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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Working, Parenting and Following Your Passion

My kids were home all last week for spring break, which just happened to be the week after I received notes from my agent on my second book and notes from my editor on my first book. With deadlines looming and a stir-crazy eight year old - thanks to lousy weather that kept her inside most of the week – and a thirteen year old begging me to feed him McDonalds and take him to Blockbuster every day, I couldn’t wait for a routine week. I thought many times, how in the world do stay-at-home parents stay home with their kids and still manage to write? Or refrain from running away to Mexico?

Yet, as I was getting ready for work Monday, I realized this whole writing and being a parent thing is hard if you work outside the home, too. I’m very fortunate in my job, so I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Far from it. I work three days a week outside of the home, which leaves me two days during the week without anyone except the dog to interrupt me, but that still isn’t enough some weeks. So, how do you work a job, parent your children and write? For that matter, how do you work, parent children and do anything besides working and parenting?

There are lots of great tips out there on how to be organized to make things run smoothly and make your life sparkly-great so there is no need for Calgon-Take-Me-Away days. You won’t read any of those here. Instead, I’m making a list of things you may have never considered.

Samantha's fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants tips for working, parenting and following your passion:

1. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

TELEVISION: I gave up television for the most part. There are some shows I watch on occasion with my daughter, but otherwise I don’t care. I don’t miss TV, but there are times I stare dumbly at people when they’re discussing the latest shows.

SLEEP: I’ve also given up adequate sleep, but sleep is overrated, as is the ability to concentrate and not bump into things. (Come to think of it, maybe the dumb stares can be traced back to sleep deprivation rather than shunning the latest television shows.) But really, who needs to remember their children’s ages when strangers ask? They are just being polite. You could say 102! What do they care?

2. Lowering your standards isn’t all bad.

HOUSE CLEANING: Hey! My kids are wicked healthy thanks to adequate exposure to germs. I mean, it’s not like I feed them dirt, but a little messiness isn’t going to make them sick. In fact, my son wishes he could be sick and stay home from school almost every day, but he rarely is.

DINNER: Meals don’t have to be a complicated affair. There is nothing wrong with serving raw vegetables, fruit and buttered bread with a main course. And sometimes pizza delivery is a lifesaver. Just tip the driver well. Gas prices are outrageous! (Which reminds me of a deal one of the pizza chains offers for a free delivery program where you get your pizza in two days! LOL! I’m hoping that is a typo. I’ll stick to the old method of paying $1.25 to get my pizza today, thanks.)

3. Don’t be afraid to play hardball with the school nurse or your kid.

MALINGERING: The first two times the school nurse called to suggest I pick up my son from school because he didn’t “feel well” I grilled her on his symptoms. Sorry, but not feeling well is too vague. I wasn’t going to rearrange my entire work day to pick up a child who says he doesn’t feel well and wants to stay home from school every weekday only to have a miraculous recovery on the weekend and a recurrence starting around bedtime on Sunday evening. By the third call, the school nurse was prepared, and presented a good case for me to come get him. Now we just need to work on her accepting that twenty minutes is a reasonable time to come pick up my child. We might get there before he moves on to high school.

INDEPENDENCE: Making your kids help clean the house or make their own sandwich doesn’t violate any child labor laws. I checked. (Just kidding.) But it is okay for them to contribute to the well being of their family and to learn to take care of themselves. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you don’t cater to them all the time. Because even if you treat them as royalty, it doesn’t mean anyone else will. And that’s just setting the kid up for disappointment and a disgruntled spouse.

4. Keep a sense of humor. When you’ve heard your child yell “Mom” so many times in a day that you answer your cat’s meow, you have to laugh. Just don’t tell anyone why you’re laughing.

5. Count your blessings. I have many in my life, but two of my greatest blessings are sleeping snugly in their beds as I write this blog, secure in the knowledge they are loved. No matter how tough the job, I would never give up being a parent.

If you’re a parent, what do you find the most challenging about parenting? What do you find most joyful about having children?


  1. Thanks for a good laugh, Samantha.

    My favorite thing about my kids is their sense of humor. They are hilarious and all the humor in my books comes from them.

