Write It Sideways

The Dilemma of The Mother Writer

Today’s post is written by Christi Craig, a finalist in The First Ever Write It Sideways Blogging Contest. Thanks, Christi!

I love it when my kids get hold of my camera.

Really.

Their photos serve as a study of daily life, and, for a brief moment in time, I see the world through their eyes. They capture a blurred vision of me in the kitchen. They frame a face peering through a doorway. There’s perspective in a view from the top of the stairs. And, I wonder if they comprehend the tension built into an image where a checkbook sits on top of a pile of scattered mail.

Always, their photos hint at some deeper meaning.

When I flipped through pictures that my four year old daughter took recently, I saw a heartbreaking pattern: me, wearing reading glasses while I worked on my laptop; me, at the island in the kitchen typing away on my laptop; me, serving as backdrop behind a portrait of her doll, sporting my laptop. It was a painful truth and a testament to the life of a mother writer. I am always stealing time to write.

Sayantani DasGupta, in her essay, On Being a Woman Writer: An Open Letter to Virginia Woolf, (published in Literary Mama) speaks eloquently of the struggles we face as mothers who write:

I have to write quickly, Virginia, before these pebbles I have been rolling around in my mouth all day, repeating and reciting and reforming, lose their nuance and their groove, and smooth over, becoming blank faced and heavy. By tomorrow these words will become inarticulate stones in my pockets…so that I will snap unnecessarily at my children, break my own rules about junk food snacking to keep them quiet, and most shockingly, turn on the television just because they ask, as I desperately scribble…[on]…anything I can find….”

Maintaining a delicate balance between life as a mother and life as a writer remains a constant battle, but I refuse to give up on one life or the other. As a mother, I can’t; as a writer I won’t. What’s left is a mixture of days when I’m either distracted by projects and spend too much time at the screen, or when I let go of writing all together and then anguish over the fact that no words ended up on a page. Whatever the case, I am reminded that any time spent writing is precious and must be spent wisely.

Every time I sit in limbo between Mother and Writer, I remember the reasons I choose to be both: to record my children’s history, to keep my sanity for my children’s sake, to honor my creative self so that my children will honor theirs. I don’t want my laptop to take precedence, but I also don’t want to be the parent who mutters “some day. Maybe.” Writing is a part of my daily life, as are my children. And, what they see, what I see through them, keeps both sides of me in check.

Christi Craig lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two children. She is a sign language interpreter and a writer. Her work has been published online and in print, and she was recently featured on Lisa Cron’s blog, Wired for Story (Writing Groups: From Pass the Prozac to Eureka!). In April 2010, she was chosen as a Finalist in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Contest. You can follow her on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, and catch up with her at her blog, Writing Under Pressure.