While comments on my post about dropping the business side of blogging were pouring in, I was plunging into my new life.
I transformed our cluttered playroom into a cozy family area, took the kids and met a friend at a festival downtown, made three batches of lasagna including one for our school’s soup kitchen, convinced the girls to babysit so Enrico and I could have a candlelit dinner together, handed out flyers to our block party, got a trim with the boys at Supercuts (adieu to those high-end haircuts!), bought a set of shelves to organize our new coat closet, started mixing chocolate chip cookies to send to my dad, and had a group of neighborhood families over for dinner. All that in one weekend.
Not every weekend has been this intense (thank God, I can hear my husband muttering), but I know I am on the right track. I’m stopping at the right stations, and the mix of familiar scenes and scents along the way make me realize that I’m heading home. But there are still a lot of things I haven’t figured out.
It may have been easy to re-embrace a life centered around family, home, and community, but it has not been easy letting go of all that so I can hug my writing too.
Raising four children, running a household, managing the finances, fixing up an old house, staying close to my husband, and forging relationships with friends, relatives, and neighbors in a new city could easily fill all of my time.
Yet, a few readers of that post (including my mom, who raised me and my sister alongside an art career) urged me to keep exercising my writing muscles. Given my obsessive-compulsive personality, however, “just a little” is hard to do.
Is a Blog a Vocation or a Hobby or Something In-Between?
Then there are overarching questions that I’m not sure how to answer. If I can no longer call my blog “work,” then is it just a hobby? If so, then how much time does one dedicate to this kind of hobby? If I allocate an hour per day to work on the blog, what happens if I don’t get the work done? Am I allowed to write at night, on the weekends?
For a while I’ve said “no” to letting my writing spill into those more personal spaces. And that is why you haven’t heard from me in a while.
Freedom Requires Incredible Self-Discipline
Quitting all my freelance gigs and giving myself permission to stop competing in the mom blog madness has been both a gift and a liability. I have more time and I am the ultimate boss of that time. But with freedom comes a heck of a lot of responsibility.
I needed to spend a little more time on email (actually reading the school newsletters would be a good start), but I shouldn’t spend all morning on email, for example. I should make our house more cozy (and deal with that pesky mouse), but I shouldn’t spend hours poring over fabric swatches. (Or should I?)
So when I’m not at Luke’s co-operative preschool wiping noses, cleaning bottoms, sweeping crumbs, and drying tears, I’m often across the street in an old movie theater café with my laptop, fighting with myself over what I should be doing.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve succumbed to Parkinson’s Law, where the work expands to fill the time I give it. Does it really take this long to write a manifesto on slow blogging, or is it just that there is no station master with a clock, caring if I arrive on time?
Deadlines Make Us Do the Hard Stuff
Writing and finishing something is hard. It takes courage because every time I hit publish, I am exposing myself to the world. I am being vulnerable and allowing people to see me, to judge me, to say, “Hmmmph!” and hit delete.
I have lots of pots on the stove, but none of them are good enough to serve. As stressful as external deadlines were, they made me finish things.
It’s much easier organizing hand-me-downs or chatting with the electrician. Writing something means turning oneself inside-out, and sometimes writers would rather do almost anything else — even cleaning a bathroom!
Technology Must Be My Tool, Not My Master*
Working is complicated these days because, for so many people, much of it can be done on a computer. To me, a laptop equipped with Wifi is a gorgeous monster.
I may convince myself that I’m going to work on that post for just 30 minutes, but I well know that wrangling words will get tough and then I’ll be checking email, looking at my Twitter @replies, and browsing Colonial Revival door styles on ThisOldHouse.com.
If I let the glowing screen swallow me up, then I lessen my chances of being the well-rounded, thoughtful, present mom, wife, and citizen that I want to be.
You Can’t Aim at Two Bullseyes at Once**
Running a team blog, writing occasional posts, and chipping away at a personal essay is going to be probably all that I can do well right now. So once all the new contributing writers take a turn introducing themselves (aren’t they awesome?), I will jump in and start posting in alternate weeks. That means that I’ll still be the main voice here, but Frugal Mama will only be updated once every seven days.
Given the current publishing frenzy, I consider this pace to be an example of slow blogging and I plan to take a stand on it (when I can get that manifesto and logo finished…) Producing one well-presented post can take several days of free time. From production and editing to image sourcing, promotion, and social media response, blogs can be consuming, and as a producer, I realize that I am unwittingly contributing to everyone’s Information Overload.
Quality of Life (For Me) is Related to Simplicity of Life
Despite my continuing struggle with balance, slowing down was 100% the right decision for me. Family and friends notice that I’m more relaxed and happy, and even though some probably can’t believe that I gave up TLC for the chance to organize the fifth-grade Halloween party.
I love walking to and from school in all of nature’s moods, getting my house just the way I want it project-by-project, and being purposeful of my newfound time so I can be generous with it — bringing dinner to a friend-in-need or throwing a party.
Making friends boosts my mood, but I’ve also noticed that giving comes back to me. The neighbors we carpool to the farm-share came to check on us when they saw a random police car in front of our house; a friend who we invited for dinner offered to drive Virginia to and from a birthday party; and my kids are more likely to help me with Luke because I am barking less and talking sweetly more.
Saving Money is a Job Too — with Great Benefits
Conserving money and sharing resources sometimes means aching backs, dirty fingernails, and a few mini-dramas. But in contrast to making money online, which felt like climbing a mountain that was always growing taller, organizing a block party is totally doable and finite, and it helps make my neighborhood a friendly, safe place where people share garden tools and watch each other’s children.
My family is better off, and ironically, I think our bank account will be too. I may have been terrible at making money, but I’m not so shabby at saving it. I think I’ll keep this job.
* “Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.” Love this mantra by Nancy Sleeth in Almost Amish
** I couldn’t remember where I saw the idea of aiming at one bullseye at a time. I loved it and I’m sorry I couldn’t give credit where it’s due.