The Wacky Career Advice Deb Sarah Almost Believed

It’s funny how things work. Just as my writing career took off in a major way (as in, assignments were coming in almost daily, and I was taking on some exciting stuff with a book on the back burner), I got pregnant with my first child. I remember wondering how I’d juggle new motherhood with writing–especially since I wanted to be a hands-on mom and not send the kiddo to daycare or hire a nanny (though, the thought did cross my mind when he came into the world screaming with wild case of colic that lasted about 9 months–but that’s another story).

So, shortly after my first baby, Carson (now almost 4), was born, I was struggling–as most new moms are–to juggle writing assignments with motherhood. I’ll never forget a lunch date I had with an editor about a month after his birth. We were meeting at a chic cafe downtown–my first outing without the baby–and I squeezed my post-delivery body into a pair of pants that barely buttoned and hoped the empire waist top didn’t show the layers of baby flab that had hung on after the birth.

As I sat at the table with this editor, also a mother, I was hopeful for some advice on how to make it work. After all, she’d been there, done that, and could give me some encouragement, right? Sadly, the conversation was anything but encouraging, and not in the I-just-had-a-baby-and-I’m-weepy sort of way. No, this editor told me, point blank, that I’d have to choose between being a good mother and being a good writer. In other words, I’d either have to farm out my kid and sit at my desk all day, or ditch the writing and play goo-goo, ga-ga.

I left the lunch with such a heavy heart. Could she really be right? I thought about her words for weeks, and even though my baby (and his awful case of colic) didn’t get any easier, I kept plugging away–both at being the best mom I could and being a writer with a successful career. At times I felt like I was drowning, and I probably was, but I decided the best thing I may have done in those months was to ignore the advice from this editor and prove her wrong.

While my income did take a hit in those early months with Carson, I sprung back and ended up making the next nine months the most financially–and professionally–successful months as a writer, without a nanny (I will add, though, that I have a very helpful mother, who came over twice a week to help).

Here’s the thing: If someone tells you that you CAN’T do something or you SHOULDN’T do something, and it goes against the grain of your own life wisdom, passion and gut feelings, don’t believe ’em. I’m so glad I kept at it in the face of adversity (sleep deprivation, colic, you name it), and as a result, my career is thriving more than ever.

I’m gearing up to have baby #3, my third boy, in early February, and while I know it will be a challenge to juggle this jam-packed career–which now includes fiction writing!–with two toddlers and an infant (eeks!), call me crazy, but I’m sort of excited for the challenge. (And, in case you’re curious, here are some little tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years about juggling writing with motherhood.)

I’d love to know–has someone every told you that you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something? Did you prove them wrong? And, fellow moms, chime in about how you held down a career with kids!

7 thoughts on “The Wacky Career Advice Deb Sarah Almost Believed

  1. I can’t speak to all careers, but I agree that it’s absolutely possible to be very hands-on with both a writing career and motherhood, but it does involve learning how to say no. I take on a lot, but I also know when my plate is too full and I have to turn something down.

    I’ve also found it very helpful — and I’ve been very grateful — to work with flexible people. When my daughter was little, I more than once needed to bring her along to brainstorming meetings for a Barbie movie. Happily, the Mattel people are utter mensches, set a place for her at the conference table, and even let her take the floor when she wanted to add her two cents about preschool entertainment.

  2. There’s no magic trick. Every family finds their own groove – with plenty of bumps along the way. I was a career saleswoman when I had Mia – I continued to work until we moved to a new city, then worked from home. It was not easy. When Gianna was about a year old, we were worrying about Mia’s development and the only thing the docs could offer us was, “Try daycare for socialization,” as if Mia (who has autism) would simply start to socialize by proximity (like her father and I didn’t socialize with her?) Daycare for 2 kids plus a 90 minute commute into Philly for a “real” job w/ salary to pay for the daycare nearly killed me. We moved again. Both girls diagnosed w/ autism in 99. No more babies for us! I got pregnant with Bella. Ha ha laughs God! I didn’t work in earnest again until 2006 when my kids were in school. The computer helps and hinders – I’m never away from work. I’m terrible at stopping. We had an au pair for 3 years when Mia developed a seizure disorder and Bella was an infant. It was impossible to tend to everything and remain sane. We women have to try to put ourselves SOMEWHERE in the sanity mix – maintain our strength and well being. For some that’s work. For others it’s NOT working. Go with the flow, even when the flow is a flushing toilet. 🙂 KIM

  3. Everyone who knew me in high school–including all of my extended relatives–told me not to be a teacher, and told me I’d never be a writer. Luckily for me, I ignored them.

    Sure, it’s hard to balance writing, teaching, and parenting, but all three are part of who I am. I find I am NOT a better mom when I haven’t written anything in two weeks, and though I love summers off from teaching, I love going back to it once my kids are back in school (now that they both go to school all day). I still don’t have enough time for everything, and probably never will, but I have plenty to keep me motivated and fill my life with.

  4. Have you ever realized that the more there is to do, the more focused and successful you become? I like your style, Sarah, and all other writing Moms. Oh the stories you can tell! 🙂

  5. Good for you, ignoring the foolish advice and making your own way. I’ve had to do the same, and although it’s not always easy I wouldn’t change my choices for any others. As it happens, my husband became Stay-Home-Dad-001 the year my son turned 10 so I could go back to work full time (the economics worked out better that way) and now that my son is 15 I’m juggling work, writing, and homeschool (we pulled him out after sixth grade because he’s advanced and we couldn’t find a program that challenged him enough without putting him with kids that are way too old, so he socializes on the side and studies at home). I never thought I’d claim my insomnia as a benefit, but it does add hours to my day!

    I’m in the “seeking agent” portion of my writing path, with a couple of bad novels under my belt before the good one, and until about two years ago my writing was snatched from random moments rather than consistent hours of time, but having come through to the other side, I definitely agree with you: people love to tell you what you cannot do, but only you can decide whether or not to let them be right. I’m glad you didn’t listen!

  6. I’m definitely not a kid person, but I’m amazed by anyone who can do such a phenomenal job balancing it all!

    Tawna

  7. And I’m not a ‘Successories’ person, but I do totally agree that “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

    And Sarah, I think you must have an extra hour in your day! You’re amazing.

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