Working Moms and Next, Next, Next - Maggie Stiefvater
May 16, 2012

Working Moms and Next, Next, Next

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This week has been a delightful one. First of all, my new Metloef bodhran (Irish drum) arrived in the mail on Monday, and I’m so looking forward to recording with it.

Secondly, the Old House of Stiefvater is getting pretty empty, and the New House of Stiefvater, two hours away is getting pretty empty (as is evidenced by the above video). Our move in date of the 31st, right before I head off to BEA, is looking actually plausible.

Thirdly, I have those two Virginia events (Fredericksburg and Alexandria) with John Corey Whaley tomorrow and the next day, and I adore Corey, and not just because I love his book and he looks like Samwise.

Fourthly, I am working on the sequel to THE RAVEN BOYS and it is going well, so everything in the world is rosy that can possibly be better by being rosy, and all things that are bad when rosy are not rosy at all.

Anyway, all this delightfulness and rosiness reminded me that I haven’t addressed reader questions in awhile, and there was one question that multiple readers asked in multiple ways, both in my blog and at last night’s chat. Here it is:

Is your office in your home? If you are alone in a very quiet house all day with no children or husband underfoot, how do you get yourself going each day and stay motivated to write without dropping everything and putting in a load of wash? These are the kinds of things I wonder about my favorite authors… 

I have a question! Though I don’t want to infringe on your privacy, so if you’d rather ignore it I totally understand. I’m just wondering how you balance young kiddos and writing – do they get to go on tour with you? 🙂

Thing 1 & Thing 2

I do indeed have children, Thing 1 and Thing 2. They predate my writing career by a very little bit, but not my art career, which had a lot of the same demands. Namely, that my office was in the house, there was a lot of travel, my hours were theoretically amorphous and flexible. I had the Stiefvater Things pretty early in life, so I basically have always had both children and a career.

Here’s something that I should put right out front: both of those things are very important to me. I’m not going to do percentages or a pie chart, but I should tell you that I always knew I wanted a creative career and that having children was going to complement that dream, not crash it. I firmly believe that if you don’t believe the same thing — that you are entitled to a career same as any other human of any other gender — you will not accidentally fall into an agreeable parent-career balance.

Now that that’s out of the way, the practical nitty-gritties. Part of this question is really about time-management. I’ve blogged about this before. In some respects, kids, laundry, day jobs, cat litter boxes, lawn mowing, college courses, and freelance fighter pilot lessons are all the same: they are all demands on your time. And so it just comes down to prioritizing and being clever and honest about the time you really do have.

Next, the womb warts themselves: Things 1 and 2 have known for a very long time that my writing and art are important career things for me, and so they respect quiet time when I’m on deadline and they’re home from school. And before they knew about careers and paying the rent, they had an established “quiet time” — at first they had a nap from 12-2 every day, and then, when they no longer napped, they knew they had to watch a movie in their room with the door closed or play quietly with the door closed or devise evil plans that will eventually come back to bite me with the door closed.

Next, next, Lover: My husband has always been supportive of my career, because he knew I took it seriously. If your Lover doesn’t feel the same way, I highly suggest you get an upgrade.

Next, next, next: Last year, I was away from home more than I was home and I wrote two novels. Lover quit his job to help with the kids, and I brought all of them or some of them along when I could. But it’s important to point out that before that, I was writing and touring and Lover was working full time himself, and we still pulled it off. We have a good parental network within an hour’s drive, so that definitely helped, and we also were equally committed to each person getting down what they needed to get done. We wanted it to work. So we made it work. There is a way, I promise. I wrote Lament on Wednesdays only, from 4-6 p.m., because I was working such long hours with my art show stuff. It took me four months. It can be done, I PROMISE.

Next, next, next, last: Women. There is a lot of guilt associated with taking time for your career versus spending time nurturing children. Every time you leave the house and the kids have a babysitter or a substandard dinner or no bedtime story, our culture screams at us for being bad mothers. But guess what. Working mothers are not bad mothers. Women who have a sense of self-identity, either through a career or through a home-based activity, are women that kids respect. My father was on an air craft carrier for six months out of the year when I was a kid. I adored him and still do, and what’s more — I’m pretty much just like him. So it’s not the amount of time you spend sitting in the presence of your kids. It’s how you use that time.

So: Prioritize. Educate those close to you. Surround yourself with like-minded people. And kick some ass.