Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Support


A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspireĀ 



Guilt is a Thing Called Mother


I began a series of conversations with women who've successfully published books and earned esteemed writing professions while maintaining an active role in their children's lives because I feel guilty for writing instead of just being a mom. Yet even the way I wrote this confession bears scrutiny--as though being a mom is an exclusive act in and of itself. I'm a writer, a mother, a wife, a feminist. It's a lot to juggle!

I've long grappled with two deeply imbedded beliefs. First, that a woman should have the free space in her mind and in her life to think and write and become whoever she chooses. And second, the fierce desire to mother. After struggling with infertility, my husband and I adopted our son in 2007, and by the time I graduated with my MA in English, I'd written a book and become a mother. I'd somehow managed to reach both my dreams by the time I was twenty-four. Not too shabby, I'd thought. Imagine then how ungrateful I felt when I wasn't content with just one child and still longed to become pregnant... yet also resented the time torn away from my writing that even one child meant.

And so it goes, another baby later (I gave birth to my daughter in 2010). How selfish I often feel--for wanting so much. Since my son was born, I've written two poetry collections, a novel, and am working on another novel. And in those five years, I've stayed up more nights with sick or restless or colicky babies, played more games of hide & seek, and said "I'm sorry" more often than I can count.

Yet, inexplicably, I feel guilty much of the time. When my husband does the dishes and takes the kids to the community pool so I can write. When I wake up at four a.m. to draft a scene before the baby comes searching for me (she is relentless, will stop at nothing 'til she finds me, throwing herself out of bed in a rampage, calling "Mama? Mama? Mama!" at increasing decibels until I respond), and then I'm cranky all day for lack of sleep.

Thus, I began conversations with other mother-writers to find out how they do it and if they too wrestle with the ever-present cognitive dissonance that digs through me, unyielding as my nursing daughter ("Mooooore milk, mama!"). I asked questions such as "How does the reality of being a mother-writer compare with your expectations?" and "How do you find the balance between mothering and writing?" to garner strength and encouragement from fellow women who are called toward rooms of their own... and whose babies are also knocking small fists to office doors... whose babies fall asleep to the laptop hum, present in their worlds as amniotic fluid, as heartbeat.

And after reading the candid and deeply resonant responses from writers Julianna Baggott, Shaindel Beers, and several more on their way (including Reyna Grande, who's next up), I've found that I feel just a little less guilty for wanting so much and for believing that being a successful (i.e., both driven and content) mother-writer is possible.

Join our After Page One series. We're looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we'd love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We'll publish a short bio at the bottom of your post so readers can learn more about you and your projects.

Jennifer Givhan’s poetry has appeared online at The Fertile Source, Rattle, and AS US. She also conducts a series of interviews with successful writers who are also mothers on her blog Mother Writers. Givhan lives with her husband, two young children, and her parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Please visit Givhan online for more information.

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Oh, this piece speaks a million truths. Thank you! There is so much here to relate to - particularly the ever-present guilt!
Thank you so much, Renee. I'm glad it resonated!
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