Legions of books exist about writing: how to write, how to publish, how to make a living as a writer... but books about being a parent and a writer?
No books that dive deep into the realities of raising young kids while striving for success as a professional writer. The sleepless nights. The worries and fears. The efforts to teach kids kindness, empathy, understanding.
And of course, potty training.
Until now. Author and parent Chrissy Wissler offers this much-needed resource. Writing While Raising Young Kids: An Author's Guide to Finding Balance holds nothing back. Wissler chronicles her own emotional journey as she struggles to find her way between the needs of her two differently wired kids, her own dreams, and redefining what 'success' means—for her and her family.
A must-read book for any writer tackling the even bigger job of parenting at the same time. Because when it comes to raising kids, we're all in this...together.
Over the years, I've watched a lot of my fellow writers become parents. I heard stories about choosing between a writing session and comforting a child who is angry about the loss of attention. The difficulties in balancing working from home with spending quality time with a child.
I first met Chrissy Wissler when she was an aspiring writer, before she became a parent. I watched her learn how to parent and maintain her writing. She's a marvelous role model for other parents. Now she's sharing her secrets. If you're a parent and a writer, this is one book you absolutely need. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"Reading Chrissy Wissler'sParents and Proseblog is like having a much-needed conversation with your best friend, whichoffers reassurance that you're not alone in your struggles and proof that we can all find a path that works for us if we just listen to our hearts and our children."Allyson Longueira, award-winning writer, publisher and parent
"Is it possible to survive the hectic insanity that comes from raising to challenging children AND keep up a writing career? Chrissy Wissler has a unique perspective when it comes to melding child-rearing with a writing career. Written from the heart, she invites the reader to follow along on her journey as she struggles to find ways to help her special needs children—and discovers the best way to help them is through helping herself. The experiences Chrissy shares and the path she's followed are often difficult—emotionally—to read. I found myself celebrating each of her successes and pondering her discoveries long into the night. Well worth the reading experience, whether you be parent or writer or both!"– Lousia Swann, Author, Editor, and Parent
Every writer is different. Every child is different.
Navigating your path as a parent-writer will be different than mine or anyone else's—especially when we throw in the unique demands and opinions of our littlest ones.
This book, what started as a series of blogs about how to navigate this journey of being a parent-writer and raising young kids, will not tell you what to do or dictate best practices. I will not speak in absolutes or tell you how to balance your time between parenting and writing or any of the usual stuff you'd expect from a "How-To" parenting book.
Because we are all different.
My life choices will be different from yours. The choices Sean and I made for our family may not resonate with you—and that's okay. The privileges in my life, of being gifted with this opportunity to stay home and raise my differently wired kids, may not be the same as yours.
In fact, for some of you, it will be the exact opposite.
The real truth is only you know your family and this is a truth I'd like up front and center in this book.
You know your family.
You know the right balance between parenting and writing for your family. The right balance between schedules and school and emotional needs. The individual needs of your kids—because they will be different. They will be different from mine but also amongst their siblings and extended family.
While all this is true, there are also some themes that stay the same.
Babies still insist on waking up at all hours of the night (and very early mornings) to be fed and changed. Then there are those annoying teeth that insist on poking through in a most painful way (which these adorably cute babies insist their caregivers be present through every agonizing moment to sooth and comfort them). Then there are the two-year-olds who insist on having a mind and will of their own and challenge everything—
Yet don't quite have the understanding that running into a street is a bad idea.
Uh-huh. I've got one of those.
If you're a parent or if you know someone who is, I'm sure you're nodding your head at this.
As parents, we all go through these same stages and while these stages get physically easier as our kids get older (babies and their need to feed all night long, toddlers and their strange need to run into the street), the physical toll on us is replaced by an emotional one, an invisible one almost. Our kids must learn the rules of our society and gradually, grudgingly, accept them (such as the necessity of clothes—a concept my youngest, Eric, still doesn't much care for), and we're the ones called to teach them.
The emotional load of parenting gets heavier.
As parents we're asked more and more to sit with our kids as they work through problems with friends, how one kid was mean or a whole group refused to play with them. Maybe even called them "weird" or "different."
All these emotions which trigger our own past and childhood experiences because our kids are our mirrors, reflecting back to us exactly those areas in ourselves we need to work through or heal...
And you kinda almost miss those simple, though exhausting nights and days of having a newborn.
(And the toes—those super cute baby toes.)
But through all this, through all the physical demands and the years of disturbed and broken sleep (I'm seriously still waiting to get back to a consistent eight hours) and the emotional weight we're asked to support our kids through, through all that there are some of us who dream to do what feels like impossible at times...
To be a writer.
This is the heart of what this book is about. It is acknowledging all the joys and hardships of parenting, both which exist side-by-side and often at the exact same time, and for us, for us who have a bigger, deeper calling, a yearning inside of us to create stories, to write...
To simply... go play and see what happens next.
