How a Stay-Home-Mom Became a Writer

Published by Wendy Walker
Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 at 11:59 pm under Wendy's Blog

I remember the day I began this journey with perfect clarity. Sitting in my office, there was a cup of coffee on the desk, a laptop open to a blank screen. From the window I could see my son with the sitter walking to the swing. Even now, I can feel the all-consuming guilt that held me captive as I watched him toddle hand-in-hand with someone else. A mother’s guilt is a powerful thing. What was wrong with me that after only a year on the job as a stay-home-mom I was trying to forge a new one as a writer?I had hardly noticed the desire when it crept in. Driving in the car to my child’s activities, I found myself constructing characters and dialogue. At night while I waited for the baby to call, I put together story lines and plots. The part of me I left behind when I opted-out to raise my kids kept calling me until, finally, there was nothing left to do but admit to myself that this was something I wanted, and needed.

When I finally turned away from the window that day, I began to write. I wrote one page. I wrote again two days later, then two days after that. When I was overcome with morning sickness, I stopped writing. When it passed, I started again. Then came the second baby, more stops and starts. I took my laptop with me everywhere. I wrote in the back of my car in the pre-school parking lot. I wrote during naps and drop-off swim class. I wrote when my husband watched the kids, when the sitter came. I wrote and wrote through years that were filled with self-doubt, with moments of clarity then confusion as to why I was so intent on pursuing something so inherently evasive – and, most alarming, something that had nothing to do with the life I had chosen as a stay-home-mom.

For the next year, I searched for an agent, finally finding one a few weeks after giving birth to the last of my three sons. She encouraged me to write women’s fiction, but I was once again overwhelmed with the demands of a newborn. At thirty-seven years old with three children under six, I was officially embarking on a new career – a career I had come to desperately need. And yet, what was I thinking? How was I going to write an entire novel in the midst of the sleepless nights and frenetic days that constituted my life? It was, ironically, from this core-shaking doubt that the four characters in my first novel were born.

Four Wives was written in six months, pouring out of me and into these characters, filling page after page. As I await its publication this coming February, I am frequently asked how it came to be. I have to stop and think because my life doesn’t feel that different. Still, it is within this same life that the answer emerges.

Here is what I have learned about pursuing a new dream in the midst of stay-home-parenting. First, say no to your house. No to redecorating, antiquing, and gardening. Your house can be your worst enemy. Second, micro-manage your time and resources. Every hour your kids are at school, with another parent or a sitter can be spent working. Third, work from your car. The vast majority of Four Wives was written from the back seat of my minivan in the school parking lot. Your house won’t find you there. Fourth, say no to daytime socializing that does not include your kids. No to lunches, coffees and shopping sprees. Skip TV and see your friends for a night out. And last, say yes to your kids – school plays, field trips, baseball games. It is possible to stop working after they get home.

I came to be a writer one page at a time, starting with the first one I managed to write that day in my study. Through the guilt and doubt, it was built like a house, brick upon brick. It was built around everything that was in its way. It was built because beneath it laid a profound need to be seen and heard and valued in the world beyond my front door that so many stay-home-parents come to feel. And it can be done.

15 responses so far

15 Responses to “How a Stay-Home-Mom Became a Writer”

  1. Mary Ickerton 25 Feb 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Great post Wendy. Thanks for sending me the link to this. I will be looking forward to reading the Power Mom’s book.
    As for being a stay at home Mom and a writer, I am in the same boat. Although it never occured to me to write in the car, I actaully find that idea brillant. I have alwasy wanted to be a writer and write every day (or at least try to). Thanks for all the tips and suggestions about working on writing a book. Ignoring the house is by far my favorite. :-)

    Mary

  2. Marjonon 16 Mar 2009 at 7:45 am

    Hey,

    i looked at your website and your video. That new book of you sounds great!
    Can you buy it in Europe? I would like to reed it.
    Well i am not really in Europe but in Bahrain, i guess you can’t buy it here.
    Your website looks really good.
    Your under my favorites now.

    Thanks,

    Marjon

  3. Wendyon 17 Mar 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Yes! In fact, Four Wives has just been published in the Netherlands. Also, Amazon.com has all my books.

  4. Wendyon 17 Mar 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks!

  5. Heather Kepharton 18 Oct 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Hello Wendy, and thank you for the great advice.

    I am a stay at home Mom of a two year old son and one year old daughter. I’ve been blogging for about a year, and just recently acknowledged my burning inner desire to be a writer.

    I’ve been struggling with the frustration that comes from the lack of alone time to flush out my thoughts. I don’t know how to balance blogging with reading for pleasure, reading books on how to write, and actually writing. What to write? How to begin? If you’re a blogger, how do you know what writings to include in your blog vs. what to submit for publication?

