Friday, February 27, 2009

Write or Wrong? Where are your priorities?

By Gina Conroy
Jennifer pounded on the keys of her laptop, vaguely hearing the whines from her four-year-old daughter.

“Mommy will be done in a minute, sweetie. Then I’ll make you breakfast. Why don’t you go and play.”

But a minute turned into ten, and Katie grew restless. Climbing onto her mother’s lap, the little blond with the big blue eyes cupped her mother’s face in her tiny hands.”

Jennifer shifted Katie on her left thigh so she could finish typing. Just a few more sentences then she could take a break. She didn’t want to break the flow. Katie didn’t nap any more, and Jennifer’s muse seldom returned after 8 pm.

Katie squirmed. “I’m hungry, mama.”

“You need to sit still or else it’ll take longer,” Jennifer snapped, feeling her temper rising. Why didn’t Katie just go and play in her room? She could finish much faster without Katie bouncing on her lap.

Katie pulled at her mother’s hands. Heat flushed Jennifer’s cheeks. “Don’t touch mommy’s hands when she’s typing.”

Katie slid from her lap and toddled away. She turned, her big blue eyes on the verge of tears. “Mommy, you never play with me anymore. You’re always on your ‘puter.”

Jennifer’s heart sunk, her writing flow lost in a tidal wave of mommy guilt. When was the last time she played with her little girl? Or did the laundry or cooked a decent meal for her family? When was the last time she sat before her heavenly father?

Jennifer pushed away from the keyboard and scooped Katie up. Little arms, wound tight around Jennifer, wet kisses blanketing her cheeks. It was the best feeling in the world.

Carrying her precious child downstairs for a home cooked meal of eggs and pancakes, Jennifer wondered how her life could have gotten so out of balance. With the rest of the children in school, she thought she’d have more time to devote to her writing. She’d recently been published in her hometown magazine and was knee deep in a fiction project. She knew God had called her to write, but he also called her to be a mom.

Gazing at her little cherub, syrup dripping from her chin, Jennifer felt the guilt creeping to the surface. How could she do everything God had called her to? She had such a burning desire to write. If she didn’t get her daily fix on the computer Ken often said she was a bear to live with. But writing interruptions also brought out the Grizzly in her.

Jennifer offered silent prayers to God.
Prayers of surrender.
Prayers of hope.
She knew in her heart that in her own strength she could do nothing. She also knew all things where possible with God. That’s why she’d been failing so miserably with running her household and pursuing her writing career. She’d left God out of the equation.
Well, right after breakfast every thing would change. First, Jennifer planned on playing Chutes and Ladders, and then when Katie and watched Sesame Street, it was time for Jennifer and God. The dishes could wait. They always had before.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Unfortunately this is a mostly true scenario, before God got a hold of Gina’s priorities by having her give up writing for a season.


Though she doesn’t always get it right, Gina tries and shares her struggles and triumphs at Portrait of a Writer…Interrupted where she often interviews writing moms who seem to have found that balance between family and career.


She founded Writer…Interrupted the blog and Writer…Interrupted the Community where she rallies writers to encourage and support each other on their faith and career journeys.

38 comments :

  1. Gina, this is such a timely message for me. I got hands-on prayer over this very issue last night at our small group.

    Thanks for coming to Seekerville!

    Hugs
    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! Your story hits the spot! Just yesterday my little blond-haired beauty climbed into my "writing chair" during one of my trips to the coffee pot. When I returned I had to contain my horror as her fingers clicked away at my WIP!
    As writers, we're passionate and driven and those characteristcs help us craft our stories. But it's easy to lose priority. So thank you for this great reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Gina, What a great post and so alive with the story format. I too struggle with the writing priorities, only with elder care instead of children. But I have to thank God always that I can be there for them. And you're soooo right on. The priority of course is always God. Then all things are possible.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I'm brewing a pot of coffee and have a selection of herbal teas. I have a beautiful crystal platter that was my grandmothers and have clusters of green, red and black grapes piled on it. So help yourself. Ruthy will bring something more substantial and yummy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I pray for all you young pubbed moms exactly because of this.

    I see the needs of my own children who have all been in school fulltime since I began my writing journey, and I wonder how you all can do it with young ones still at home full time without major sacrificing. I praise God for not giving me the nudge until "free" time came into my life.

    This is such a tough one for those who feel the call to write when their children are so in need of them 24/7. God has certainly put a huge challenge on you all. My prayers will continue.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beautifully said, Gina. A time and season for all things.

    Pancakes with chocolate chips and whipped cream to make faces, in your honor.

    I began writing when my youngest were in elementary school and the older ones in high school. I paid the young ones for quiet time. When my writing check came they were paid and they really understood the connection between the quiet time and their reward.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good morning, ladies, and happy Friday!

    Thanks for the story, Gina. I've been a work-from-home mom since our son was a baby. I started writing devotionals soon after and the fiction bug attacked a couple of years ago, so I know exactly what you mean about mommy guilt. Our kids are both in school now which does help, but my work responsibilities have increased too. Finding WIP time is a constant struggle but one that can be handled much more easily when I follow your advice and put God first.

