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Write On! Features: The Rantings Of A Writing Mother by Natalie Campbell

By Natalie Campbell

She sat peacefully at her desk, pen in hand, and poured her ideas onto the page as the baby slept soundly beside her. When he stirred, she gently rocked him back to sleep with her perfectly manicured toes. After a good stint of writing was accomplished, the baby awoke with a smile. She put him on her hip as she skipped through the house and into the kitchen to taste the dinner which was simmering joyfully in the slow cooker. Setting baby back to sleep, she got another chunk of writing done before pegging her re-useable nappies on the line and greeting her husband at the door with a kiss and a plate of freshly baked cookies.

How many writing mums (or mums to be) would see the above paragraph as a wonderfully impossible combination of juggling motherhood and writing? For me, it didn’t take many steps down the road of motherhood to realise what a ridiculous notion this was. My reality was post-natal depression, being up to my armpits in pooey, reusable nappies, and a baby with an explosive temper who seemed to enjoy coming up with new ways of trying to kill himself, and with another baby on the way. Dreams of signing books with one hand while holding said baby with the other were scorned off my mental stage. It seemed as though, when motherhood began, my ambitions ended. ‘Mum’ became my identity, and writing fell out of reach. This loss fed into said depression, which wasn’t helped by a tangible change in the attitudes of the people around me:

“So, what do you do?”

“I’m a stay-at-home mum.”

“Oh.” (Awkward silence.)

Why is being a mum a job that’s largely disregarded, or seen as unimportant? When a stay-at-home mum is asked what she does, why does she feel the need to say that she is ‘just’ a mum. There is no ‘just’ about being a mum. Maybe she’s not marching about some penthouse office ordering her workforce around, but she is raising the next generation, for goodness’ sake!

Motherhood can be hard-hitting. But, as we walk its unique paths up many a mountain and through uncountable valleys, we are changed. Motherhood stretches a woman, and in that stretch, she’s strengthened and somehow deepened; there’s nothing like a prolonged struggle to refine the character! These experiences make us better versions of ourselves, sharpening our perspectives and making us better writers. Alongside this, motherhood brings plenty of writing material. Children can be hilarious. Going to baby groups, meeting new people and the experience of watching another human being grow can spark all kinds of ideas. Though the frustrating part is that, what with juggling homework, making dinner and ensuring there’s  enough money to pay the bills, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to write them down.

Although both parents bear the responsibility of raising their children equally, it seems that, in many cases, being a mother also means being the sole carer of the home. This made sense in the days when women had the privilege of being able to stay at home without crippling financial pressures. Unfortunately, though, as times have changed and mothers now have to work to make ends meet, this attitude of her being the sole homemaker has not. This has created an unfair workload for women and they often find themselves working far longer hours than their male counterparts. Often, they come home from work only to pick up where they left off with the chores. Essentially, many women are working two full-time jobs and the potential for writing grows ever more distant.

Joyce Meyer gave an illustration that went something like this:

A man and a woman were sitting on the sofa. The woman said, “I’m tired, I think I’ll go to bed.” So she got up, watered the plants, took the next day’s dinner out of the freezer, made the kids packed lunches, filled in a school form and put it into an envelope with the correct money, took the laundry off the airer and folded it, changed the bedding, tidied her husband’s clothes off the bedroom floor, took the empty loo roll of the holder and put a new one on, made a note to get more loo roll, got showered, took her makeup off, moisturised her whole body, read a page of her book and fell asleep in it. Sometime later the man said, “I’m tired, I think I’ll go to bed.” So he went upstairs, threw his clothes on the floor and went to bed!

Mothers are extraordinary creatures. The amount they can achieve in a day defies logic. Attitudes within society have at times been unfair towards women but, rather than being beaten down, they’ve risen to the challenge and grown strong. On top of this, once the woman becomes a mother, it seems that a superhuman gene is activated and she goes to the next level, propelled by her love for her family.

