Today’s blog is a guest blog by Julie Park Tracey, author of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen. We’re thrilled to have her with us and check back on Thursday for Charlie’s review of her book.
I’m a super mom. Urban farmer. Jam-maker. Home brewer. Knitter. Crafter. Home-schooler. I’ve raised five kids to almost adulthood (four are out the door but one 14-year-old boy is still in the nest). I’ve been digging a garden for 20-plus years, breastfeeding and using cloth diapers way before y’all hipster moms were even out of diapers, recycling before the cities we lived in had recycling programs (what a pain that was), and composting, too. I made bread every single week by hand, before breadmakers came on the scene. I made kids’ Halloween costumes, collected books at the library used book sale for our homeschooling library, and took in extra kids as unofficial fosters along the way. Chickens? Yep. Line-drying the laundry? Of course. Couponing? Are you kidding – with seven mouths to feed?
Done it all.
But. I’m also a writer. Not just the occasional rhyming poem for the church newsletter. No, a real serious writer with a couple of degrees and regular publication in the local newspaper and rarely read literary zines and a couple of books to my name.
And balancing these two things has been a problem, a hairy, scary challenge, for years. Give the very best of me to my family, and scrape what’s left over for myself? That didn’t quite work. OK, then, the best of me for my art and craft, and the family can just lump it? That didn’t work too well, either. (Hint – family doesn’t like it.) It took me a long, and sometimes very painful, time to figure out how to balance these competing needs.
When the kids were really young, I counted on naptime to get a little of my writing done. I wrote a little before bedtime and if I could get up before everyone else, then that precious half-hour in the morning was a good time for Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way book). I might not get it done every day, but a couple of times a week was better than nothing. I also wrote a lot of letters in those days, which was as good an outlet as anything else for sharing stories, ideas, pictures and recipes (this was before social media).
When the kids were older, we homeschooled for a while, and although not every child was still napping by then, I insisted on an hour (two, if I could get it) of Quiet Time after lunch every day. So 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. became the time I got out my journal or notebook.
Our homeschooling days came to an end when our eldest decided she wanted the social life of elementary and middle school. The younger ones went into kindergarten and preschool. At the same time I went back to school to get my master’s in English and creative writing, and for about three years, I worked homework into the mix – at the table, together, and on the days I didn’t have school, when they were gone. When it was time to pick up from school, I was all theirs. We did Girl Scouts and catechism and took hikes and went to the library. But when they were in school, oh, blessed quiet house, where I could write!
Much later (a divorce, single parenting and remarriage with stepkids filed in these years), I found myself in a similar place. I had more, younger kids again, who needed mothering and whose many issues took an unbelievable emotional toll on all of us. I fell into bed too exhausted to read a book, much less write one. But a healthy household with strong values (taking care of the planet and each other, good food, a lot of sharing, saving money where we could) turned into blog posts. Blogging in between the many chores and activities became easier to do as the Internet seeped into every corner of our lives. Email took the place of letter-writing. Eventually, MySpace and Facebook and Pinterest also made an appearance, moved in and stayed for a while.
It was Facebook that made me write my current book. My beloved great-aunt Doris had passed away, and I inherited a box of letters, papers, and, it came to pass, diaries from as early as 1925. I began posting snippets from the diaries on my Facebook page, and had such a delighted response from my friends that I started a page for Doris (Facebook/The Doris Diaries) and a Twitter feed (@TheDorisDiaries). As time went on and followers increased, it became clear that a book was growing before my eyes. The first volume of The Doris Diaries is out now, and a second volume is underway, and it is really a matter of a half hour (or less) in the morning, of transcribing a page or two, copying it to HootSuite and allowing the magic of technology post for me during the day.
The rest of the time? I’ve still got my laundry and ironing, meals for just three of us (though the daughters drop in regularly), exercise and, with the holidays coming, I have some handmade goodies to craft.
It’s not impossible to balance family and an artistic calling. It’s also not easy. It takes patience (the ingredient I was given the least of back in the womb). My advice (free, today only!) is to be kind to yourself and give yourself what you need most – a nap, a few minutes of alone time (in the bathroom, if necessary), the right kind of pen or paintbrush, a cup of tea when you need one.
You’ll get there, somehow. I promise.
Are you an artist, writer, musician or crafter, trying to balance your family’s needs with your own creativity? How do you make it work? Sound off in the comments.
Julia Park Tracey is the author of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (available on Amazon or your local book store). Follow her on Facebook and visit www.thedorisdiaries.com.
I have definitely been having trouble balancing my family’s needs and my duties with my “me time,” but I have a 6 week old baby, so it is to be expected, I think. I, too, write, and I have been dying to finish a screenplay I’m working on, but I just can’t seem to do it lately. This blog is the one thing I’m hanging onto, and making sure that I get to do as my bare minimum, the one thing that’s just for me right now. I’m barely making it, but I’m still getting my posts written. It’s a great creative outlet for me, and I know that soon I’ll be able to carve out more time for myself, and I plan to take full advantage of it. Well, now that I am officially 6 weeks post-partum, I am also going to start exercising. My husband knows how important both things are to me, so luckily I have his full support. I can’t wait to check out I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do!
Yes! I always say I can be a good mom, wife, friend, employee… but not on the same day! Add in trying to carve out time for myself and sometimes it seems the day to day necessties are too distracting. You’d think that since my kids are so much older it would be easier, but I feel like the pace of everything just went up—-I can sneak away for coffee by myself though!
I’m so glad to have you posting and to be able to get to “know” you via Facebook. I love me some Doris Diaries (more on that when I post my review). I have always been very protective of having time for myself because no one is happy if I don’t! I am working on a short story that is becoming less short by the minute but haven’t had much time to work on it. I plan on taking a vacation for a week and spend 5-6 hours writing. You have to make it work or it won’t!