Finding Balance – Or Not

I am honored to share with you today’s guest post by author Terri Giuliano Long. Her debut novel In Leah’s Wake has been one of my favorite summer reads. She is an amazingly talented author, and an even more humble artist, quick to give encouragement and support to fellow writers. I’m sure you will enjoy her as much as I do. Be sure to visit her blog and enter to win a fantastic giveaway.

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, 1999

Finding Balance – Or Not

As a young mom with four active daughters, involved in school, music and sports, my life was a hodge-podge of bustling activity. I wrote part-time, at night or in the wee hours of the morning, while my family slept. Back then, I fantasized about a time when my life would be my own – no more afternoons spent driving from one activity to the next, no volunteer work, no laundry fairy multiplying the loads. I imagined long, uninterrupted days at my desk, immersed in my work.

Now our daughters are grown, two with families of their own. While, yes, I occasionally spend 10, 12, 14 hours at my desk, those days are rare. Like most women writers, I constantly struggle to find balance.

My husband is a terrific guy. When the girls were little, he, not I, got up in the middle of the night. Even now, he does more than his fair share of the chores. When our daughters need something fixed – their car breaks down, for example – they don’t hesitate to call him. With emotional issues, I’m the one they rely on. Believe me, talking is far more time-consuming than finding a mechanic to fix the transmission.

Whenever the need arises, because I’m a mom first, before anything else, my work takes a backseat. Deadlines get pushed back, the article or story goes unedited, the book sits in a file, waiting, neglected. And I feel guilty for letting it go. If I do focus on work, I feel guilty for not devoting more time to my family. Either way, I feel bad about myself.

Every female writer I know says the same thing. We love our families – we want to give of ourselves – but why does it have to be either-or?

Years ago, I attended a seminar with Alice Hoffman as the keynote speaker. It was not merely that I loved and admired her work. No, I wanted to be Alice Hoffman. This successful female writer put out a bestselling book every year. And they were good. Very good. And she had kids.

This was a woman who did it all, and did it all well. I couldn’t wait to learn how. Imagine my surprise when she talked about the difficulty of striking a balance. “My kids,” she said, “think I don’t have a job.”

Say what? Would the kids think the same if their dad were a writer?

Probably not. Because he’d have an office and it would be off-limits.

Most men I know store their roles in separate compartments, to be taken out, dusted off, and worn at appropriate times. Our role is fluid. We can’t turn off, tune out or otherwise escape family responsibility. We’re always on. In all fairness, fathers are fathers every day of their life. The difference is, we mothers are moms every minute of ours.

I don’t resent this, not for an instant, and I’m sure you don’t either.

I want to be with my family. In fact, as I’ve come to realize, I’ve actively chosen this life.

Men find balance – by marrying us. Yet, even if we had wives, their needs, I suspect, would be at least equal to ours. Most women are people-centric. Sure, we value success, but we’re relationship-oriented. The people we love truly are our reason for living.

I’ve spent a lifetime seeking balance only to find that it doesn’t exist. Balance is elusive, a figment of our imagination, reinforced by culture in movies and TV. If we’re to be contented, we have to let go. We’ve got to accept that we can’t always do it all – and quit feeling guilty!

She who dies with the most toys – or the cleanest house or the best brownies – does not necessarily win. Or maybe she does. But, believe me, unless she’s got ice running through her veins, she feels guilty too. That’s who we are. Better to accept it than always fight and feel guilty.

Our lives are big and wonderful and, yes, messy. And that’s OK. So go ahead – kiss those boo-boos. Call a friend. Spend an extra hour or two at your desk. The beds will get made, the cleaning picked up, the laundry folded. Maybe not in that order. But, really, why does it matter?

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When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family, Terri Giuliano Long teaches writing at Boston College. For a free e-copy of her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, please leave a comment below– and don’t forget to leave your email address, so she knows where to send it.

To find out which In Leah’s Wake character you most resemble – and for a chance to win the grand prize – a teen survival kit with a canvas tote, 2 autographed copies of In Leah’s Wake (one for you and one for a friend), 2 bookmarks, a $ 15 Starbucks card, and a pound of gourmet chocolate truffles plus either a $100 Amazon gift card or autographed books for your entire book club (up to 15 books), please visit her blog: www.tglong.com/blog/

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16 thoughts on “Finding Balance – Or Not

  1. Enjoyed your post, Terri, and am looking forward to reading your novel. Balance is a hard thing to describe. If you feel good about what choices you make, then that’s balance for you. If you don’t, then it’s time to adjust. I’m glad you have found what works for you. And so happy you and my daughter have connected!

    1. Thank you so much, Susan! I wholeheartedly agree – it’s about making choices that work for you and feeling good about them. I’m really glad we’ve connected too! Emily is such a lovely – and talented! – woman.

  2. I totally agree with you. Finding balance is very difficult and we do have to let go of some things (clean house) to make time for more important things (playing with kids). Great post!
    Looking forward to reading your book!

  3. Thanks so much for your kind words! It really is a juggling act. Men work hard and they face their own challenges, but theirs, it seems to me, are different from ours. Thank you again – I really appreciate your support and your interest in my novel. 🙂

  4. i am struggling with balance, with trying to figure out how to be me, wife, mom, daughter, friend, employee, etc…. but most of all right now struggling to change, to keep my marriage together, and to get through this rocky time. some of the things you said struck home especially the she who dies with the cleanest house doesn’t win… its true.. that stuff isn’t important in the long run. its important to me because my brain can’t stop fretting, but that’s something i’m working on too. thanks for the post.

    1. You’re doing a lot! It’s tough for any of us to find balance, but it’s infinitely harder when you’re struggling. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I hope life improves for you very soon.

  5. Thank you so much, Em! I felt better, too, when I realized that all the female writers I knew faced the same struggles and felt the same way. 🙂

    I love the plaid background too, Emily! The clock on the banner is such a great touch. I really love your blog – so glad I’m subscribed. 🙂

    1. Thanks! I love the plaid too but the clock is going pretty soon. I’m working with a great designer who is creating something more me. That clock is “borrowed” and actually doesn’t reflect me very well. Something new coming soon!

  6. Such a great post on Balance. Seriously a constant juggling act, and I agree re: the father’s at home work, it would be compartmentalized .

    Can’t wait to check her site (and her book, thanks for sharing the info, Emily!)

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate your interest, MommaKiss! I don’t mean to minimize the challenges men face, but I do find that they’re very different from ours. For some reason, probably because they compartmentalize, they don’t seem to struggle with balance – I rarely hear them voice it, anyway. Yet it’s a constant for women.

    1. Thanks so much, Anne! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I think it’s an important issue to talk about for exactly that reason – when we realize others experience the same things we feel less alone.

  7. Great post, Terri. I like your conclusion that balance is impossible for the female writer – makes me feel better about my inability to achieve it! Love the new plaid background, Ms. Pajama Days 🙂

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