The average mum will develop skills around (but not limited to) managing accounts, mediation, motivation, event organising, fitness (because woe betide the woman who doesn’t always look perfect), networking, administration, cleaning, being a personal assistant, working under pressure, medical research, taxi driving, working nights, cooking, stocktaking, counselling, conflict management, extreme multi-tasking, holiday planning, problem-solving and an ability to cram so much laundry on an airer that breaks the laws of physics. But the most impressive part is that these things are all elements of the same job. What other job description is so ridiculously varied or 24:7? If this were a paid role, we’d be earning millions!

If we can adapt so much for our families, perhaps we can adapt a bit more to include some writing in our day. In my time as a mother, both single and now married, here are some things I’ve learned in managing a life which is busy at best, and downright ridiculous at its worst.

It’s likely we already know these things, but we all need reminders from time to time. Just writing them down is reminding and refocusing me. This list will not suit everyone as people’s lives are varied. But, if just one person is able to get writing through this, I’ll be satisfied:

  1. Set a goal

Not exactly a plot twist, I know, but sometimes all it takes to get writing is a decision to commit. Set a goal that realistically fits with your own availability. It could be as little as ten minutes a day. During a difficult and busy season of my life, I was able to start a daily fitness routine by beginning small; the routine literally took five minutes to complete. Because it was achievable, I stuck to it and it became a habit. Gradually, as time and my strength allowed, I added to it. This can also be applied to writing. Commit to ten minutes a day and make it a priority. Even if you’re interrupted constantly, just keep on setting the timer every day and doing your ten minutes. Eventually, as life begins to calm, there will come more time. When this happens, you’ll have a foundational habit in place from which you can springboard into literary greatness!

  1. Plan

A plan will keep you on course and prevent you from overloading your day with tasks that are not important. Remember, not everything needs to be done today; the list will never end, so there’s no point in killing yourself trying to finish it. Make a daily or weekly plan and ensure you include a writing slot. Don’t get frustrated if the plan doesn’t work out (which often happens): just make a new plan and start again.

  1. Reflect

Reflection is a powerful tool for a writer. It enables a person to process their experiences, which can spark ideas. It also helps them to understand themselves, which provides depth in character development. Keeping a diary is an excellent way to action this and provides documentation of your experiences, which can be returned to later. If possible, plan reflection time into the end of your day.

  1. Take ‘We time’

Stories are usually propelled by interactions between characters, so making sure you have plenty of interactions with friends will ensure you’re never short of material. If you work from home, or don’t tend to see many people, factoring in some social time once or twice a week should prove beneficial – not to mention it’s great for your mental health.

  1. Self-care

It’s easy to get overwhelmed amid the never-ending responsibilities and ever-growing to-do list and it can be difficult to write when stuck in this mental state. Allow yourself a break; the housework can wait! No one ever died because the washing-up wasn’t done. We need to listen to our bodies and know when they’ve had enough; not just take an energy drink and try to keep going. Factor in some downtime when you’re planning. A day off a week, if possible. Get help if you’re struggling; even if you don’t think you need it, counselling gives a deeper understanding of the human condition and will enable you to add more depth to your characters.

Some people are of the attitude that women are weak and try to make us accept this belief. But, we women are strong and are doing important work, with mothers as the glue holding their families together. They work long and hard, pouring their hearts into what they do for little or no reward or recognition. This is actually a technique the SAS use to weed out the weaklings. They work their recruits incredibly hard and give them no positive feedback whatsoever. It’s a test of mental strength. We do it every day! There are seasons in our lives where we have to put our own priorities second, as the demands of family life crowd them out, but it is just a season. Hold on to that. Carve out a little time in your day to write and start developing a strong writing habit.

Women, you’re amazing. You’re beautiful, strong and capable and are often unseen and unappreciated. Let me appreciate you now: you’re doing great! The work you’re doing  matters. You are serving and strengthening your family, and that’s priceless. Be proud of what you are. Women, mothers, writers, I salute you!


Issue 17 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here.

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If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for ​information, advice and support​:

It seemed that when motherhood began, my ambitions came to an end. ‘Mum’ became my identity, and writing fell out of reach.