I recently re-read parts of an old favorite If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland (originally published in 1938). Reading some of her comments, you’d think she was writing in the 21st Century.
Chapter Ten has a lengthy title: “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing.” The chapter is about doing too much (unnecessary stuff) for others and neglecting your writing.
The More Things Change…
While most of us today have enough modern conveniences that housework isn’t the time-consuming drudge it used to be, we’re trying to juggle home, day jobs, carpooling, throwing kids’ birthday parties, running the school’s bake sale, and a thousand other things. Those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” only seems to intensify the madness. Some things are truly important to your child’s and family’s welfare, but much of it isn’t.
Let me quote Brenda Ueland and see if you agree:
“They [wives/mothers] are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splendid–because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them! But inwardly women know that something is wrong.”
That Was Then! Or Was It?
You might say, “But that was 1938!” Yes, but judging from the letters I get from mom/writers, things haven’t changed all that much. We break our necks trying to keep up with whatever “expert” says a good wife or good mother does. We still “people please” and try to live our roles perfectly–instead of choosing what is the more excellent use of our time and doing that well.
My children (and now my grandchildren) have always come before my writing in importance. But in order to find time to write, I had to stop making my own pickles (like good farm wives did back then), running every children’s program at church, sewing costumes for plays, making applesauce out of the bushel of half-rotten apples given to me, painting my kitchen ceiling that was stained, and a host of other things.
I wanted to write! Something had to give.
What About You?
Today I believe the pressures are much higher. Thanks to social media, young parents are expected to have their children in several social groups starting before preschool, have big birthday parties for the kids, and be at everyone’s beck and call.
Could this be why you don’t have time to write? Does your family knowingly (or unknowingly) put pressure on you to give up all of your activities in favor of theirs? Or is the person putting pressure on you to be everything for everybody…you? It’s worth thinking about before the summer gets away from you.