    Sandra, thanks for the grapes. Yummy!

    Hope you all have a great day!
    Leigh

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Gina. Welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for the excellent reminder to put God first. Sadly, even without children at home other things can lure me away from my time with Him. I've found I have more peace, more wisdom, more productivity when I begin my day in study and prayer.

    Tina, thanks for the fluffy pancakes. Delicious!

    Janet

    ReplyDelete
  8. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I work from home, so I take my kids to school on these days. I'm usually in a groove so that it feels like an interruption when my kids wake up and I have to get them ready. I step back and enjoy the morning, hectic as it may be.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, Gina, smack the heck out of me, why don't you??

    What a wonderful (albeit guilt-provoking) message! Knowing the addictive pull of the computer, be it for writing or e-mail, my heart absolutely goes out to the young mothers today who have a call to write. I didn't start writing till after 50, so that was a lot easier for me.

    Uh, well, mostly. Except when those college-age daughters come home bursting at the seams with emotions and news to share ... and share ... and share. I found that my daughter actually wants more of my time now than ever before and when she walks into the room (while I'm in a tense love scene in Boston), I literally have to wheel around in my chair, completely turned away from the computer to give her my full attention. Or ... gasp ... give her a full day here and there for lunch and shopping! But I realized a long time ago that what we put into that novel starts first with what we put into our family ... and into our God. It's all flat without him at the center.

    Great post -- thanks for writing it.

    Hugs,
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
  10. I started writing (again) when my youngest was a year old, so I have dealt with this my whole writing "career" (My husband doesn't call it a career, HA!) It is very hard to find a balance. But I pray all that time that God will show me what to do every day. That he will give me writing time when I desperately need it, and that I will put my family first.

    Now that my kids are both in school, it's much easier, but I'm thinking about homeschooling, which terrifies me!!! But that's at least a year and a half away.

    To tell the truth, if I'd known how hard pursuing a writing career was going to be, I probably would have said, FORGET IT! It's hard, it's painful, you get beat down by rejections, your own unfulfilled expectations, other people's judgments of you, and your own guilt! So why do I love it so much? I think it must be a big joke on me! Either that or God wanted to teach me a few things.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! Thanks everyone for the comments! It's most I've seen in a while ;) but I guess that's because it's a subject that many of us can relate to, unfortunately!

    My youngest is 6 now and I still struggle with finding that balance, but I'm getting better. If you need encouragement along the way, please join us at http://writerinterrutped.ning.com or http://writerinterrupted.com

    I learned a while ago that my priorities are put back in place a lot quicker with accountability and by the examples of others that seem to have the balance all figured out!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think we all need to remember that the primary motivator of all motherhood is guilt.

    It's just THERE. A fact of life.

    So, Gina, you're probably NOT neglecting your little girl as much as you think.

    But I will say this, I have not one single regret for any moment I spend paying real quality attention to my children when they were little.

    My old buddy guilt still goads me for days I wasn't so good to them.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I started in typing my first book the year my baby went to kindergarten. I'd write in the mornings. My first book released in February, the year she graduated from highschool.

    I sold the book a year and a half before the first one came out so I call it ten years it took me to get published.

    That makes me embrace the idea of 'seasons' of life. I was so much more free to travel, be busy on weekends, focus on the writing and marketing of a book once the childre are grown.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Gina -

    While I don't have any little ones, I do have others needing my love and attention. The whole time management thing is an issue I've struggled with for years.

    Like you, I realized I was trying to accomplish everything in my own strength. Every morning, I pray and ask the Lord to help me accomplish all of His priorities.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Gina:

    Whenever I think of priorities I’m reminded of the Emperor Hadrian who often traveled throughout the Roman Empire. On one trip a woman approached him with a petition on behalf of her husband. The annoyed Emperor said, “Madam, I don’t have time for this!” The woman said “Then stop being Emperor.” Whereupon he stopped what he was doing and heard her case then and there.

    When I read this post I could just imagine the little girl saying to the too busy mother, “Well, stop being a mom then.”

    That would be a wake up call.

    Mother or Emperor, keeping priories in their proper order can be a constant battle.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

    Vince

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi, Gina! Glad to have you in Seekerville!

    My girls were around 10 and 11 when i started writing. I did okay during the school year since I was only working at a "real" job half days or not at all back then. But summers? Forget it! I had to give myself permission to take a 3-month sabbatical from writing.

    The big change for me at this stage of life is that my husband is working fewer hours and looking toward retirement, while my career is just taking off. Talk about role reversal! At least he has been very understanding and adaptable. I couldn't be in the writing business without his (and my kids') unwavering support.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow. Oh wow.

    While I don't have little ones any more, I'm as guilty of the next person for spending every spare minute thinking, talking, writing, plotting, brainstorming, business'ing, pursuing this dream called writing.

    When does it stop? I don't think it does. Published authors feel even more pressure to get it done and get it right than those of us who are unpublished.

    What a rollercoaster!