  2. I agree, Clarissa. My kids are a great source of inspiration for humor. In fact, in my upcoming book the relationship between my hero and his younger sister is based on how my kids interact. I even borrowed a line from my son. :)

  3. Right now my biggest challenge is my almost four year old son. He won't sleep in his bed and he has been poking and pulling at me for hours! Ahhhhh LOL!
    I homeschool and help run our plumbing company, plus house work. I used to write, scrapbook and make jewelry. Now I facebook as my hobby LOL. I miss having passion! My house is usually really clean on Sundays, but the rest of the week is hit and miss. My kids have chores everyday, I think that is my saving grace. I'm grateful but missing something. I don't know where I can find anymore time.

  4. Mistifaery,

    You have so much going on! I can't imagine doing all that AND homeschooling. You have my admiration, especially because I know how positive you are even when things are tough. I think the lack of sleep and constant poking and pulling - my daughter was the same way - can make a mom want to pull out her hair.

    Things do get easier once the kids are older, thank goodness. But in the meantime, you need some time for yourself. When my kids were little, we couldn't afford a sitter, so I traded babysitting with a friend. In fact, we still do that where either she or I will have all the kids while the other gets a break. Thankfully, they keep each other entertained, which makes it easier, too. Overnights are the best!

  5. Right now the most challenging thing about them is being a SAHM (haven't found a job since moving/giving birth) and exclusively breastfeeding my newborn twin girls (over a month old now - woot!) while not completely neglecting my five year old.

    The most joyful - seeing a smile on my boy's face and anticipating when something I do will actually bring a smile/giggle to my little girls.

  6. Tory,

    Congratulations on the birth of your daughters! Wow. You have your hands full. I have a feeling that by the end of the day I'm going to be feeling pretty inadequate as a parent. LOL!

    I agree with you. Is there anything more heartwarming than a smile for your child? I wish you and your family many, many smiles through the years. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us today.

  7. People are always stunned when I say that we're done having children, but as I sit here at 12 in the afternoon, I'm already contemplating which alcoholic beverage I'm going to have at lunch today. Having a 16-month-old is the greatest challenge of my life, and trying to get anything else done presents an even bigger challenge. I keep my sanity (sort of) by having a nanny two days a week and by dropping her off at the gym daycare a couple hours a day. But she's a handful, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. But my rewards come in the form of semi-toothy smiles and giggles, wet kisses and quiet renditions of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

  8. I've got two little kids under three, often watch a third, plus I've got a freelance business writing job (part-time that I do from home during...nap time?). We have a really big gate across the family room, so if the kids are happy, I can type on one side and still talk to them, be in the same room, etc while they play. That's a lifesaver. Writing in little bursts is actually helpful -- when I have five minutes to write, I really write. I've been able to write a novel every year for the past three years this way...so it's possible! I'm actually a lot more productive now that I don't have time, and stepping away to play with my kids gives my brain time to think through the next scene, instead of just hitting my head against the desk. Thanks for making me feel better about my messy house. :)

  9. Jerrica,

    I completely understand what it is like to have an active child. My daughter is the same. I should post pictures of the things she has gotten into or done. The funniest was when she cut her hair and glued it to a hot wheels truck and put my lipstick on the grill. If we had her first, I don't know if we ever would have our sweet, laid-back son. But I tell you, she is a blast to have around. I wouldn't trade her just as I know you wouldn't trade B. :)

  10. Megan,

    I think there is something to be said for writing In bursts. I notice my most productive time of the day is about an hour before my son gets home from school. I love the gate idea for little ones.

    I recently read Stephen King's book on writing, and I love how he decided he wanted his family around him while he wrote. He moved his desk against a wall and brought in a couch and maybe a tv. He found he wanted his family to be part of his writing life.

    Thanks for stopping by today. :)

  11. So funny... you could have been writing about my life! Three day a week job: snap. Child care: snap. Messy house, no sleep and no TV: snap. "Mummy I don't want to go to nursery...": snap. Glad I'm not the only one!

  12. Charity Girl,

    I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one, too. I swear I befriend all the super organized moms. It's not great for the mommy self-esteem. :)