I finally found a career that sounds even less like a career than being a homemaker. Writer. The past two weeks I have been answering the same questions repeatedly for every doctor’s office and precertification that I’ve had to go through. “What is your job title?” I start by telling them that I am a stay-at-home mom and a writer. They ask how many hours per day that I spend writing, and I guesstimate as best as I can. They ask how much I make being a writer and of course the shame washes over me as I answer, “Well…Nothing.” To which they reply, “I’m just going to put Homemaker down,” followed by silent judgement. (LOL)
The truth is, being a writer is almost as misunderstood if not more so, than being a homemaker. When you actually think about what taking care of a home and children means, there are daycare workers who do far less than I do in a day and make at least $15/hr. If I hired a babysitter just to watch the one child, I would be paying them, $20/hour — But I make nothing. I cook, clean, do laundry, wash dishes, fold clothes, chase after my toddler and entertain her, clean up all of her messes, run errands, pay bills, schedule doctors and school appointments for my teenager and drive two hours both ways to attend them all. If I was someone’s live-in chef, I would be making good money. If I was someone’s house cleaner or maid, I would be bringing home an income. If I was a chauffeur, nanny, assistant, laundry service, any one of the things that I do in a day – There would be a healthy paycheck at the end of it. I do a lot. For no money per week, per month, per year.
Writing is the one thing that I do for myself. Sure I could be knitting instead, but I don’t know how to and I’m not all that interested in learning it. Instead I took to a craft that forces me to have to find several hours within the day, or in my case, the middle of the night when I should be resting – To do it. I write during the day as well, while my four year old flies through the house like her feet have wings and every few minutes comes to me with requests, a broken toy to fix, wants a snack, or something to drink, the timer on the dryer just went off so I have to change out the clothes. The timer on the oven went off so her food is ready. The phone rings, text tones go off, someone knocks at the door, or my daughter wants to watch her favorite show and needs help finding it. It’s up and down, up and down, all day long. I will be right in the middle of good flow with whatever I am writing and any number of distractions happen. No one but my husband sees this career that I’ve chosen as an actual job, so when I am writing and I say, “I’m writing,” they think that means I’m not really doing anything important like WORKING. So of course, I have the time to be interrupted. I don’t call anyone when they’re at work and expect them to sit and talk to me. I don’t demand their time when they are clearly busy, but because this isn’t a real job – It’s okay. Yeah I chose the one career that is nearly impossible to accomplish all while being an at home parent. But when I say that this is what I do, it sounds frivolous. I feel the unspoken follow-up question of, “How could you have chosen two life paths that equally pay you nothing?” To answer that, maybe I just like consistency?! 😀
As I started to explain what I do and why I make zero dollars per month doing it, I felt myself starting to go into this very same rant while simultaneously turning into a teary, blubbering mess — But I held it together and said, “Yeah just put me down for homemaker. That’s a real job.” I could feel myself getting smaller even as I said it. In all honesty when I did actually work, I still had to come home and do all of the same things that I do now, except for the fact that I had a daycare or school taking care of my child during the hours that I was working. My job load hasn’t changed all that much, except to say that it’s gotten a lot heavier.
So why do we choose this career? I’ve never heard of one person who sits down to write just one thing and hits it big, instantly. Writing is a craft. It takes far more practice than it gives in reward at the end of the day. I can spend all night writing something only to go back to read and edit it in the morning and realize that what I spent sleepless hours on, was all junk that needs to go to my recycle bin. That or it has to be edited to oblivion for it to be worth reading. It takes time, concentration, and effort, but it is still what feels right and natural for me to be doing. I may never make it anywhere, but I think most writers will agree that we do not write for the money or the fame. We write because we have to. And if someone feels that it’s worth paying us a dollar for, we still take a good long time to consider their offer before deciding to hand over our pride and joy to be used as they see fit. It’s personal. That thing that nudged at my brain all night to write, is personal to me.
When I worked in IT, I didn’t have to go to a raw place inside of my soul in order to fix someone’s computer. It didn’t plague me all night long, when I knew there was something I needed to take care of when I got into the office. I did what I could while I was clocked in, and then went home and saw to my responsibilities there. What I couldn’t fix from home, had no choice but to wait until I was back at work the following day. There was a healthy line in the sand of what took precedent, mostly. Well, sometimes. But as I toil with writing and taking care of my home and kids, there is no line in the sand. Or maybe there was, but my toddler came around with a stick and drew a happy face over it… Either way, it isn’t visible to me.
I sat on the phone as the hospital pre-certified me thinking, if they only knew what my days and nights look like they would ask this question with great trepidation because I am a woman on the edge. I may seem to have my wits about me, but I can still go from zero to buckets of tears and endless frustration in a matter of seconds! Then the lady said something that made me feel better. She told me about her memoir that she is writing and how everyone in her life has been pressuring her to finish it already, for years. She told me how it makes her feel bad when they tell her that she should be done already and yet, she’s not. She started to go into my same rant about how hard it is to balance her job with making time for her own writing and that her book might be completed by now if she just had some dedicated time in order to finish it. I could hear the frustration in her voice, for what her heart is urging her to do verses what her finances are demanding of her to do. She was struggling with finding that same balance. And as I told her how important her story was and to take as much time as she needed in order to be in that emotionally raw place that it requires for writing it, I could hear her tears. She talked to me about how hard it is to re-live her pain, all to commemorate it in a book. And I shared with her how I had recently completed my own book about my life and how I understood the place that she has to go to, just to write it out. She said, “It is my testimony and I want to make sure that it comes through, right.” I told her to silence out all of the opinions telling her how, when or why she should be done by now. That if her book, telling her own story of fight and perseverance, is going to have a lasting impact on everyone who reads it — Then she is right to take her time and develop it slowly. That there is a designated season for her writing, just as there was a designated season for her turmoil, and equally just as there is a designated season for when that writing is ready to be turned loose into the world. And this is when I could hear her quiet sobs. I encouraged her to tell each part of her story with the same rawness that it took to write the sentence before.
She thanked me for my advice and allowing her to rant and cry. She said that I helped her to find her own inner strength to do things her way and not because anyone is pressuring her. Here I thought that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown at the simple question of, “What do you do for a living,” and it turned out that I helped someone else in talking about my own struggle. That is why I chose to write. That is why I share such personal things about my own life and experiences with the world. It’s not for attention, and it certainly isn’t for fame, money or glory. It may not always apply to everyone, but it will always apply to someone who desperately needs it in that moment – Just as I have needed it in the past.
If you’re feeling outside pressure to do something that doesn’t feel inside of you like it’s quite the right season for it – Remember that you write your own calendar. You decide when it’s time and when it’s not. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t time yet and that’s okay. Trust your intuition and don’t lose your vision. Don’t lose sight of your goal, because one day you will see the fruits of your labor come to fruition. It’s easy to let the outside world’s opinions, take right over your own, but there is a difference between opinion and feeling. Be your own encouragement and stay the course. The path may change before your eyes and look to be unfamiliar, but the end goal is still firmly in place!