'If I could just build up the blog into something "real," I wouldn't feel bad taking time away from the family to work on it.'"
Newsflash: guilt doesn't discriminate based on how real your gig is. Tina Fey is an actor, producer, writer of books and script, and lends her face and voice to credit cards and drugstores, and she still gets asked how she balances it all... because she's a woman and has kids. Do they ask her husband that? Nope. He's allowed to do things that make him feel like a person. She does not.
It doesn't matter how real or fake you think your dream is; because you're a mother, that guilt will never go away, whether you're the one who feels it or others assume you should. Just go ahead and give that ish up.
"... not just for regular writing but all the extra stuff-- edits, pinnable images, widgets, analytics, networking, etc."
Real talk. And maybe I'm being presumptuous here, but we'll risk it. Assuming you see this site as a professional blog as opposed to an amateur one, I don't make any money from this work. I hope to in the future by creating things for you and the rest of the Lazy Genius Collective, but in terms of traditional blog monetization? Nope. Because the work is what's important, not the widgets and analytics. Just write.
You consider yourself a Lazy Genius, right? Well, don't try and be a genius about Pinnable images and widgets. Yawn. Be lazy about those things because frankly they don't matter right now. We've already established that the guilt isn't going to dissipate just because you're writing "for real," so don't waste your time on the "professional" stuff that doesn't really matter.
Write the best you can as often as you have something to say, and forget about the other stuff. I haven't formatted a photo for Pinterest since I started. Not because I don't care but because I don't care enough. Could I have more traffic if I did? Probably. But do numbers validate my work? Sometimes it feels that way, but the truth says otherwise. Numbers don't validate what I'm doing anymore than they validate yours. Sure, it's encouraging when more people read your words and say nice things; it gives you the bravery to keep going. But are numbers essential? Not in high school math and not in blog world either.
"If I'm not on duty with the kids, it means someone else has to be."
Yep. Otherwise, you'd get arrested. But that doesn't make the idea crazy.
You have a husband who gladly spends time with his kids. You have a mom who probably digs being a grandmother and then gets to hand the kids back to you after a few hours because she's paid her dues and gets to do that amen. (We're going to make awesome grandmothers.) Don't assume that your people will resent you for doing the thing they'd be doing already. Is taking care of three kids alone harder than doing it with another grownup? Obviously. Do you do it every. single. day? Yes, you do. Can the people on your team do it for a few hours on a regular basis? Without question. You just have to let them.
"So how in the world can I justify pursuing personal goals and interests without being a totally selfish person?"
You're asking the wrong question.
You should be asking your husband "When does it work well for you for me to disappear a few hours this week?" And ask him that every week. Ask your mom "What would you think about planning regular grandma time a couple of times a month so I can take care of some stuff and the kids can see you?" And then work it out and sync your calendars.
You don't have to justify anything.
Yes, being a mother is our privilege and our job, and if you subscribe to any variety of faiths, you might feel the need to be selfless and to serve. But those things can coexist with alone time doing what you love to do. Your job isn't to gradually resent your family because your life's purpose is to enable them to do what makes them come alive at your expense. That's a lie; don't buy into it.
Practically speaking, if you fight the guilt that asking for help to write is the equivalent of asking for help to get a pedicure, trick yourself. In that hour or two a day when all three of your kids are probably silent (whether it's joint nap times or the oldest gets some screen time while the two little ones sleep), don't spend those hours cleaning your kitchen or folding laundry or rolling your eyes at everyone on Facebook. Spend those hours writing. Then use Grandma Time to do house stuff if that makes it feel more justified. Hopefully you won't need to psych yourself out for too long on that one, but it's a little mental dexterity to get you over the hump of doing something for yourself.
In conclusion (flashbacks to sixth grade research papers), you're not crazy. You're not selfish. You're not indulgent. You can live amidst your ordinary and still leave room to follow the dream.
As my pal Emily P. Freeman says in her book A Million Little Ways (which if you haven't read that yet, umm, DO IT NOW IT'S TOTALLY ALL OF THIS), "You are art and you make art, but you are not your art. You are God's art. As you continue to embrace the Spirit of Christ in you, as you continue to bend your ear toward the deep desires of your heart, trust that God is intuitive enough to move in and through you no matter your fear or insecurity."
Amen. Now go write something. It's all real.