    ReplyDelete
  18. ...what we put into that novel starts first with what we put into our family ... and into our God.

    Now THAT says it all!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Walt, when I read this ...

    “Madam, I don’t have time for this!” The woman said “Then stop being Emperor.”

    I thought you were going to say that the woman was his wife! lol

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sorry, I meant Vince, not Walt. I realized my mistake the minute I hit send.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I remember once I was working on the computer when my grandsons were visiting and my oldest grandson said much the same thing to me. I never again wrote when the boys visited.

    A great message.
    Blessings,
    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  22. Been there, done that and have to dubious certificate of mommy guilt hanging in my heart.

    I think I've lost count of the times God grabbed me by the scruff of the neck saying *It's not about you.* My daughter and son were pre-school age when I began writing and thankfully, they both took 3 hour naps each afternoon until kindergarten.

    Still, kids are only young once. Though I often became terribly frustrated with the interruptions, looking back on it, I'm glad the kids gave me no choice but to put them first : )

    Now that daugher is in college and son in high school, I've gone back to work. Grrr.

    God knows when my season is scheduled. . .

    Great thoughts, Gina. Love the beautiful reminder : )

    ReplyDelete
  23. Talk about a thought-provoker.

    Gina, baby, you've touched a nerve.

    I was a waiter. Not a waitress, (although I have that on my elongated list of hairnet-and-nametag jobs), but a writer- waiter. I saw how consuming writing was, and decided I needed to wait. Too many kids and soccer games and track meets and cross-country invitationals and tennis matches and church functions and family need-to's.

    On top of gainful employment.

    So, yeah, you guys have my prayers and hopes that it works out well. It's a tough road.

    But Mary's right. Jewish mothers are particularly adept at handing out guilt, second only to Italian mothers, who come in just behind Italian Catholic mothers...

    We instill guilt into our children for bad choices.

    And get it right back if we think we're less than perfect.

    Tina said it beautifully one day...

    Paraphrasing....

    "I rushed to edit, to finish, to critique, to print, to mail, only to sit back and wait a year for a response."

    Ecclesiastes... "And a time for every purpose under heaven..."

    Rock those babies. Watch Dora. Plant a garden. Water a seed.

    Cut down my competition. ;)

    Ruthy

    ReplyDelete
  24. Ruth,

    On your note about guilt...I grew up in a Catholic Italian family in a Jewish town. Oy Vey, talk about the guilt! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  25. I actaully cross stitched this into a picture years ago:

    Cleaning and Scrubbing can wait till tomorrow.
    Cuz babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
    I'm nursing my baby and babies don't keep.


    That's not a new poem, so I suspect the guilt and the balancing act aren't anything new.

    ReplyDelete
  26. My bottom line is, I might sell something and touch hearts ... but ... I have to live with these people under my roof!

    That said, I can so relate to the OP!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Great post. Really makes me think about priorities.

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Guilty. I know and believe my priorities--it's the living them out that trips me up. Thanks for this reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hey Gina, thank you so much for your post and links.

    I had a similar occurence with my 4 yo when I was a young private in the CAF. I'd worked a long day shift and was standing at the sink trying to get the dishes washed up. She called out to me. I turned and became riled when I saw her standing there holding an ashtray full of butts. Yes, both hubby and I were smokers back in the 70's. Anyway, I admonished her, took the ashtray and put it back then went on with my dishes. Believe it or not, this same scenario was repeated twice more before it got through my thick skull that she was desparately looking for my attentiion. That last time after taking the ashtray away, I dropped to my knees and hugged her. We played together there on the floor, talking and laughing for 30 mins. When she wandered away to her toy corner, I went back to the kitchen and was able to finish the dishes uninterrupted. Yes, I learned my lesson and I thanked God that it was only an ashtray she'd used to get my attention.

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a great post, Gina. My kids have said over and over, "All you do is stare at your computer."

    (sigh)

    We have to somehow find a balance. And we have to think about our priorities. It's something I'm always working on!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Such a very good reminder to keep everything in perspective and proper priority.

    Thanks, Gina!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Ouch! Quite the familiar scene. I think you touched a nerve!

    ReplyDelete
  33. A wonderful post. We all get wrapped up in the destination and rush through the journey.

    Seekerville is a cool place.

    Blessings, Erin Slusher

    ReplyDelete
  34. Seekers!

    I love your sight and I've given you an award...come get it at http://www.houstonawknight.blogspot.com

    Hawk

    ReplyDelete
  35. This may be my first comment, tho I read your blog regularly. While Gina's interruptions aren't the same as mine, her neglect and skewed priorities are. Wonderful wonderful message today. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks all your comments! It's nice to know I'm not alone in these struggles!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Really important message..we all need to remember what's important, and to understand that the more life we live, and the more we give, the more we get, and the better we write. In the heat of the moment, it's hard to stop, but... that's why there are tape recorders...I always had a recorder in my pocket so that I wouldn't lose a "brilliant" idea. Some of the ideas weren't so brilliant afterall...Glad my children got my atention when they needed it. Now if I can't write It's my own fault..

    ReplyDelete