A Time to Mother and a Time to Write

March 28th, 2017

By Becky Cerling Powers

When I was a young mother it was the desire of my heart to write. My major in college had been journalism. Since my parents had been unable to help me much financially, I had worked my way through college by winning scholarships and working at a variety of jobs. Now, married with three small children, I thought I should be using that hard-earned education, right? I should be writing for publication.

But.

But I had an undiagnosed thyroid condition, so I needed a lot of sleep. And my children were young. Needy. Matt was an exuberantly curious toddler with a genius for tearing the house apart. (His pediatric dentist nicknamed him Crash.) Erik was a kindergartner who kept begging me to teach him to read. Jessica, age three, stopped taking naps and insisted on being wherever Mommy was.

I kept trying to retire from the circus to write, but the circus followed me.

One day, just after I’d scolded Jessica for not giving me a minute to myself, the thought dropped into my head, If you keep telling this little girl every day to go away and leave you alone, when she gets old enough, she’ll do it. Permanently.

At that moment, I realized I didn’t like the mom I had become—irritable, impatient, angry. There are laid-back, healthy women who can balance the frustrations of deadlines with preschoolers gracefully, but I was too intense. I couldn’t focus on getting published and still have patience for the constant needs of preschool children.

My children’s interruptions were keeping me from writing, and my impatience with the interruptions were blocking my mothering. So I wasn’t getting published, and I wasn’t being a good mother, either.

It dawned on me that the author of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible was putting his finger directly on my parenting problem when he said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccl 3:1).

When I set my writing goals and made plans to publish, I neglected to consider the season of our family’s life.

It season was not the season to concentrate on getting published. It was the time to teach our kindergartner how to read—while he was eager to tackle the new skill. Nor was it the season to start the grinding process of assessing markets, sending out queries, and obtaining writing assignments to launch a free-lance writing career. It was the time to build our daughter’s self-confidence, by accepting her companionship and encouraging her to work alongside me during her short bouts of enthusiasm for housework. And, although I made the decision reluctantly and with tears, this certainly was not the time to feel sorry for myself. It was the time to retrieve my sense of humor, recognize Matt’s search-and-destroy missions as normal, and let our toddler’s exuberance rub off on my soul.

But did all that mean it was the time to stop writing?

But did all that mean it was the time to stop writing?

NO! Although the season for publication was later, there was no need to thwart my writing desire—just to redirect it. Edith Schaeffer’s wise counsel in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking encouraged me to be willing to lay aside public ambition and develop my writing gift behind the scenes, in ways that enriched the lives of the people in my house and in my heart.

So I kept a journal. I wrote down the funny things the children said and did. I composed letters to relatives and friends, and I used stories about the children from my journal to make the letters interesting. And then, before I knew it, a half dozen years later I found myself regularly publishing for an audience of 100,000, writing family features and weekly parenting columns for The El Paso Times.

It turned out, unexpectedly, that by working with the season instead of against it, I gained everything in the end that I had hoped to achieve when I tried to focus on publishing instead of parenting. My writing seasoned through my children’s preschool season. Describing the children’s funny remarks and poignant moments taught me how to write anecdotes. Composing chatty letters to loved ones established a personal writing tone. And throwing myself into the task of parenting gave me a wealth of material to write about when the season for publication finally came.

Worth repeating: There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every [a]event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Today’s prayer: Lord, what is the proper season for my life today? And what is the proper season for the people You have given me to care for? Am I working with the season or against the season? Please help me to recognize and receive your answer, however it comes. And please give me wisdom to take advantage of this season in my life and the lives of those I care for.

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