“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great.” – Mark Twain
Salary.com estimates that the average stay-at-home mom works 92 hours a week, and over half of those hours are over-time hours. It’s no wonder that a lot of women feel overwhelmed and discouraged to pursue anything outside their family’s needs. I played with their salary wizard this morning. Based on the ages of my children, the zip code that I live and the specific jobs that I contribute to my family, it turns out that my annual paycheck should be around $134,000. Gasp! The most staggering numbers were the 426 hours I spend just in the car toting kids around or the 728 hours cleaning my house each year. And there wasn’t any where to calculate the number of hours I spend volunteering in my children’s classrooms, after school activities or sports programs. This is why moms put themselves last, or why when they focus on some of their own needs they are overwhelmed with feelings of guilt.
Regardless of the commitments and time constraints imposed on myself, I am determined to find little pockets of time to create my own path. Other people can make it work, so why not me?
Why not you?
Yesterday I started reading Pen On Fire: a busy woman’s guide to igniting the writer within by Barbara Demarco-Barrett. It’s a book full of inspiration and writing exercises to help the aspiring writer focus on her craft, to learn to create in short amounts of time and balance being a wife and mother with her talents. Here was the first timed exercise:
Imagine a friend has come to you for help. She dreams of becoming a writer but is burdened by fears. She worries she has no talent and has nothing to say. Perhaps she worries she’s taking precious time away from her family to pursue her selfish desire to write. For 15 minutes, write to that friend and give her hope. Dispel each of her fears, one by one, so that when she is through talking with you and revealing her heart, she will be willing to try giving the writing life her best effort.
I chose to do this excercise in a basic spiral notebook, rather than get distracted by the call of the internet. With ballpoint pen in hand, I set the timer, and began to write. And as I wrote, all I could think about was this blog, the blogs I read and the many readers that form this amazing community.
I wrote you a letter.
To My Dearest Writing Friend,
It is hard to believe that your heart could feel burdened by dreams, but I can see that you struggle every day to find yourself worthy to achieve the goals that haunt you. Even when you see yourself in a fog, I see you clearly. You are a writer, not one day or some day but today. You have spent years gathering experiences unique to your life, moments no one else can steal away or change. Those stories belong solely to you – own them. And then share them. Write them down in their rawest form, even if it feels like crap at first because you can’t edit a blank page. Nothing has to be perfect the first time. Life is not perfect.
I am proud of you for putting your heart on the line and I admire your tenacity. There is no one else like you. I appreciate your humor and honesty. I drink in your desire and am amazed at your passion to reinvent yourself with words. I believe you can achieve whatever goals you set before you. But you have to set them, and then acknowledge them out loud. Do not hide your goals in your heart. Tell everyone who will listen. Write them down where you can see them all the time and come up with a plan of action. You can tackle those goals, chisel them down bit by bit so that the whole task doesn’t seem as enormous. Give yourself permission to ask for more help with the daily tasks. Tell yourself that writing is not a hobby. It is your job. It is a part of what defines you, just as much as your marriage, your children and your friendships. Show your children that there is more to you than knowing how to meal plan and wash clothes. They want to see you succeed. They want to be proud of you. And if they don’t, then seek out those that will encourage rather than deflate.
I support you. I believe in you. And we can support each other. Things that seem small or mundane in your life might be monumental to someone else.You inspire others whether you realize it or not. Your words are as vivid as paint on canvas, capturing life and time.
Thank you for trying and thank you for not giving up because it inspires me to keep working at my own goals. It is far easier to make this journey when I know that not only have others traveled before me, but that someone will walk this path with me. And above all else, remember that the only way to really fail, is to never try.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend.