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


A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire



Stubborn Fixation


My husband has a photo of me in his office. In the shot, I glance over my shoulder with an unguarded, almost flirtatious smile. I'm sitting at my desk, my laptop open before me, and you can just make out our baby son’s bald head as he sits in my lap, leaning against my chest.

The photo was taken at a time when I had mustered my courage to dive back into writing fiction after fooling myself that I could be happy any other way. We'd recently moved to Maine from Los Angeles. My husband had gotten a job offer in the coastal town of Camden. I saw it as my chance to escape my fairly big job and workaday life. In a flash, I agreed to make the move with the ulterior motive of applying to MFA programs. At the time, I was also seven months pregnant with our son and we had a two year-old daughter.

Determined, my big belly and I went to my first writing workshop the weekend we arrived in Maine. The spring after my son’s birth, I continued taking more workshops and classes to build a portfolio for my MFA applications. And then, after weaning my son at 17 months, I headed to Bennington to begin my low-residency program. Like the pencil marks that denote our children getting taller, I can track my subsequent development as a writer to stages in their lives. My first fellowship was granted to support childcare while I wrote. My first essays in nationally notable publications were about my daughter.

As a young mother, one of the best pieces of advice I got: welcome the intrusions. This from an artist friend who said that she used to resent it when the demands of mothering took her away from a piece she was puzzling through. But then she noticed that when she returned after dinnertime, bath time, chaperoning a field trip, the answer often became clear to her. She began to welcome the respite from her own stubborn fixations.

On the flipside, I rarely feel guilty about the time I take to write. It took me a long time to realize that being a writer wasn’t just an ambition, a dream, a goal. Writing is a daily, almost physical calling. If I don't write I'm like a runner who doesn't run – fidgety and cranky. Anything can take us away from our children – a yoga class, getting a haircut, a job, making dinner, a date with our partner. So, if something is going to take me away I want it to count. I want it to matter. I want it to feed me.

And if I didn't write, well, who would my children's mother be anyway? I wouldn't exactly be me anymore. I would no longer have one of the traits they know so well. As likely to be inherited as my hazel eyes and big feet. Indeed, now that my children are teenagers, they are both writers. They both have the ability to express their view of the world in nuanced, powerful, and creative ways, and that is another kind of mothering altogether.

I once asked my husband why he framed that photo of me with my laptop and our son. I don't look particularly pretty. I'm still puffy with baby weight. He said, "Because you're so happy. You're doing something you love."


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.

Andrea Jarrell‘s essays have appeared in The New York Times “Modern Love” column and “Motherlode” blog; Narrative MagazineBrain,Child MagazineFull Grown PeopleThe Manifest-StationLiterary Mama; and The Washington Post, as well as the anthologies My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories about Leaving and Losing Friendships and So Glad They Told Me: Women on Getting Real About Motherhood (2016). Her forthcoming memoir will be published by Booktrope.

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Thanks for this inspiring post.
I am fascinated by the ways we mother-writers bend and flex to keep our creative fires burning through the crucible of parenthood. Your post is a reminder to me of the importance of clinging to and prioritizing the writing side of our identities: "And if I didn't write, well, who would my children's mother be anyway?" I love that. Thanks for sharing your words.
Beautiful and so true. Really connected with this piece.
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