Dear World; SAHMs and Writers Still Work, You Know

Reminding myself that I do work

Reminding myself that I do work

I took my children to a play date this morning and had a fabulous few hours watching them enjoy new toys, sunshine and company while I enjoyed a comfortable chat and plenty of hot tea. The talk, as often happens with parents you don’t know very well, turned to work.

The other three were teachers and when I explained that I was at home writing I got the dreaded response, “So you don’t work then?” followed by the embarrassed proviso of the working mum: “Except of course looking after these,” with a smile towards the children.

The funny thing was I was more bothered by writing not being considered a proper job than being a SAHM, even though looking after the children is much harder and takes up more of my time. There was another comment later, along the lines of, “You’re doing what we’d all love to be doing,” and again I wasn’t sure whether it referred to being able to pick my kids up from school, being about to do my hobby as a job or having endless free time to do laundry or, you know, drink coffee and paint my nails. 😉

I don’t know the other parents very well but I know they’re lovely people and it was clear that nothing was intended maliciously or even said with a great deal of thought. Much as I used to think being a teacher must be easy – short days, long holidays – before I spent any time with teachers and realised it’s the hardest job in the world and you couldn’t pay me enough to do it: we none of us have a blinking clue what’s really involved until it’s our job. And even then we all approach life differently.

Some of my light reading

Some of my light reading

I have to be working; I feel guilty if I don’t. So if I’m not writing I must either be cleaning, doing social media (which I don’t love) or reading (which I’m only just accepting as training for writers). It doesn’t feel like a hobby, but of course I do have a choice whether to work or be a housewife, which many don’t. I know I’m extremely fortunate.

Equally when I said to them that I loathed the school run (their children aren’t yet at school so they have that joy to look forward to) I’m sure they were envious that I have the luxury of doing it, as their children are in childcare all week. We all want what we can’t have.

There’s a lovely post on Facebook – two letters from a Stay at Home Mum and a working mum – which actually sympathises with the differences rather than finding reasons to hate. I’ve done a bit of both and I know they each suck in some way. (Incidentally, for a completely different take on the Facebook post, and why we parents should all STFU and stop moaning, read this). I preferred working (or, I should say, I preferred being employed, getting paid and knowing what I was meant to be doing from one minute to the next and not feeling guilty) but I only did it for a short time and before I had a child at school, so childcare was easier. Writing is a lot less stressful in many ways, of course, but it’s not always an easy way to spend your day. And the pay is lousy 😉

There’s another meme on Facebook – a quote from Katrina Monroe – that sums it up:

“Writing is like giving yourself homework, really hard homework, every day, for the rest of your life. You want glamorous? Throw glitter at the computer screen.”

Amen to that. You don’t get a day off, even when – like today – the only writing that gets done is on a phone in the dark while walking the dog at 6.15pm after hubbie gets home. You lie awake at 2am wondering what your character should do next or – as I have been lately after reading too many blog posts about how self-published authors are a scourge on decent literature – whether you should even be a writer. Can you call yourself a writer with a hundred sales to your name and more one star reviews than fives? (Well, almost. Hyperbole is accepted to make a point.) You’re never an aspiring teacher, no one ever called a teacher at home marking books ‘not working’. (Well, not to their face anyway!) I choose to be a writer, and to take all that entails, but it’s not a walk in the park (even when you’re walking in the park).

So, next time you’re chatting to a writer, or a SAHM, just nod and smile and maybe keep the phrase “So you don’t work then?” to share with your husband once you get home and vent on how the others have it easy. Much appreciated! 😀

4 thoughts on “Dear World; SAHMs and Writers Still Work, You Know

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more! I’m not a SAHM (though I’d love to be), but my husband is a SAHD and deals with these attitudes quite often. Strangely, it tends to be the men who sympathize with him…many of my male coworkers have told me, “your husband definitely has the hard job” and “he’s a good man…I couldn’t do it!” Meanwhile the women are little vipers spitting venom, assuming that because I work and he “doesn’t” that he’s some kind of leeching bum. I tend to side with the men…in this case daddy definitely has the harder job!

    On the other coin, I AM a writer, and I have often been slapped with that frustrating attitude that non-writers have that writing is somehow not work. I actually dread people finding out that I’m a writer because the conversation inevitably turns to how awesome that must be to “just be able to write” like it’s some kind of natural talent that you don’t have to put any kind of effort into. 😛

    To date I’ve met a grand total of two people (at the same time, at a job I worked last year) who were completely sympathetic of the work that goes into being a writer. Instead of asking me inane questions like, “What’s your story about?” they asked things like, “How much do you normally write in a day?” and, “How long does it usually take to finish a book?” and, “What’s the next step after actually writing a book?” You can’t even imagine what a pleasant conversation it was!

    • Oh I can imagine! My friends generally don’t ask at all, probably because I used to be in the ‘I wish I could write a novel’ camp myself until I discovered NaNoWriMo so I tend to get on my soapbox about just writing, not always mentioning the hard work that is revision! Writing’s a bit like parenting in that respect – you don’t want to put off newbies by telling them the horror stories!

  2. That Katrina Monroe quote is just the best ever. Really made me laugh. I thought sahms had it easy until I hit 20 and the first of my friends started having kids. That put me off having kids until I was 40. Now I am a mum and I know, for sure that it’s the hardest, most intense, but also rewarding thing I’ve ever done. If I could shelve the writing for a couple of years I would, it’d make life a lot easier, but like you, I like to have something cerebral to work at or I go a bit mad(er).

    It’s often hard to take when people are like this. Well done for biting your tongue. For my own part I’m lucky. The other mums are either like me so understand what it takes to do… Well anything while raising kids or impressed with us sahm peps. If it helps I can sympathise. 🙂

    Cheers

    MTM

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