How Raising 5 Children is Making Me a Better Writer

My career and life plan for myself, growing up, was to be single, a professor, living in a big city (I liked the idea of the pacific northwest).

Instead, I (happily) married at 21, and got my MFA and a short stint as a professor at a small Southern university before adjuncting part-time online while homeschooling my five children. Moved a dozen times, became Orthodox Presbyterian, lost my dad to alcoholism, lost two babies, one at six months old after a long struggle with CHD.

I think my first plan was a lot simpler, a lot cleaner. Seems like it would be the right plan for a writer–a lot of time alone and quiet, keeping one’s own schedule.

However, I promise you, the writer I am as a mother is much better than the writer I’d be if I’d lived that first life.

Contrary to most women writers who have gone before me, I believe children are not an impediment to writing, but an enhancement.

  1. Since being a mom, the more children I have, the more I get a death-grip on my writing practice. Before kids, I wrote when “The muse” struck. Now, I have 10 minutes during nap-time–go, go, go!
  2. I have an increased range of experience and empathy, having loved so many in the special way a mother loves and lost a few along the way.
  3. I’m not precious about my writing anymore–I don’t waste time worrying if this magazine or person or writing group Likes my writing or not. I don’t fret over submissions or rejections. I just don’t have time for anything other than the making of poems (and the sometimes submitting of poems).
  4. I truly enjoy writing more than I did in the past. Before, it was muddled up with trying to do well in class or achieve this or that position or publish or perish. Now, I write because I need it and because I love it. I love sitting down to the page and playing with words; it’s one of my favorite parts of my day.

You can be a great writer and never have children; I’m not saying motherhood is a prerequisite to greatness.

All I’m saying is that I tire of the sentiment that the writer must mimic a male-driven image of “The Poet” — poetry as a bread-winning career, poetry as stuck in the ivory tower of academia.

Maybe poetry can come from the kitchen counter and the playground bench and the dimly-lit nursery.

Maybe the hand that rocks the cradle should also wield the pen.

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