by Mary Allen
A Potpourri of Essays about the Family, the Home, and Parenting
"So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" Psalm 90:12
Q: I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I also freelance three days a week. Balancing parenting with my writing career is more difficult than I thought it would be. We do need the extra income, and we feel strongly that we’re to be the ones raising our three children. However, I’m verging on burn-out over here and can’t get a break for all the interruptions.
A: Tough question. Let’s explore your options and talk about priorities.
First, I commend you for trying your best at juggling all these hats! I know a little bit of what you are experiencing, as a home-schooling, writer-mom myself, yet probably have more leeway than you do when it comes to deadlines. So bear that in mind as you read my advice. Another confession: I have a terrible time getting everything done.
Four keys to staying sane while working at home:
Okay, now that I’ve rattled those off, let me commiserate with you. I know all about interruptions. There’s a particular pang that surfaces at regular intervals each day, always when the words are flowing like milk alongside fresh cookies. Somebody inevitably falls out a window, or screams as if they did, and creative flow is murdered then and there, about the time you realize those loud sirens are–gulp–pulling into your driveway.
Okay, maybe the pang is simply your child needing help with his homework, but the effect remains the same. In our case, story-world shattering.
Because life happens. What helps me, is to stop and remember that my first priority, after God and husband, is my children. Housework can pile up, I might need to say “no” to friends and volunteer activities more often than I’d like, and skimp on sleep to get my writing projects done. But these years of my children’s lives are irreplaceable. I believe if you keep your priorities lined up with what God sets forth in the Bible, He will make a way for all the other things. In His time, not necessarily ours. And it might mean cutting back where you can on expenses, in order to minimize the amount of income your family needs to get by.
It’s an amazing thing to ponder, this call to parenthood, especially when you’re in the career of creating art or literature, etc. Our life, and the lives of those around us have been painstakingly developed by the Master Craftsman. Imagine what thought and careful creativity went into us, His creation. The science behind our DNA alone is mind-boggling.
And Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.”
We are God’s hand-made creation, put here to make a difference on earth. Don’t you think He is watching us closely, wanting us to live up to our full potential? When you love what you do, it’s alive and thrilling and you hover over it in anticipation of what comes next.
I might see a pile of lumber in the yard and think it’s a mess that needs cleared away, while my husband sees a future deck and play area for the family. You might visit my home and wince at the pile of rocks behind our property. I see those rocks and envision outdoor fireplaces, rock ledges, and stone patios.
My point is that sometimes our viewpoints in life get a bit jaded. Burn-out occurs gradually. We need to rediscover our passion for the “life” God’s plotted out for us. We need to help our children discover their God-given light switch and be there to watch the brilliance unfold.
Sometimes you have to decide to engage. That’s how it was for me. Yes, it is a sacrifice, but the joy is there…a few chapters into the book.
A practical idea for your particular situation would be to set aside Saturdays for your writing. I’m assuming your husband could fill in the gaps with the children for this one day a week, or maybe you could hire a reputable sitter for a few hours of uninterrupted writing. I’ve noticed that two extra hours either at night or early in the morning make the difference for me. You could require your children to have a rest time each afternoon, whether to sleep or read or draw, as long as they give you ninety minutes to work. It does take dedication to find a happy medium. Another bit of advice I have for you, is not to fall into the trap of using TV and other electronic diversions as babysitters. I’ve been there and done that, and it’s not pretty. Almost three years ago, we weaned our entire family off of what we like to call, “the plug-in drugs” and consequently, they now self-entertain on a wonderfully creative level.
Good craftsmanship. We want it as writers, as parents, and we owe our pursuit of it to our Creator. But children don’t automatically become God-fearing adults. We can’t feed ourselves a diet of “world” and not deal with the side-effects.
We can’t pour our heart out in a Word Document and expect it to be a bestseller with no polishing!
So the next time you’re required to push away from the computer, the job, the NBA Playoffs, the book in your head…remember that it’s the interruptions that make our lives “ours”. We’ve been signed on this team and for good reason.
Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ponder on that. And while you’re at it, remember that Jesus sees in you a person worth dying for. We’ll never be the men and women God created us to be until we grasp onto that incredible love.
All in the process of becoming His Masterpiece…
Even if most of the time I’m just an apprentice with high aspirations!
Rejoicing in hope... Romans 12:12
About the Author: Mary Allen is a stay-at-home, homeschooling, country-loving mom. She makes her home in the mid-west amidst Border Collies, horses, cows, a horde of chickens, her beloved husband of 16 years and their three girls. She writes articles for several online publications, including her own website, Home-Steeped Hope.