What we leave

I saw a post recently by an author that bugged me. I have no problem with him arguing that if you want to be a writer, you write. I mean, that just stands to reason. You don’t get hired as a chef for a four-star restaurant without learning to cook first. You don’t become chief of surgery at the local trauma center without doing a lot of surgeries. And you don’t become a writer — let alone a renowned writer — without putting in the time.

No, what bugged me was his dismissal of any other occupation you might have for your time. As I think I’ve made clear, I don’t believe in burying myself in one occupation to the exclusion of everything else, so obviously I don’t agree with him. I also really don’t like personal opinion being presented as the One True Way. Breadth works for me, but that doesn’t mean I think everyone should be like me (with the exception to follow, of course 😉 ).

Even more specifically, one of the things he singled out as not being as important for his time was parenthood. Basically, he said he provides for his family, they know he loves them, and that should be enough without him making an effort to go to games, etc.

Wow, how utterly 1950s.

I’m not suggesting the other extreme — give up your own life for two decades until the kids are grown and gone, then try to remember who you are when you’re not being a helicopter parent.

Instead, I’m arguing for the middle ground. (Yep, I’m a centrist. Live with it.)

I think one of the most common things middle class parents tell their children is that they can do anything they want to do, that they can grow up to be anything, that they should follow their dreams. Well, look, if you really believe that, there are two things you have to do to make sure they believe it, too:

  1. You need to support their dreams — go to their games, their concerts, their recitals; read their stories; care about what they care about.
  2. You need to live your dreams so they know they’re not expected to put their lives on hold when they have kids of their own.

My mom always supported my dreams; she still does. And she had dreams of her own — I remember studying Italian flash cards with her when she went back to school to finish up her bachelor’s degree. I also shared the college commute with her when she went back to work on a second degree. She taught me by example, and I hope to do the same for my kids.

Yes, there are millions of mothers out there, and not as many writers. On the other hand, my kids only have one mother and can read any book they want. It’s a balance.

. . . and now I need to get back to this book I’m writing.

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  1. I’m with you on the One True Way issue. As to the balance, I did give up my writing for my kids and work. There are only so many hours in the day, and I chose to spend the few I had out of the office being a part of my boys’ life. On the other hand, though I felt like I gave up writing, I can point to short stories and even a novel I wrote in the period when they were young enough to need a lot of my time, so maybe I did manage some sort of balance :).

    • Yeah — definitely not all or nothing if you still have stories you wrote.

      Only so many hours in the day — I really need to figure out a way around that. 😉

  2. just one cautionary word about the “you can be anything” motivational theme. i got that as a kid, but expressed in such a way as to make me feel that the person expressing it was disappointed that my ambitions and achievements weren’t grander. i think it’s important that kids know that their own goals and desires are important and valuable.

    • That’s one reason why I said one should support the kids in their dreams. When I was quite young, I expressed a desire to be a doctor. Thereafter, any other idea I expressed an interest in was met with dismissive words by my dad, who thought any other goal wasn’t sufficient. He finally acknowledged that me working on a novel was impressive and something he didn’t have the patience for, but yes — for decades, I did get that attitude from him.

  3. Very very true. It’s so important to use whatever time you have (in either scenario) to the fullest. When I write, I let my daughter (my son is too young to understand) know that this is my thing, what I love to do, and then she turns around and writes stories of her own.

    I tried to remember very hard, mind you, when I ever did anything fun with my mom. Shopping at the mall, I guess. Baking. My mom had 5 kids, she was busy. But I really don’t remember having fun WITH her. My dad who worked two jobs most of the time, spent his home time WITH us. Laughing. Playing. I remember him laughing, having interests of his own and including us in it when he lifted weights, when he took us to see the airplanes.

    The point is – there are types of people who when they’re with their kids, come alive. Other folks are too wrapped up in what needs to be done, what needs to be kept clean, etc. Don’t forget to have fun WITH your child. Include your dreams in the daily life you spend with them. Include their interests too because you don’t know what you might spark.

    Anyway, sorry for the long reply. Your post really triggered a series of memories that made me think down this road.

    • Hey, long replies are great — it means I said something you thought was important enough to put thought into!

      WITH. Yeah, that’s an important word.

  4. One of the reasons that I decided not to have children is that I want to be selfish with my time. Being a parent requires a sacrifice and I have a lot of problems with people who think they can maintain the exact same pre-kid life once they’ve had kids. It’s not fair to the children who either don’t see their parents or who are dragged to typically adult-only zones and then get bored and run around which then makes it unfair to the other non-child people who are suddenly exposed to babies in areas that usually are children-free.

    • Sounds reasonable. You clearly put a lot of thought into your decision.

      A lot of people wind up with kids without thinking about it beforehand — either about having them at all (accidents happen) or about what it will mean to their lives. And even people who do think about it don’t know all the changes it will mean — but I wouldn’t change anything. Even if it does mean I get a rather short day to get work and writing done. My choice. (There’s that word again. ;))

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