People often ask me how I am a mother of eight children and also a writer.
Last weekend, I got to meet lots of writers. Lots of them women. I sat at a table with four people--the head editor at Covenant Communications, her husband, and two younger women who were (as yet unpublished, but clearly, talented and motivated) writers. I didn't know anybody in the room, at least, not personally (a few I have communicated with online) because I have never been to a writer conference. In my life.
This particular group, LDS Storymakers, is made up of those who write LDS fiction, but also those who are LDS who write general fiction. Brandon Sanderson was there.
I told these girls, who I had never met, that I'd never gone to a writer conference before because I keep having babies. And immediately they nodded, and one kind of rolled her eyes and said, "yeah, a lot of our sessions this conference were interrupted by crying babies." And the other said, "I mostly felt sorry for them, because they paid to go, and they're not getting anything out of it." And the first replied, "Yeah. Babies are more important. They should come first."
It was interesting... here I was, sitting at a table with them, holding my baby at this fancy dinner where I had won an award for my writing. And here they were saying things about how babies should come first and it made me think. Is my baby coming first?
Well, yeah. He was there with me. He was seeing everything I was seeing, enjoying everything I was enjoying (arguably even the food, since he gets that secondhand.) (Haha. Sorry if that grossed you out.)
Does being a writer mean I'm putting my children second?
Quite often, this is the sight I see while I am plugging away in the morning, trying to get 2000 words in.
Do you see the edge of my laptop, there?
My babies learn to nurse while I am also typing. My kids learn to wait about ten seconds after they ask a question for me to set the laptop aside (temporarily) and answer it. They learn to be quiet upstairs during a key two hours of the morning. They can be there, they just have to be quiet. Loud means go outside. Fresh air is good for kids.
I don't just type at the exclusion of my family. I will type, and answer a question, type and help with a math problem, type and take a break to change a baby's diaper. Type and take a moment to lean back, stretch, sigh and ask for a hug.
Then I finish, put the laptop away (unless I'm also writing a quick blog) (like right now) and focus on tasks like cleaning, cuddling with my toddlers, making meals. And driving people places.
At this particular conference, two mothers were honored. One came to the front leaning on a cane, hugely pregnant, clearly exhausted. She talked about how, after she signed a contract with Deseret Book for her second novel, her husband was immediately called as Bishop, and her kids were put in Year-Round school. She talked about how she struggled, and thought about the ramifications of breaking her contract. And how, in the end, she prayed, and asked for help. And Got it. Heavenly Father blessed her endeavor because it was worthy of blessing. Therefore, consecrated. Therefore, acceptable in His sight.
The other was Rachel Ann Nunes. You've heard of her, I'm sure. If you've read any LDS fiction at all you have. She has written dozens of books, and she stated, up at the pulpit, that many of them were written with a child on her lap. I am sure she's been criticized plenty of times in her life for putting her family "Second." In fact, she talked about it. I guess my question for those people (generally other women) who would criticize her would be, have you ever read a book by Julie Ann Nunes? Did you enjoy it? Did it contribute something to your life, or the life of your daughters?
One of the presenters talked about how many people (particularly mothers) might say, "I can do this later. I can do this when...." (the babies are older. The kids are in school. The kids are out of the house). But some just do it. And I think it is a personal choice... one that you pray about. I have often felt worried that I was sacrificing something I shouldn't be... that my books should be helping support our family, at least, if I am going to make this "sacrifice." I recieved some inspiration recently that has made me completely rethink that mindset... writing is a blessing. My writing blesses others, it blesses myself, and also blesses my family. My kids know who I am, and my daughters then form their own aspirations. They see me accomplishing goals and they know that they can do it, too.
And they are all writers. They see it as a normal part of life. My kids will sit down at a computer and spend hours typing stories. It amazes me to see, so directly, how my own example filters down into my kids.
I felt, watching these women speak, very proud to be able to count myself among those who have written novels with babies nursing and toddlers in their laps.
I am not the only crazy one. That picture above is my favorite sight in the world. Both of them.