For Writer-Moms Who Struggle with Guilt and Expectations

by Abby on March 27, 2013

Groundhog Day movie posterShe had me at “Groundhog Day.” A writer for one of my favorite blogs, Just.Be.Enough, wrote about the internal tug-of-war she’s having trying to reconcile her urge to be a writer with her stay-at-home-mom circumstances. I, too, have written about how the life of an at-home mom feels eerily like that ‘90s movie where Bill Murray keeps living the same day over and over again. And I, too, struggle with guilt about ignoring my children at times and the house being a wreck at all times.

But — and here’s where my circumstances seem to differ from blogger Alexa’s – my husband is supportive of my writing and doesn’t harbor many unrealistic expectations about me, our home, or our kids. And second, I have less guilt about the time I spend writing. (Though I certainly do struggle with more generalized mom guilt.)

First, the husband stuff. Alexa writes:

Each day my husband comes home from work with the expectation that Mary Tyler Moore will greet him at the door … In his fantasy, he will enter into the house to find it absolutely spotless, and his nose will catch a waft of something delicious in the works for dinner. His three children will look and behave impeccably. We will all smile and exchange pleasantries without a care in the world.

First I would ask, facetiously, has her husband ever MET a SAHM of 3 kids under age 6 in 2013? Then I would ask, quite seriously, is she SURE he has these expectations, or might she be projecting a teensy bit here? I don’t know, I’m asking. I have friends whose husbands DO expect a clean house and a non-cereal-based meal at the end of the day. Not many, but some.

An aside: A working-mom friend once said something that’s so great and rare it stuck with me. I was lamenting about how no matter what I did, my house always looked like a bomb went off. Specifically, a bomb made of Cheerios, action figures, sippy cups, dog hair, and stray socks. Whereas HER house always looked immaculate even though she worked full time.

She said, “Well, we’re never there to mess it up.” OF COURSE. Where did this expectation come from that SAHMs should have cleaner houses than people who are gone all day at work and daycare?! Every mom knows that cleaning with kids around is like shoveling the sidewalk while it’s still snowing.

I am lucky that I have a husband who knows the deal. He knows that peed-on sheets, dog puke, spilled juice, dripped Popsicles, naked tantrums, and too-aggressive light-saber fights CAN and DO happen ALL the time. He knows that housekeeping – as in, keeping the house from being destroyed by our children – is a full-time, 2-person job. At least. So if he comes home from work and there are no bodily fluids on the floor and something besides leftover chicken nuggets for dinner, well, that’s a bonus.

What my house looks like most days

Now, about the writing stuff: how do you get your spouse on board with your desire to be a writer? You don’t give him a choice. I’m joking but not. My husband knew I was a writer when we met and I’m a writer now. I realize that at first when you’re not getting paid to write, it can be hard to justify making the time to write. Maybe your husband could take the kids on Saturday mornings, like mine does, to give you a block of uninterrupted writing time?

It pays off in ways you can’t measure in dollars: by making you a happier wife and mother, for one thing. If I did nothing but seasonal craft projects, serve snacks, and mediate arguments over who had it first – which I do some days – I would go Bat. Crap. Crazy. Wouldn’t you rather spend some of your Groundhog Days doing something creative and productive like writing, if it makes you happier? I bet your family would. Try them.

LINK O’ THE DAY: Who among us doesn’t need to hear this from time to time? Dear Mom who sometimes feels like she is a terrible mom

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie Mizzell March 27, 2013 at 7:46 am

I have a similar feeling about my house and the exploding bombs. My theory is that when it’s clean, and there are moments that it is actually pretty darn clean, no one sees it. People always “pop in” after the bomb, not after the massive cleaning effort. It’s a universal law.

And I don’t know, maybe it’s that I’m pushing 40 (thank goodness for Jennifer Aniston for making 40 look amazing) and that my professionally highlighted hair is turning gray and that my 3 kids are growing up way too quickly for me… but I don’t feel like I have much more time in my life (not that I think I’m about to die… of course that’s not what I’m saying) to waste it comparing, feeling guilty, trying to meet unrealistic expectations.

Writing, raising kids, cheerio battlefields… perhaps it really is all good. I don’t love chaos, but if I don’t reconcile who I am (a writer) and my current role as mom… when will I do it?


Abby March 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm

You’ve got a point about how, with age, comes a certain confidence and unwillingness to waste time. I have gotten pretty confident about guarding my writing time and making no apologies for it. I’ve gotten better at writing, and more efficient with researching and editing. I am also way more in tune with my gut, whereas when I was younger all the “shoulds” and internal chatter often drowned out my intuition.


Christina March 27, 2013 at 9:29 am

My husband is very supportive of my writing, too. He jokes that he is waiting for me to write the great American novel so he can become a kept man. I’d totally be on board with that!


Abby March 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I think that’s every writer-husband’s fantasy. 🙂


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