Merging Motherhood With Professional Pursuits
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a “word wizard.” In fifth grade, my friend and I, trying to channel Carolyn Keene (and the other writers behind the Nancy Drew books) would spend hours writing our own creative mysteries starring Nancy, Bess, and George. In sixth grade I won an essay contest and in high school a poetry contest, and then I went on to pursue a journalism career.
But during the most intense years of parenting several children, dreams of being a “word wizard” were set aside for the more immediate and more important work of raising the wonderful children I had been blessed to bring into the world.
Then a call came amidst the chaos that put the pen back in my hand and jumpstarted my writing career. The perfect opportunity presented itself for me to merge my calling of motherhood with my career choice of writer.
I was holding the wailing three-month old when I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello.” I listened intently over the din of the crying coming forth from my neighbor’s baby who was among the children I was watching that afternoon. The caller identified herself as the editor of the community newspaper and she asked if I was interested in a freelance job with the publication. The press releases I had sent promoting a charitable event had sparked her interest in my writing.
The baby continued to cry loudly although she had been fed, burped and changed. I explained to the editor that, although this wasn’t my child, I did have four little ones and really hadn’t considered working outside the home at this point in my life.
“Would you consider it?” she asked. “Many of our freelancers are mothers who work from home.”
I was intrigued. I loved to write, and I wanted to pursue my writing career as well as contribute to the family finances. I wanted to find a way to combine my calling as a full-time mother with my career choice of writer. This seemed like the perfect option. I interviewed with the editor the following week and was officially offered the job. I began work immediately.
Fusing full-time motherhood with part-time writing was not always easy, but the park behind our house provided the perfect working environment. My children could do the work of their childhoods – playing—while I did the work of freelance writing—finding sources and interviewing them. The park was full of mothers, and my stories and columns were focused on issues that affected families, especially education.
With my reporter’s notebook and pen tucked in the diaper bag or stuffed in the pocket of the stroller, and usually with at least two children in tow, I headed to the park to do what I would being doing anyway – chatting with other mothers. Many of the conversations yielded great story ideas, such as the pros and cons of implementing all day kindergarten into the neighborhood schools and the need to upgrade community playgrounds to meet new and improved safety standards.
The park beautifully encompassed the combining of motherhood and professional pursuits. But the actual writing of the stories was another story. Now as an official “word wizard” with a deadline, I wished I had a real magic wand that could make dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and dirty diapers disappear.
I had to learn to turn my eyes from the household chores in front of me and focus on writing the column and meeting the deadline. Many times I could write when the kids were in a one-morning-a-week daycare. But sometimes the writing took place late night or early morning, or on occasion, in desperation to meet a deadline, after plunking the children down in front of their favorite TV show.
Miraculously, the deadlines were always met, and my column would appear in the paper with my photo and byline. From this I was invited to the elementary school to talk to the students about writing careers or to facilitate writing workshops for kids. I loved the opportunity to inspire young students to pursue a writing career. Harry Potter was popular at the time, and I often told the kids that the writer’s pen is like a magic wand. The writer can make the words fly across the page and the sentences sing. As a “word wizard,” the writer can create rhyme.. The writer can take the stuff of everyday life and magically make prose that tingles the toes.
In her book A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, Jordan Rosenfeld says, “Everything you do for your writing practice counts toward future success. Every single bit. Every free gig, volunteer effort, labor of love ……. All the hours and materials you donate……” And I found that to be true. Future success is there waiting for would-be writers, for mothers hoping to magically merge their calling of full-time motherhood with their calling of writing professionally. When a want to be “word wizard” embraces the enchantment of saying ‘yes,’ taking a risk, and merging motherhood with professional pursuits, the pen indeed becomes a magic wand in her hands.
Columnist Lori Drake is the mother of six children and the founder and former Headmistress of Roseleaf Academy, which was the only girls’ school in eastern North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in Mothers Always Write, San Diego Woman, Daily Nebraskan, Gaithersburg Gazette in Maryland, and the Daily Reflector and the Farmville Enterprise in North Carolina. The recipient of three Honorable Mentions in the Writer’s Digest National Competition, Lori is currently writing a book about her innovative school.