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Parenthood and Redefinition

It's been a while since I've blogged, and certainly never directly on my website! But I've realized lately that I'd love an outlet for some of my thoughts, and the writer in me can't resist the chance to do so in the written word format. Expect this space to have a variety of content, aimed more for adults than kids, though maybe some kids will find it interesting? If so, rock on, kids. But fair warning, this first post may not be the most relatable one if you're not a grown-up.

Today I'm going to discuss my personal redefinition after becoming a parent.

A few years ago, I went through a massive life shift. I realized it was time to back away from my long-term museum career and focus on my writing career - and - I became a parent. Those were definitely connected changes.

This all happened around 2020. I got married and became a stepmom that year, and also left my job. The year prior to that, I already was becoming a parent, as I was spending most my free time with my soon-to-be-stepson -- living with him, and then pandemic-ing with him. (He was just about to turn 5 when the pandemic hit.) And wow, it was all too much. I couldn't juggle my full time job, my writing (which was requiring hours near full-time from me to keep up with), and suddenly having a family.

Fun fact, they don't give you maternity leave for becoming a step-parent. People in the rest of your life expect you to operate the same as you always did. There just isn't a cultural understanding of the process or social supports for it all. But make no mistake, it takes just as much, if not more, energy than becoming a parent in a more traditional way.

It's always been my dream to be a mom. I adore my stepson and am filled with joy daily that he's in my world. But it did make one thing very clear: I had to switch to one career. Not two. I couldn't do it all. Not if I wanted to be the parent I wanted to be for him.

And so I chose writing. That was the one that I saw room for actual growth in. My museum career, while fulfilling, was stagnant and had been for years. I was ready to be *more*. (Plus, writing had the added benefits of being so much more flexible in hours, which worked well for a family situation!)

Those first few months of being a "full time author" were the most productive writing days of my lifetime. I was producing so much, at such a clip! And each project, though I didn't know it at the time, would land me a contract. Hot dang!

Meanwhile, we decided to grow our family. A year later, in 2021, I had a baby. And now I was a parent of two. And we were still in a pandemic. Writing, which was only recently my one single career, had to slow way up and become a side gig again. Life was exhaustion, confusion, chaos, and stress, amidst the beauty and wonder of having kids. I had become a parent to two kids back to back with the world shut down. Add into the mix house-hunting, health problems, and other stressors I won't go into here, and things just became too much to handle even without my old job in the mix.

And wow, was it tempting to feel like a failure as a "full time author". Making the leap to leave my 9-5 and focus on writing had been so terrifying, but I had wanted so badly to try. I started with an intense high and crashed fast, because hey, turns out caring for a family takes more than full time hours, especially with no childcare. As the months and years passed with only a handful of initial contracts coming in and no time to create much new, I was really feeling incredibly bummed about myself and my abilities. I just didn't have the bandwidth. I couldn't cut it. I was failing.

...Heck with that view, though.

Time for a shift in perspective.

Lately, I've been thinking about how there is much discussion about "losing your identity" when one enters parenthood -- and "finding it again" as some kind of goal. Like, reclaiming who you were before becoming a parent is a badge of honor to work toward. To produce at the same level, to look the same as you did before, to keep up with life and friends the same. It's a mark of success if you do any of that.

And like... no. Not for me, at least. Being a parent is part of my life goals, and is my identity now. I'm a parent and I'll never not be. I can't be the me from before, and shouldn't strive to be. Even as our youngest gets older now, with both boys in school/daycare, and I can occasionally see the glimmer of possibility of truly being a full time author and producing at intense levels... no. I don't need to be that person. I thought I did, for so long. But this weekend, I had a couple hours while the toddler napped and chose to use it to prep a DnD session for my husband and older kiddo, rather than write, and that just felt right. (And was much appreciated by them the next day when we played that session during the toddler's nap!)

I'm a parent and a writer. I'm not a writer who's trying to overcome being a parent to be successful. I'm not a parent only, at the exclusion of everything else. I can fully embrace both things. Instead of "reclaiming" an identity, I am forging a new one.

As part of that identity, my family comes first. I'm pretty great at doing the mom thing. I'm raising two boys and doing it well, and there's no reason I need to feel lesser for that. I'm not publishing at the speed others might be, I'm not hopping on planes all the time to do talks and visit schools around the country, and that's all just fine. Because success, for me, is having a happy and healthy family, supported comfortably enough, while still getting to write books. And that is exactly what I'm doing.

It's not about reclaiming. It's about redefining.

This is the me of right now, and I think they're doing pretty great for what they have to work with. And hey, this version of me may occasionally want to write out my thoughts to share. So I'll leave this blog space open to do just that!

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