How To Manage Family Life And Writing...Or Not

I thought my summer was going to be different; I had lofty goals and plans for myself.

I was going to exercise more, take more pictures, teach a photography class and churn out some freelance articles.

How to Manage Family Life and Writing by Catholic Writer Colleen Duggan

I didn't accomplish any of those goals.

Mostly?  I tried to keep up with daily life.

I tried to keep the pool towels clean and the kids lathered in sun screen.

I tried to keep the television viewing to a minimum.

I tried to make sure we read books--the good kind from the likes of Lewis and Tolkien.

I tried to ensure visits to and from our friends.

I tried to maintain a slower pace, complete with lazy afternoons and "wasted" time.

Truthfully, I'm amazed at the monumental nature of these simple tasks.  When I write them down on paper, these things--taking children to the pool and the library and encouraging other types of social outings--shouldn't seem so hard. 

Still...

The care and feeding of six children requires most of my mental and physical energy, which often leaves me with little time and gusto to accomplish some of the tasks I hold most near and dear.

This is a chronic tension I face in mothering--the balance between taking care of my brood of children and cultivating my own interests.

Honestly?  Most of the time, the needs of my children trump mine own.

(You should see what the Fall calendar holds in terms of my children's activities.  Wow.)

I went to a blogging conference in the spring and my dear friend,

Cristina

, suggested that my ability to get things crossed off my writing to-do list would vastly improve if I organized myself, if I batched my blog posts, for instance.

I'm sure this is true (and

Cristina is

the

blogging expert

, so if you are in a place to grow your  audience, she is most definitely the person to listen to online) and a more organized approach would certainly help me, but my priorities and the needs of my children take precedence over what I want to do.

(But, dude, when I can find the time and the bandwidth, I'm implementing everything Cristina has to say about growing an online presence.)

It's like this:

Blogging/photography are important to me, but damn the baby has a poopy diaper and Patrick is out of clean underwear and I don't know what we're having for dinner and have you ever had to deal with seven hangry people?  Not fun...guess that post will have to wait... 

This constant self-denial, the placing of my children's and husband's activities ahead of my own sometimes leaves me wondering if I don't take myself seriously enough.  A few months ago, there was a group discussion amongst some writer friends of mine where we tossed around this very idea.  One of the participants wrote:

We mothers can do it! It's not easy to say no to everyone who has an emergency inside our house. We might only write total crap the few seconds we do get of alone time because our brain is as gross as the mashed banana underneath the high chair. I could count over 100 serious women writers who have decided that it is impossible to mix art and kids--so they don't have kids. If nothing else, the very act of putting stupid, ugly words that no one will ever care to read on a page says "I matter. My life matters and God is pleased with me!"

I agree with this sentiment.  That very week

I wrote a whole blog post saying the same thing

.

It is important to carve out time for writing or whatever other artistic endeavors or hobbies to which God might be calling us.  And if we want to be any

good

at these artistic endeavors?

We

must

practice.   I've read the advice books and the how-to manuals; I've been to the conferences and I know what those who have been published have to say:

Write every day and at the same time.

Finish what you start.

Don't discuss a work in progress.

Write, write, and then write some more.

But what if you are doing those things and you aren't producing much?

What if your creative energies are being poured into something else--something that looks a lot like little people--and something that doesn't look like page views and word counts?

Does it mean you don't care?

Does it mean you are not taking care of yourself?

Does it mean God isn't pleased with you?

I've been thinking on these things all summer and an insight into the answer came to me this morning as it usually does-- softly and gently--as I nursed my first cup of khaki colored coffee and sat with my favorite blanket slung over my lap.  I read these words Jesus spoke to his disciples:

"...Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."

And it hit me:

This careful balance of working when I can and spending the remaining time caring for my children (which, let's face it, is MOST of my time) is

not

unproductive.

Rather, the constant invitation to serve others over doing what I want is planting seeds for something even greater.

Dying to myself now is not a waste; it will, in fact, be creatively beneficial later.

The infertility I feel in my creative life is necessary for many reasons, not the least of which is to kill my ego.

No, this lack of time to create and be creative is not "unproductive" at all.

This death to self is actually a way to tend my writer's soil, strip it down, and till it so that when the time to work presents itself, the words will be ready to grow.

Though it may not right now, my writer's garden will one day be bountiful; For now, I'm planting a different kind of harvest.