Tuesday, September 11

Creating Space in Life for the "Other" ("Non-Mom") Things

Several weeks ago a 79 year old shortly cropped gray haired woman showed up on my doorstep. I was expecting her arrival and had put the hot water kettle on and arranged store bought raspberry strudel on a plate.

"Girls," I said, "There is a very nice lady coming over who mommy needs to talk to for a little while. Please be polite and try not to interrupt unless it's very important, ok?" 

They were intrigued and obliged. Ok mom. Just put Cinderella in for us and we'll be all set. Oh, and let us have a piece of that strudel. 

I had also told them that this woman knew how to scuba dive and that that means she gets to go under water to see fish and all sorts of other cool stuff. 

"Like in Finding Nemo?" they asked. 

Of course much of their understanding of life is built around movie references. 

"Yes, something like that." 

When Mary Lou arrived the girls sprang off the front porch to greet this relative stranger with me. 

Ava stared, wide-eyed and in wonder, "Have you been to the bottom of the sea?!" she asked. 

Of course Mary Lou had been to the bottom of the sea and told her so (she is a retired music teacher so she had quite a way with the girls). 

"Have you seen sharks?!!"

"Well, yes, but they don't like people very much and usually stay away. It's a real treat when I get to see a shark," she responded very matter of factly. 

After peppering Mary Lou with a few more questions about the sea the girls returned to their movie and strudel and Mary Lou and I sat at my kitchen table for an hour and twenty minutes chatting about her life and adventures. 

I happened to be interviewing Mary Lou for a profile I was writing for a local publication geared towards people 50 and older.  She is a local nature and underwater photographer who goes on crazy trips and does things I would be afraid to do! It was quite an inspirational conversation. 

 People sometimes look at me funny when I tell them I write for a publication geared towards those over 50 because I am...well...in my 30's. 

However, it's a well organized publication owned by the larger city magazine here and they needed freelance pieces.  When we first moved back to the Buffalo area three years ago I was trying to connect with a couple of local publications whom I could write for somewhat consistently. I took a local free writing class at the high school around the corner from my house and told the teacher about an article idea I had about a local community art project. She gave me the name of the editor, I pitched him my idea and we have had a working relationship ever since.

 I have an M.A. in Journalism and since I've been home full time with the girls for the last five  years, I try to write an article for publication every 4-6 weeks or so (that's how it seems to work out anyway!). 

It's low key. There is not a ton of pressure. But I get to consistently practice the craft of interviewing someone, organizing their story and trying to present it in an interesting, engaging and clear way. 

And perhaps one of the best parts is that I get to meet very interesting and inspiring people like Mary Lou and the many others I've met who are living exciting, interesting and energetic lives well into their 80's! 

So, in a nutshell, that is what the "professional" life of a stay at home mom with creative/professional interests looks like! Or at least my life...

So when do I "fit it in"?

This is always a funny question isn't it?! I wonder when people fit more house projects or couponing or more detailed meal planning in. I wonder how people have the time to refurbish old crappy pieces of furniture into something really cool for their homes. Or keep up on photo albums and scrapbooks. I wonder how people keep their houses so clean and do such a fabulous job at home management.  

I wish I could do all of those things too! 

But I can't. So...

The answer to where I fit it in is...where I can, when I can, and sometimes (or a lot of times during some seasons!) I simply don't. It's a matter of finding small margins of time without shirking on my primary responsibilities as a mom and wife. It's usually the first thing that gets cut out when life gets busy and while that can be a struggle for me, it's part of the mom territory I chose for the way we run our lives. 

The answer also is...I've come to terms with the fact that I'm probably overspending at the grocery store because I don't have time to cut coupons...

...and the fact that there is usually a layer of dust on most furniture items in my house.

...and the fact that my photos are going to have to remain unsorted in photo boxes for now.

I won't lie, most of the time trying to fit an assignment with a deadline into my life feels like this...

(this photo was borrowed from "Her" online magazine)

Us young moms are in a season of managing opportunity cost (that's the "business" phrase my husband gives it!). In order to pursue one thing we may feel passionately about, other things must be let go of...even good things....

I (obviously) do interviews with my kids in tow on occasion and then I do the actual writing either at night or when my youngest is in preschool (or when they were both in preschool last year).  I've gotten up early on occasion (very rare occasions!), but rarely stay up late because my circadian rhythm seems to force me to function much better in the morning than at night. 

All told, I probably devote 4-8 hours a week to it all (its usually on the lower end unless I have a deadline)...I wish there were more time, but there isn't. 

I wish I could thrive on 5 hours of sleep like some very energetic people I know...but I can't.

I used to blog a lot more too...but then the season of life came where naps were no longer part of the equation and therefore my regular blogging was not either...

But it is just that, a season...and things will change and change again. 

So how about you? Are you a stay at home mom trying to maintain a blog or write for a local publication in your area? Do you make jewelry or products for an Etsy shop in your spare time? Do you paint, or create music or bake complex (homemade!) strudels or baked goods?  

Whatever it is that you do in your little bit of free time how do you create space in your life for those things-- the things that keep your creative and professional juices going?! 


  1. Loved this! It helps to hear from other moms who *get* this writing thing. I feel a little alone at times in getting my family and friends to understand the struggle in finding time to write...especially because with us writers, it's not so much as a "want" as it is a need. It's part of who we are, no? And congrats on the consistent gig, that's so great!!

  2. Mary Lou does sound interesting! And good for you for keeping up a bit of professional work that you love. I think it is good for us moms to have some bits of our lives that are not just about mothering, especially with the right perspective and priorities like you have. I'm coming out of a season where I've had to push aside some other interests, like sewing, because my family needed more of my time as we transitioned a new child home via adoption, but I can feel (now that it's been 8 months!) that I need to figure out a way to make some time for those things again for my emotional and mental health!

  3. Hi Lisa, I thought I'd come over and see where you 'live'! In between baking and Mermaidia and laundry. Blessings!


Sharing thoughts is a valuable part of the motherhood community. Please share your thoughts, suggestions and ideas based on posts.