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

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A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...

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In the Margins

I wake up early. The house is quiet, still dark, because let's say it's winter. I walk to the kitchen and make coffee. It steams when I pour it into a thick white mug. I hold it with both hands and take that first glorious sip. All pajama-clad and cozy, I amble over to my writing desk where I peacefully exhale. And then I write. I stop to think from time to time, to admire the snowy, dawn-soaked morning from the warmth of the indoors. I write some more. The sun rises, eventually. The house begins to stir, but that’s okay, because I’ve written.

This is what I imagined. These were my conditions.

Photo by Amanda Morris

Photo by Amanda Morris

But ever since the office became our son's bedroom, my writing desk is in the master bedroom. Where my husband is sleeping. And the desk is covered with the papers I stayed up late last night to grade. And my coffee maker is downstairs, in the kitchen that shares a wall with the son's bedroom. If I make the coffee, I'll wake him up and then he’ll wake up his sister. And if I can't have the coffee, I certainly can't do the writing. Anyway, I don't even own a thick white mug.

Writing in the margins of everyday life can feel so deflating. What good is it if I can only write while my kids are sleeping? Or in those thin slivers of time that both appear and recede without warning? Because all I want during those times is, well, other things. Easier things. (Instagram. A good book. Laundry). Writing will always be there. Next summer I'll get going again. Or when we have more flexible childcare options. Or when both kids are in school.

Once I was home most of the time with two kids, writing was a whole lot of later and never any right now.

Mothers are told to love this time when the kids are small – the days are long but the years are short, they say – we are expected to give of ourselves from the moment those sleepy faces appear before us each morning. Quite often before the first sip of coffee from the timeworn plastic travel mug. Right now. I feel guilty for every “just a minute” or “we'll do that another time” I stack upon my children, so why don’t I feel guilty when I say it to myself?

The days are long (they were right about that), but I've discovered through fits and starts that they are long enough for writing. Every day. A serene affair it is not, but in those unpredictable, interrupted whens and wheres of daily writing, I engage with myself, with the choices I make, with the world where I raise my children. It urges and invites me to notice things, to collect and recollect. To contemplate and complicate. It’s not easy, often messy. And there’s beauty in that. With or without the coffee.


Annie Johnson lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and two children. She is an adjunct instructor of composition at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she also studied creative nonfiction.


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I relate to this sooooo much, Annie! I love the insight in this line: "...I engage with myself, with the choices I make, with the world where I raise my children."
Beautiful...I also relate to your words. Especially the part about "we are expected to give of ourselves from the moment those sleepy faces appear before us every morning" So, so true.
So much is true and relatable. Love the detail of not having that thick white mug, a kind of metaphor for what else may be off from our hope. Also, the peace: ...in those unpredictable, interrupted whens and wheres of daily writing, ...It urges and invites me to notice things, to collect and recollect. To contemplate and complicate. It’s not easy, often messy. And there’s beauty in that.
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