4 Ways Becoming a Parent Changes a Writer

Everything changes.

Seasons, relationships and the way we, as writers, craft words.

I had no idea the changes coming when I worked as a journalist in 2009.

I know two consistencies: change always occurs and I have always been a writer.

Have you examined the ways in which you’ve changed as a writer or author?

Like a scientist examines every variable of an experiment, writers experience more than one change in how or why they write. One of my reasons is simple:

Motherhood.

In 2009, I take one last look at the University of South Carolina horseshoe. One of the many photos I found in which my now husband catches me lost in thought with his camera.

  • Drop and Walk

Every mother’s birthing story is different. Some think, Awe, he is mine. Other new moms ponder Oh, my God, what am I going to do, as nurses prop a new baby in her arms.

I thought, Okay, I got the boy out in 20 minutes. Take these needles and stuff out of me so I can walk.

“Wait,” the nurse said. “You should rest there.”

“I’m good. I’m ready to walk.”

Fifteen minutes later, I walked across the room with equipment still hooked up with a tube and needle to my arm.

A baby is here. No time to waste. As a new parent you do not immediately realize the way you were writing is done.

When a child is born, so is a new writer.

  • Everybody is Watching

All of a sudden, people watch you like a new Broadway show or a football team in its first season with a new coach. The questions roll through their minds.

Is she going to let Dad change all the diapers? Is she breastfeeding? Did she even try?

In some cases—like Soviet vs. American spies—families, friends and others watch you. They are looking to see if you’ll fit into the mommy cookie mold or spill over the top. You become slightly paranoid.

As your bundle of joy turns into a toddler, parents at the park watch how you handle your child when he or she screams, throws mulch or sand or hits.

You gain a new insight in the way people think. That creates great inspiration for characters.

“There by the river you will always be, love, you and me.” Six months pregnant, John hikes trails with me in the middle of winter. Somewhere in North Carolina, 2010.

  • Five More Minutes

… are the famous words said by teens everywhere not ready to wake up and go to school. They are also the words of parents who remain dedicated to their craft. Something about any artist that is difficult to understand is that writing is not some hobby you stick in the attic after Junior or Sarah is born.

Writing stays in your heart, mind and spirit. If you’re like me, it is hardwired into you. You think plots, characters, stories, how you can improve this sentence or that scene or what makes another writer a genius.

A reporter friend gave my husband these words of advice:

“If you want to lose her, you’ll never listen when she talks about her writing. You’ll never leave her alone to write. You’ll encourage her to pursue her craft.”

John listened.

I know a lot of parent-writers who are also fully employed. They are great parents and writers.

If you feel you do not have the time, because you have burp-up stuff on your shoulder, your toddler keeps hitting others and you feel like a horrible parent—you are not alone.

If you work hard and know you must come home and tend the flock, you are still a writer.

The reality is you are attached to the craft and you will not let it go.

When I read Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, she wrote of her son, “Thank you for those times when mommy needed just a few more minutes.”

  • Words Move Us

My grandmother practiced the faith of words. That is any child who can read has the foundation to do anything he or she wants.

Read to your children. Read often. When that is not enough, turn off the idiot box or the iPad and snuggle up on the wePad.

My parents, John and I read to Charles. One night, I sat in Charles’ rocking chair reading my book. He opened a pop-up book with animals. One at a time, he said, “walrus,” “owl,” “Wolf howls,” and “whale.”

Charles loves cars and books. He will build a circular fort of books around him and look at the pictures. He says the words.

And even when we’re at the computer typing away, we should turn and listen when our children say, “Mommy, look.”

Otherwise you’re missing out.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Photos by John Bridges

* 10 Things I Shall Leave For My Son to Say

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8 thoughts on “4 Ways Becoming a Parent Changes a Writer

  1. Eagle-Eyed Editor November 16, 2012 at 4:27 PM Reply

    I think that life experiences — including parenthood — help you evolve as a writer. I look back at things I’ve written years ago and can see the differences.

    Blogging, too, has improved me as a writer. By reading the excellent examples of other people and learning from them, that’s helped.

    • rtd14 November 16, 2012 at 4:31 PM Reply

      Blogging has helped me, too. Since I began working, it has become a challenge to keep up with it the way I did. As I wrote in this blog, anyone who really enjoys or loves writing is still a writer. I am learning how to building writing time into my life.
      What do you enjoy writing about?
      Thank you for your comment!

      • Eagle-Eyed Editor November 16, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        Books, writers, writing & social media. I talk about a lot of different authors, classic and modern, among other topics.

      • rtd14 November 18, 2012 at 8:32 PM

        That is great! I will most certainly check out your blog!

  2. Elliot November 16, 2012 at 4:39 PM Reply

    I think it is hard not to be different after having a child. For me we had been up early, then all night, plenty of stress, prior to my son being born at around 2-ish of the following morning. The next few hours are a bit of a blur as we first looked at him, had my wife eat and try manage to go to the bathroom etc. Then he started crying, we were tired, and wondering, like you do at the beginning, what do we do? After 30 mins or so of the crying, it all seemed like a big mistake.

    But that was just tiredness. Towards the end of that day, I had chance to sit down in the rocking chair, him in my arms, just us two. He seemed to like it. I sure did. Right there I knew it would all be fine, and I’ve never looked back. Because of course, everything changes.

    We like to read to our son also. He loves his books. Some might get annoying through constant use, but he enjoys it, and its for his benefit not mine. I love the interaction and what he gets from it all.

    • rtd14 November 18, 2012 at 8:34 PM Reply

      I remember in the first month I felt out of touch with the world. You never slept regular hours, and you do wonder what you are doing. In the end, our son is worth all the work.

      Charles likes to recycle through the same books, too. I tell him to pick out another one sometimes, and he will.

  3. robincoyle November 16, 2012 at 6:08 PM Reply

    “wePad.” You should tell the gurus at Apple about that. Brilliant. And the “Mommy, look” line . . . gave me goosebumps.

    • rtd14 November 18, 2012 at 8:32 PM Reply

      Thank you very much, Robin! I am happy you enjoyed it. The iTechnology says more than just a nice piece of computer gear. I still love touching books.

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