Can I really be a mom and make a creative writing career work? I ask myself this question every day, typically more than once.
I recently took my kids to see Sing 2. I love a good musical–LOVE. So watching a musical with my children, accompanied by cute little characters reaching for big goals, was a dream. I laughed, I cried. I nudged my kids every few minutes. They sang and danced in their seats and spilled all the popcorn on the floor. It was everything I had hoped for.
But while I’ve always been a sap for characters overcoming internal struggles (in song form), I wasn’t prepared for how personally I would be affected by this movie; particularly by one small line.
There was a scene in the movie where a nasty wolf hotel owner said “Do you think the mommy pig can really get it done?” He was referring to the mom character Rosita (a pig), who was struggling at the time with her role as the leading character in an upcoming show.
You guys…listening to this made me feel like someone had stabbed me in the heart. I wish I was kidding, I’m not. I saw a doctor about it.
My chest hurt, my blood was boiling, my mind was racing–I was livid. Not that I thought this one moment was going to be the downfall of the character, or that the statement was really all that offensive, to begin with. But the words alone “Do you think the mommy pig can get it done?”–they cut me deeply.
Your ‘work worth’ after becoming a mom
How many of us, after becoming mothers, started questioning our abilities to work again? To chase our dreams or accomplish our goals? Or have a life outside of kid and family obligations?
Every time I’ve given birth, I could sense an immediate change in how my employers approached me. I was no longer as competent or capable, prone to mistakes and errors. Unreliable because at any moment I may prioritize my family over my job.
The sad thing is that even now, as a freelance writer with my own schedule, this toxic thought still lingers in my mind. When I fail to see an email, miss a typo, forget a deadline. If I’m not available when someone needs something right away. If I don’t carve out time for my personal writing, or when I let creative writing opportunities slip through my fingers
Self-doubt always creeps in first.
Can I really have a creative writing career as a mom?
My confidence in my ability to be a creative writing mom who works at home ebbs and flows. Some days, it’s a Hell yes! Other days it’s a Why do I try? Most days the answer is I think so?
Yet, despite the challenges and downfalls and sacrifices, there is never a time I utter No, I can’t. At least not anymore. It’s unproductive, uninspiring, and self-destructive. Most mostly, it’s really just a straight-up lie.
I’m not my biggest fan. I don’t support myself as much as I should or give myself the credit I deserve when I write something great. I don’t instill confidence in myself as fiercely as I do in others. But thankfully, I’m also very stubborn–I don’t enjoy giving up.
A creative writing career…my way.
I’ve dabbled in creative writing for decades, just to push it to the side for other (more acceptable) career opportunities. A year ago, I decided that giving up my writing goals was no longer an option. I may have to make sacrifices in my life and juggle more balls in the air, but my writing needed to be a priority. And if I could get creative with my tactics as well as my words, it was possible to make it work.
I’ve had to be more strict with my freelance clients about what I can take on. My creative writing deadlines are set in stone, not just suggestions. I don’t wait around anymore for my bigger projects to be finished before I publish. If I have smaller pieces to share, or need a break, I publish those suckers.
Some of the sacrifices have been hard. Starting any new entrepreneurial adventure comes with financial woes. Distraction-free time with my family has been hard to balance. I’ve had to reduce daycare hours and power through unpaid work with a toddler on my leg while searching daily for paid creative writing opportunities. Overall, I’d have to budget the crap out of my life. No more book sprees for a bit.
But it’s worth it to me. The more I focus on the steps needed to live the snag the creative writing career I want, the more I realize I’m not expecting too much. I can achieve these goals. They aren’t going to be easy, quick, or without chaos, but I can make a creative writing career as a mom a reality. It can be done.
Writing careers are emotional roller coasters
Creative writing careers are not for the faint of heart. Writers of all sorts understand that creativity is not always consistent or stable or fun. Sometimes it makes us manic, catatonic. It encourages us to question our life and purpose daily, even before the critics reach our ears.
Creatives also get a lot of backlash from other industries. The ‘starving artists’ or ‘dime a dozen’ insults get slung around when you tell others about your profession. When the value of your work cannot be matched by the dollar sign you pull in every month, it can feel as if you are failing.
Remember, your writing journey is unique. To you and the time you’re writing in. Your career is not going to look the same as your retired neighbor, with 20-year-old something kids, who writes about finances. It’s not going to mimic Kimmy K.’s carefree lifestyle down the road, who just found her first apartment and is taking the year off to write her first novel.
Even as a fellow Mom Who Writes, your writing career is not going to look like mine either. It may be similar but everyone has different factors in their lives that influence them. But what we can do is support one another as we all continue on these unique journeys together. Share our experiences, our knowledge, our failures. Sweep the path for those next to us so that we can all succeed.
Slow and steady wins the race
Can you really have a creative writing career as a mom? As a stay-at-home mom? As a working-at-home mom? As a mom who works outside of the home? Yep. You bet you can. But you have to start by believing it.
It’s a struggle, but every day I convince myself that I can have a fulfilling career as a creative writer while staying home with my kids. I can if I choose to shape it to my lifestyle and not to others’ expectations.
Did Rosita overcome her challenges? I’m not telling you, I’ll let you see for yourself. But what I will say is this mommy pig over here CAN get it done. It may take me way longer, and it may not be as organized or crisis-free. I might change my WIP ten times before committing to my first published work. But I assure you, when I do publish my book, it’s going to be a show stopper.
About the Writer: Shell Sherwood is a poet, fiction writer, freelancer, and creator of silly children’s stories, who could live on coffee, pastries, and romantic tragedies. She lives in Hudson Valley, NY with her fiancé and three boys, and aspires to own a small writing getaway in every climate. Shell is currently working on her debut poetry collection. Learn more about Shell and follow her writing journey via her author blog, Instagram, and TikTok.