This book is about how we show up for all the duties and joys of being a parent while still maintaining this spark, this need, to write.
I became a parent in 2012 when Kate was born, right as I was breaking out as a professional fiction writer (I'd done nonfiction for years but fiction stories had always been my passion). I was an independent publisher. Even back then, to sell and be financially successful, you needed a big catalog of stories—
And you needed a lot stories ready in the pipeline.
I knew my writing productivity would take a complete and total nosedive when Kate came along (... which... it did), but I also knew I would keep writing.
Not a lot—I'd made the conscious choice to be a parent first—but I knew without a doubt I would keep writing. A story here, a story there because writing was essential to my well-being and happiness and passion.
It was this passion I was determined to hold onto—somehow—and still be a parent.
I have a feeling many of you can relate.
Writing was my happy place and my joy (and probably yours, too). I was determined to find some way to keep striving toward my dream as a professional fiction writer, but when I looked around for guidance, for all those other writers who'd clearly been writers and had kids, I didn't find a lot of help on how to do this.
Certainly not with young kids.
I heard plenty about when kids finally went to school these professional writers would get the free time to write, time when they weren't parenting, but... but what about when they were babies? What about when they, as parents, were literally existing on two or three hours of broken sleep? Were they writing during those stages of parenting?
I looked for answers…
And found nothing.
I remembered hearing about one legend in the romance community who had this rule that when she was writing she could only be interrupted if someone was bleeding (a tale which I think has grown in the retelling). I heard about caregivers, often dads, who could just turn off the sound of their baby's cry and focus on the story at hand (a feat that is still utterly beyond me). I heard about mothers who, exhausted after their endlessly long days of caring for kids, would still go and handwrite a story or idea on napkins instead of sleeping.
None of those solutions felt right to me and frankly, for me to keep showing up as a halfway decent parent, I needed some bare amount of sleep. These writers, while they'd found their way to be both parent and writer, none of those felt like a path I wanted to walk.
Which meant I had to figure it out for myself.
This idea, this path forward became a passion for me in early 2014, when Kate wasn't yet two. I'd attended my first professional writing workshop in over a year (which, although I didn't know it at the time, would be my last workshop for a good four years). I ended up selling a story at this workshop (which you can find in Fiction River: Risk-Takers), but I'd also connected with another fellow writer (a fantastic writer and editor in his own right): Ron Collins.
Ron had gone through the gauntlet of being a parent-writer years ago with his daughter. He listened to my struggles, my frustrations and my dreams, and shared some of his own story of how he managed to write and be the stay-at-home parent. He encouraged me to write about my journey and asked me to share it with everyone, but he also asked that I include all parents in this and not just moms.
Because he'd been the dad caregiver.
If I was struggling to find answers about how to be a present and connected mom and writer, I can't imagine what it was like for him all those years ago.
But I took his message to heart and while much of what I've written will be from a mother's perspective (because that's who I am), I also tried to hold space for anyone else, anyone who stepped into both roles as primary caregiver and writer.
This book got started back up on the Oregon Coast, eating cheesecake at the Inn at Spanish Head. It took a bit for the blog to become a reality, after Eric was born, after I'd gotten hit with one life roll after another, after adding a sibling to the family and realizing just how different Kate was from all the other kids—and how exactly perfect she was—
It took time, though, and my writing fully and completely fell by the wayside for several long months. There and then I was faced with a choice:
To fall down or stand back up.
I fell a lot in those early years (which you'll see reflected here) and I still fall down, but even now I'm pulling myself back up, finding my way as a parent-writer.
To be a parent first and a writer second.
Back in those early days, I felt alone. I felt lost and scared and I didn't know what my path forward would look like... so I decided to write about it, to write about this journey—raw and unfiltered as it was—and to possibly connect with other parents who were in the thick of it just like me. My deepest hope with this book, whatever your path, whatever children chose you as a parent, you won't feel alone.
Because you're not alone.
There are many more of us out there, parents who are somehow balancing this tight rope of parenting and responsibility with our inner fire, our creativity, our passions. We're trying to do so much while at the same time we continually find ourselves coming up short in what we believe is "good enough."
Good enough parents. Good enough writers.
Except we are.
We have value, both in the stories we might sneak in during naptimes or scrawled in a notebook on park days, to sitting with our children as they cry over some hurt perpetrated by another child.
Because they were told they couldn't play.
Because they were told they were different or weird or mean.
And we have value as parents, allowing our kids this space, allowing them to cry and feel sad while we simply stay present and hold them—despite how we might feel on the inside.
We are amazing in simply showing up and trying our best to fulfill both these callings:
Being a parent. Being a writer.
I think it's time we start talking—and sharing—our stories.
Here, I'll start.
Let me tell you about my family, about Kate and Eric. About how they came into our lives and changed everything. How they changed me, both as a person and a parent, but also how they changed who I am as a writer...
A change I'm seeing now in almost every story I write.