As two working moms, my friend, Nicole and I always felt that spending time on a side hustle would warrant extra time. Raising our kids in a town where pretending to be perfect seems like a pastime, we wanted to break away and spend time on a passion. However, every time we tried, we both secretly fell prey to putting most of our mom muscles towards the six kids between us. We both put “writing a book” on the imaginary “to-do” list in our minds. Something that we could do when all of the kids were gone and when we weren’t so busy with our jobs as well as our writing gigs that we both had on the side.
But when an idea came up over coffee one day, Nicole suggested we start writing a fiction book together. I was wary and told her I didn’t have the time or the know-how. Thankfully she convinced me to try and we found ourselves running to our laptops whenever we had a spare moment, fueled by our passion for the project. We barely noticed that we no longer looked at social media or watched television. Before we knew it we had written 1,000, then 2,000, then 3,000 words during these undiscovered “pockets of time.”
As the project became all-consuming we spent time talking on the sidelines of baseball games, meeting at night after all the children had been dropped home from their various activities, leaning on our husbands a little bit more to help, and sometimes not always being as attentive as we could be. We both laughed when we shared that both sets of children were growing accustomed to not bothering us while we were on the phone brainstorming or on our laptops writing. And yes, the laundry sometimes didn’t get done. And dinner wasn’t always the best. But in three months we finished getting our story down on paper. And then the real work began. We had to put in a lot of hours attempting to find an agent and work on editing the book.
We both loved writing initially, but could only justify it when it was labeled work and connected to a paycheck from Military Spouse Magazine or Martha Stewart Wedding. To just take time to try and write a novel seemed frivolous, and to take even more time away from our kids to travel to New York City to a writer’s conference and pitch agents seemed impossible. Nevertheless, we believed in ourselves and our vision and we did it. Our mom-guilt kicked in a little bit, so we didn’t commit to the entire conference; we went to one day of a three-day event, and that was okay. We knew if everything worked out that we could attend the whole conference someday, but we needed to show our kids that we believed in ourselves and trust they would be okay one day without us. After two years, our kids ended up being proud when we got a book deal with one of the agents we’d met at the conference we went to in New York.
We remember wanting this outcome before it actually happened, but feared it would make us imperfect mothers. Nicole said, “I really want to become a fiction writer, but I don’t love the idea of leaving to do a book tour.” I had the same fears; and I would often have to reschedule saying, “I know we had scheduled to work on our book tonight, but my daughter has a concert, or my son needs help with a project and that feels like the priority.” And we would always understand each other when life got in the way, as our children and husbands would always come first. When one of us is overwhelmed, the other cheers them on and vice versa. We realized the key ingredient to our author's success is forgetting mom perfection without completely abandoning our families, we are still working on it, but balance is key.
We don’t meet every day from nine to five. We both worked and brainstormed our first fiction book plot on speakerphone while scrubbing the grass stains out of our boys’ white baseball pants. We practiced their book pitch on the side of our boys’ baseball field and edited our book at a neighborhood Starbucks when our homes had lost power and we had no Wi-Fi. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun to find unexpected moments in our already filled lives.
We decided it’s okay to forgo a gourmet dinner and serve tomato soup and grilled cheese and write a few pages. We learned that “forgetting perfection” is a muscle that gets stronger with patience and practice. Sometimes assessing little stress-inducing hiccups and solving them with an investment mindset frees up more mom “me time.” We found that we don’t need to make our children a water bottle before their game, they can do it themselves! We don’t have to wake up our children, old-school alarm clocks will do it for us! We don’t have to make their lunch and serve it to them, if they are hungry they will figure it out! We learned that sometimes when everyone’s underwear is dirty and you don’t have time to get the laundry done, order new underwear on Amazon Prime! It might seem like five extra minutes of waking your teenager up or making him a water bottle won’t yield actual time but solving mom puzzles yields more bandwidth to be creative.
While we have let go of a lot of our strive for parenting perfection, there are certain things that won’t change. We both spend a lot of time on sports fields, and we try to maximize what time we do have with our children when we are with them. Especially now that we have begun writing our third book and travel, research and lots of meetings are on the table in addition to our writing schedule.
In the end our hope is that when all is said and done our kids won’t say “Remember when Mom stopped making our lunch?” or “Remember when Mom didn’t do laundry for a week?” But they will say “Remember when mom followed her dreams, and became a published author.”