    So many questions. Nice to know I am not alone.

    Congratulations on your success. You are an inspiration!

  6. Wendyon 20 Oct 2009 at 4:47 pm

    It is so hard! Someone just asked me what I’m reading lately and I had to admit that reading has gotten jumbled up as work for me lately as I am in the midst of a new novel. Anything I read becomes research. It’s very hard to separate our lives. For me, what works best is to focus on one thing (other than my kids) at a time. For the next three weeks, all I am doing is PR for Social Lives and sorting out my 2 new Chicken Soup books. Then I will spend 3 days writing my new novel, and 2 days editing Chicken Soup stories. If my deadline gets scary, I will adjust. It’s a constant source of anxiety! I wish I had an answer. Let me know how your writing comes along! Wendy

  7. Jill Eisnaugleon 08 Dec 2009 at 12:12 am

    Hi Wendy,
    Great article! I feel your pain. While I don’t have kids underfoot, I wrote my first two books while managing the needs of my ailing father and his disabilities. I would literally write a line or two and then run to the refrigerator and grab Dad’s sandwich, write two more lines and grab him a Pepsi. It was a challenge but one well worth it.
    I noticed that the Thanks, Dad deadline has been extended. I’ll be sitting here patiently waiting to see if my story is included or if I’ll be putting it on hold until the next submission for which it is a fit.
    Happy writing!

    Jill

  8. Dallason 31 Mar 2010 at 1:22 am

    I am a lawyer, fast approaching 30, waiting desperately to be both a stay at home mom and a writer. Hubby and I are approaching our 10th anniversary, and I am really feeling the biological clock ticking… Thanks for writing this post, it really encourages me.

  9. Wendyon 01 Apr 2010 at 12:50 am

    I’m so glad. Exciting times ahead for you and your husband. Stay in touch and let me know if I can help as you begin the journey as a writer!

    Wendy

  10. Nicky Ganton 08 Jul 2010 at 7:12 am

    Wow … thank you for writing this. I am a SAHM of two boys (3 and 1) and can relate on every level to the difficulties you describe of wrestling the dream of being a writer with day to day tasks of raising the children. At 31 and knowing I’ll want another child, while already busy with two, knowing you are publishing your first novel at 37 is absolutely the most inspiring thing I have ever heard. I find myself starting and stopping various writing projects, and a part of me ‘believes’ they are crystalizing inside of me and will birth when the time is right. Your novel born of your deep inner life being “born” in 6 months is absolutely wonderful. Congratulations, and thanks again for the inspiration.

  11. In Transitionon 18 Jul 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Dear Wendy,

    Wow, I am so glad I came across your website and this article. I’m in between careers right now. I’ve just recently come full circle in my life to finally accept that writing is what I want to do professionally. I’ve started writing about anything and everything, and trying to read as much as I can whenever and wherever I am. I have three children 12,9, and 17months. I have to say that I am enjoying it very much, but it definitely is a challenge. Your story is an inspiration to me.

    Thank you,

    In Transition

  12. Joannaon 26 Mar 2012 at 7:51 am

    Hi Wendy!
    I left a small town in north America to move to a capital city in Europe for love. I risked a lot and have a story inside that is burning to come out. I am 33, run my own language consulting firm. We have a 3 year old daughter and are expecting our second child. I have decided to be a SAHM now and focus on my family, but this desire to write and publish is urging me to release the story! I start writing get really excited about the journey then…. doubt creeps in and I let it go. So this morning I just wanted to find inspiration from a mom and successful writer to gain strength and momentum and thanks to you, I found it.

    Thanks again,

    Releasing the voice from captivity,
    Joanna

  13. websiteon 02 Jun 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I Am Going To have to visit again whenever my course load lets up – nonetheless I am taking your Rss feed so i can read your web blog offline. Thanks.

  14. Leahon 25 Jul 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Wendy, I’ve stumbled upon your post at the best time. Thank you for this. I’m a SAHM mom of 2 children–and expecting a third at the end of the year. I keep a blog and am editing my first novel for a potential (Oh, I hope!) agent who is interested in seeing a revision and expecting it by mid-fall. I’m in a constant state of panic–I’m ignoring my kids! The house is falling apart! How will I ever get this finished! Am I wasting my time??–because I feel like I’m not doing anything very well. It’s hard–especially when all you want to do is write, especially when your kids are young and don’t understand Mom’s “work.”

    Thanks for making us feel like we’re not the only ones struggling with doubt and time. And congratulations on your success–I don’t know what’s more inspirational, your post or your growing resume. :)

  15. Danielaon 08 Jun 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Your info is incredibly helpful.

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