Dear Authors Who Are Moms,
Since you're either going to be too busy to read this or will only be able to read it in short snippets between interruptions and chaos, I'm going to lay it all out there for you.
You are amazing.
And yes, you can smile as you read that through the splatter of unknown substance currently residing on your screen.
I'd say I don't know how you do it, but I'm doing it myself right now. Actually, I don't know how I'm doing it either.
We must be crazy. Or running on two hours of sleep and only one cup of coffee so far. Or both.
As authors, self-published or traditionally published, we give ourselves deadlines. Have the first chapter done by Friday. Have the ending finished by the end of the month. Send off to the editor by Christmas. Ready to publish in a year.
Most authors don't have a problem meeting all their deadlines. But most authors aren't moms as well. Stay-At-Home-Moms to be exact. Writing isn't your job. Writing is something you'd like to be your job, if you can ever find the time to actually write between diaper changes, spills, and nose wiping. Being a parent is your job.
And a hell of a job it is.
Most people don't appreciate what it is, exactly, that you do.
Perhaps you get up before 5 a.m. Just to try and squeeze something in before your children wake up, because once they wake up, you'll have no time. Maybe you're squeezing in a morning workout, doing some dishes, picking up the toys that you left lying on the floor from last night. Maybe you're really lucky, and you're on your laptop or computer, trying to pump out a few thousand words.
Then, the kids wake up.
Parents that work early enough to miss out on this daily ritual, like my husband, have no idea how lucky they are. We'll just focus on the moms who have school aged kids, even if only some of their kids are in school, for now. You have two options for how your kids proceed here. You either have the child that wakes up and is raring to go at the slightest noise, or you have the child that literally has to be dragged out of their beds, still half-asleep and looking like something straight out of the Walking Dead, a lot later than you intended for them to get up. I have one of each.
Then there's the breakfast ritual. You know by now, to have a million different options for your child in the morning because you KNOW they'll pick something different every day. And whatever you happen to be out of on any given day is exactly what they HAD to have for breakfast. And if you have more than one child, don't bank on them making it easy and picking the same thing to eat. That hardly ever happens. And if it does, you better go buy a scratch-off lottery ticket, because it's your lucky day.
After breakfast comes getting ready for school. This ritual can be its own version of hell. I used to think that girls would always be harder than boys. And for a few years, while my kids were young, that was true. But now my son has hit the pre-pubescent age of 11 and has become stubbornly picky about what he wears to school. Then there's my daughter. Six years old and a total tomboy but that doesn't stop her from being a total diva about her clothes too. So now mom has gone through a few outfits between each kids. Requested (or forced, depending on the day) their children to brush their teeth and hair (and if you have a girl, the hair brushing is a whole other ball game), get on their shoes and make sure their backpacks are ready to go.
Now comes the surprise rituals. Your older child has homework that didn't get done last night! Oops! Between cooking dinner, bath time, dishes, laundry, chasing the pet around the house while it chewed on your favorite pair of shoes, dance class or football practice, and god knows what else that normally comes up in an average mom-night, you completely forgot to check for homework. Now you have T- minus ten minutes before your kid is supposed to be at the bus-stop/school.
Or, there's the gem of: "I want cold lunch today." I'll stop here and give an extra special shout-out to all the moms who pack lunches for their children every day. You are extra-awesome. I can barely figure out what I'm going to cook for dinner every night, let alone pack a nutritious, well-balanced but delicious, lunch for my two kids, every day. I think I'd have a mental breakdown on a weekly basis if I even attempted it. Usually, which in mom-speak, means: if I remember (also highly unlikely), we go through the school's lunch menu at the beginning of the week and figure out who wants cold or hot lunch for that week. But sometimes (meaning: quite often) those cold lunch days, just sneak up on us! Which means you now have T-minus 1 minute until school. So now you're frantically trying to pack a last-minute lunch with the remaining groceries you have in your house, since you haven't had the time to go grocery shopping yet either.
Now it's the race to get to school on time. Maybe you caught the bus right as it was preparing to pull away and pull in front of it to stop it like some crazed cop chasing down a convict. Possibly you hit the school parking lot seconds before the tardy bell rings. Perhaps you completely missed the bus and now have to drive your child to the next town over to take them to school. Regardless of how they get there, now you can relax and write, yes?
You see most of us stay-at-home moms have other children that aren't school aged yet, which means our day has only just begun. Sometimes, like me, you've received an extra-crazy gene and have decided to provide childcare for other parents, since you're staying at home anyway. Either way, you have no relaxing writing time in your near future. You are now changing diapers, catching toys being thrown, turning on Doc McStuffins for the millionth time, doing dishes, making mad dashes to the potty, kissing boo-boos, making snacks and lunch, taking field-trips, reading stories, and so on, and so on. The day is never ending.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll be lucky enough to score nap time after lunch. IF you can get all the kids put down at the same time. If you're so lucky, you'll possibly have the housework caught up, or at least fairly managed enough to sit down and crack open your laptop. Usually, this is when your luck will run out and your computer will have a half hour long update, the washer will go berserk and scare the crap out of your kids resulting in a half hour of crying, a train will go by, waking up your lighter sleepers with no chance of returning to sleep, the FedEx man will show up and knock on the door, the phone will ring, the dog will barf up half your shoe, the cat will get outside, a thunderstorm will roll through knocking the power out... You name it and it has probably happened to you.
If you get some writing time in, it's usually cut short by kids waking up, or the fact that it's time to pick up the older kids from school already. Once school is over you'll have another mad dash for snacks, maybe some homework, maybe playing peacekeeper between at least half of your children. Then there's realizing you forgot to get anything out of the freezer for dinner, or getting everybody ready for football, or dance, or piano lessons, or whatever else you thought would be a good idea to add to your schedule. The half-second mental break when you realize, not for the first time, that hindsight really is 20/20. Bath time, story time, more homework time and FINALLY, you make it to bedtime. Which in itself is usually a battle. But then they're finally asleep and you have an hour, maybe two, of exhausted, near-comatose, alone time.
But there's still the laundry and dishes, the pets, the hubby wanting some 'mommy and daddy' time, and that 5000 word quota you made for yourself. You might get a few of them checked off the list. You might put a few off until tomorrow. If you're really lucky (and willing to sacrifice a few hours sleep that you'll surely regret tomorrow), you'll get them all squeezed in.
Now look back on the day you just had. Multiply that 5 days for the school-week. Add two even crazier days for the weekend when everyone is home. Don't even attempt to get anything done on school breaks when your kids are home 24/7 (and attempting to kill each other every few hours).
And still, through all that chaos, you've managed to finish that chapter, or the book, or send it off to the editor, or hit the 'publish' button. All while being a mom.
You are crazy.
You are crazy awesome.
And you just might have the best jobs in the world.
The one who wanted to walk a mile in your shoes and is currently on a Forest Gump-esque cross-country run.