Your Excuse Not to Pursue Joy Because “Life Got in the Way” Doesn’t Cut It

You're Busy; Sure. DO it anyway

On January 12, 2016, my son William was born. As a writer and blogger, I thought a lot about how I should announce the birth of my son. I knew the announcement would be easy on my personal social accounts since those I was connected to already knew I was pregnant, but I wondered if I should announce my son online professionally. And then my son was born and everything went by the wayside.

Reason being? Well - surprise, surprise - motherhood is hard. Everyone told me how hard becoming a parent would be, but no matter how many people said it, and no matter how many books I read about it, and no matter how many mommy blogs I frequented… nothing could prepare me for the simple fact that becoming a mother would be one of the most challenging things in my life.

Another thing that everyone tells you that I totally took for granted was that the moment you lay your eyes on your child is a game changer. The moment I laid eyes on William for the first time was as intense as intense could be. But what I didn’t expect was how that initial love you feel is only a tiny pea in comparison to what you will come to feel over time. I never expected that every day I would fall more and more in love with my son. It’s crazy and all consuming.

The long and the short of it? Motherhood tore me apart. It challenged me and pushed the boundaries of what defined me. It touched my life in every single way. There is not a single thing in my life that has not changed drastically just because of this new little person. It’s both amazing and terrifying. Sometimes it’s still a hard thing to accept.

It’s not just about not being able to sleep when you want, eat when you want, or even have a bowel movement when you want. It’s not just about trying to figure out date nights with your partner or getting used to going to restaurants feeling like someone is holding a gun to your head while you eat (the gun being a baby that can break into hysterics at any moment). It’s about having to suddenly redefine every single aspect of who you are. It’s a hard pill to swallow and there are about a million and one things to process at any given time.

And so I had a hard time figuring out how I would announce this little guy. Before I announced him, the analytical, logical, and organized part of myself wanted to figure out what all of this meant.

Well, I gotta say, my son is verging on four-months old and… I still don’t know what it all means.

Recently, I began drafting a post saying, “Sorry for the hiatus everyone, but life got in the way.” Drafting the post made me anxious.

I remember reading the Spelling poem by Margaret Atwood. It resonated with me long ago – even before I was pregnant – because it spoke to the difficulty women face in life, suggesting that women are constantly in an either/or situation. For example, if I love writing, but I want to pay the bills, do I have to pick making a living over following my passion? Does one suffer in favour of the other? This either/or feeling intensified when I got pregnant. I wondered… was I picking having a baby over excelling in my career? I always felt and always feared that something had to give, which is why the whole “life’s gotten in the way” excuse seemed reasonable.

After William arrived, I was confronted with these either/or feelings afresh. Keeping him happy, healthy, and fed is almost all I can do, all day. I found myself wondering (and sometimes still find myself wondering), now that I am a mother, does that mean my career will suffer? Does that mean I am no longer a writer? Am I just a mom? Is this the ultimate form of life getting in the way?

There was one day when I was home with William and I was going stir crazy. So I hit what felt like my ultimate low. If you know me, you’ll know that I hate shopping. I always swore I wouldn’t be one of those mothers who wandered the malls their entire maternity leave. But I got out of my PJs, packed William up, and went to the mall.

I wandered around the mall that day feeling torn apart. As a non-shopper, I wondered: what the heck do you do in a mall? I only ever go to malls when I need to buy something, but there I was… in the mall, wandering around with my stroller, trying to remain sane.

Then I realized, all I really wanted to do at that very moment was write… But I’d forgotten my notebook.

In the past, I literally carried around about five pens, two different novels, my daily planner, and a notebook just in case. Now, all I had was a diaper bag. It felt like a concrete either/or moment - of “life getting in the way” of writing.

I wanted to cry, but instead I went to the drug store, bought a basic notebook, sat down, and wrote.

I wrote and I wrote until I felt me returning to myself. That’s when I realized that… All this time I’ve looked at the activities in my life as things that I’ve done in spite of myself. Whenever my writing stalls, for example, I’d find myself busting out the tried, tested, and true excuse that “Life’s gotten in the way”. I always thought that, in spite of me being who I am, I’ve been able to write. For someone who falls into this train of thought, it’s easy to see how motherhood can be terrifying. Motherhood quickly becomes all consuming – quite literally your whole life, day in and day out, as soon as you meet your little person.

But as I returned to myself through writing, I realized that I’m a writer because of who I am. Not in spite of who I am. I am a mother, a writer, a communicator… I am all of these things. I can be all of these things. I refuse to accept an either/or situation.

In the Spelling poem, Atwood writes, “A child is not a poem / a poem is not a child. / there is no either/or.”

I’ve always struggled with compartmentalizing different parts of myself, thinking and stressing and believing that – at any given moment – life could get in the way. What I didn’t realize was that… life couldn’t get in the way, because whatever I am dealing with is my life. It’s not a life OR writing situation. And now that baby’s arrived, it’s not like my life is being a mother, and everything else doesn’t count. Being a mother has just joined the many things on my list.

My little guy is one of the biggest loves of my life who, just by existing, has challenged me to find a new and bigger understanding of myself. One of those things he’s challenged me to understand? The excuse that “life got in the way” just doesn’t hold any weight. Because life is happening right now.

And you know the whole packing issue regarding the diaper bag versus my notebook? Now I just carry my notebook and pens in my diaper bag. There’s room for it all.

Mia Herrera’s short stories, feature articles and reviews have appeared in various online and print publications like CGMagazine, Live in Limbo, Side Street Review, Hart House Review and TOK: Writing the New Toronto. Her first novel is Shade.