Disclaimer: This post is for moms who want to be writers. Particularly married stay-at-home moms of young children. I speak to that experience because it is the only one I have ever had. If you are a working mom, or a single working mom, or a working woman who isn't a mom but hopes to be, or a working woman who isn't a mom and doesn't hope to be, or a man, congratulations! You have a totally different life experience than I do, and I will never understand what it is like to be you, but I can totally respect you regardless.
So: You want to be a writer. And maybe you wonder the same thing I get asked a lot, which is, "How did you balance two small kids with writing books and pursuing publication?"
The answer is: I'm completely unbalanced.
Ha ha. No, actually, that really is the answer. Because let's face it: you have enough to do. You have more than enough to do. You already have more to do in any given day that you can ever reasonably accomplish. Just listing out all the things you can/should/could do with your day today would probably take up more time than you will spend making dinner/cleaning/providing enriching activities for those developing minds/etc.
So it isn't about finding balance. You will never find balance. I certainly haven't. It is about finding the right combination of imbalances that works for you and your family.
Here is what I did.
I gave up sleeping. It was a huge, HUGE sacrifice for me to stop napping when my kids did and to be willing to stay up into the night. I was traumatized by prolonged and intense sleep deprivation. I'm not kidding. I wish I were. Oh, for the love of all that is good and well-rested, how I wish I were kidding. But I hit a point where writing was more important to me than getting extra sleep.
If you aren't willing to make that sacrifice yet, that's okay. Really. The writing will still be there when you have a few more years of sleep recovery under your belt.
I gave up socializing with anyone other than my husband. Please note that I did not abandon my relationship with my husband. This is a fine line to walk, and sometimes I cross over into neglect territory, but I try to be very aware of our relationship and to let him know that he is my priority, even when I have deadlines or shiny new ideas that are pulling me away. Same thing with your children. Nothing--nothing--is worth sacrificing your relationship with your family. It's easier to prioritize the kids (because they will demand it, naturally), but be very aware and diligent that you are not sidelining your husband/partner. They are your partner.
Friends? Well. I think most of them still like me, even though for years now I disappear for months at a time. If it was the choice between writing and a girls' night out, I almost always chose writing. I am a bad friend. I know it, they know it. I try not to feel guilty about it. Sometimes it sucks having no social life, but hey, that's what imaginary friends are for.
Again, it comes down to priorities: would you rather escape for one evening a week with your friends, or would you rather have that time to get in a few thousand more words? If the first option: that's okay. Really! If the second option: You are ready to do this like it demands to be done.
My house is always messy. It's livable--it's not filthy--but it's certainly not a sparkling beacon of [some domestic magazine I can't even name because ha! like I have time to read domestic magazines!]. That's okay.
I'm a crap cook. Like, terrible. If it can't be prepared in twenty minutes, I pretty much don't make it.
I don't watch television. I don't even get any channels. Hot Stuff and I usually have a show or two that we watch on Netflix, but television is not a standard part of my life. (I more than make up for it wasting time online, but, well, pick your poison. You can't poison yourself with all of them. You have to choose!)
My kids do not participate in dozens of after-school activities. They play outside, they write stories, they draw pictures, they read books, and yes, they watch a little bit too much TV. They're happy. I'm happy that they're happy. I don't worry about all of the "standard" parts of childhood that somehow all revolve around driving places and paying for things.
In the end, I can't tell you how to do it. I can tell you that it will be hard. You'll cry. You'll want to give up. Sometimes you'll resent your family for not giving you enough time to write, and sometimes you'll resent the writing for taking you away from your family. All I can tell you is this:
Try to be fully present.
Be fully present for your kids and you husband. If you are with them, BE WITH THEM. My biggest regrets are the hours and hours I've wasted being grouchy because I wanted to get writing done but couldn't.
And, when you get a chance to write, WRITE. Be fully present for that, too.
Decide what can go, and what absolutely can't, and then be okay with that decision. You will have to make sacrifices. The writing will not always be easy, and it will not always be fun. Publication is not a guarantee ever, for anyone. I'm not going to lie--it's easier now that I get paid to write. It was harder to justify before. But I still did it.
Write because you cannot imagine being happy without writing. If you can imagine being happy without writing, try that for a while and see how you feel.
Because here's the thing: You don't NEED to write. Unless you do. In which case, you have my blessing to become a distracted, slightly batty near-shut in, who lives a very rich inner life while still being there for her family. And who wears the bags under her eyes as a badge of pride, because she has no other options but to be a writer.