I’m participating in Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story this month, and today I’m thrilled to welcome Apex social media editor Lesley Conner to the blog! Operation Fourth Story is Apex’s digital magazine drive to promote the magazine and to hopefully get new subscribers. If they reach their goal of 250 new subscribers, they will add a “fourth” story to each month’s issue. You can read more about it here, and if you feel so inclined, you can subscribe to this awesome magazine here.
And now, please give a hearty round of applause to Lesley! Because Lesley is a stay-at-home mom, and a writer, and an editor, I asked her how she balances family life with her job at Apex.
“Mom, can we make cupcakes?”
“Mom, what are we doing today?”
“Mom, come look! This is awesome!”
I look at the stack of Apex work waiting for me, think of the writing project I’m collaborating on with a friend, hide another friend’s novel that I really should be critiquing, and try to forget about the 3rd draft of my novel that needs a final polish before I can start submitting it to publishers. It’s all there, waiting for me, and I know that it’s going to have to keep waiting. The kids are calling.
The art of being an editor and writer and also a stay-at-home mom is not about balance. It really isn’t. For a long time I thought it was. I thought if I found this magical routine then I would be able to keep up with everything and finish it all on time. This is a mirage. A fantasy. A fairytale. It doesn’t exist.
After eight years of juggling my creative life with my domestic life – both integral parts to the whole that makes up who I am – it’s occurred to me that it isn’t balance that makes it all work; it’s flexibility.
I wrote the majority of the first draft of my novel while my younger daughter was an infant and toddler, stealing snippets of writing time when she napped, and then getting up at 5am every day to write when she declared at two and a half that “big girls don’t nap, and I’m a big girl.” Writing that way is agonizing. It’s slow and you can’t build a rhythm and I almost quit more times than I can count.
Now, several years later, both of my kids are in school and the majority of my day is dedicated to writing and keeping up with all things Apex – the blog, proofreading, managing our social media feeds, and marketing. All take time and all need my attention. And we had eleven snow days this year. You might be thinking “Yay! Snow day!” and part of me was too (at least in the beginning of winter, toward the end it was getting ridiculous) but I work from home. I can’t really call off due to snow, because I’m not driving anywhere. If you think about it, eleven days is the equivalent of having two energetic, needy pinballs stuck in your office for more than two weeks.
Then there’s summer. During the school year, I work more or less full-time from home. Sure, if one of the kids get sick then I’m out for a day, and if a friend wants to go out to lunch I’m not watching the clock so I’m home within an hour, I go and enjoy myself, but for the most part I’m at home working. For nearly two months, my kids are off for summer vacation and it would be incredibly awful for me to expect them to stay home every day and play by themselves while I’m tip-tapping away at my keyboard. Not only is that unreasonable, but it’s unrealistic. Small kids can only entertain themselves for so long before boredom drives them to whining, which means I’m not getting anything done. My solution is to cut my hours basically in half for the summer. I work from 5 to 9 am, and my kids know this is Mommy’s work time. They get up, feed themselves breakfast, and play quietly while I’m busy being Lesley the writer and Apex editor. Then by the time most people are getting to their day job, I’m heading to the park or the lake, slathered in sunscreen with two happy kiddos in tow.
All this flexibility isn’t perfect. Sometimes I fall behind and have to play catch up after I put my kids to bed. Sometimes writing goals slip by and blog posts get shuffled because snuggling up and reading one more chapter of an A to Z Mystery is more important. But the writing goals are set by me and can be readjusted, and Jason Sizemore, owner/publisher of Apex Publications, trusts me to get what needs to be done accomplished in more or less a timely fashion. So far I don’t think I’ve let him down, and that’s all because I’m flexible.
Lesley Conner is a writer and the social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, keeping the Apex blog in order, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind. She’s currently looking for a home for her first novel The Weight of Chains, which she recently finished. For updates on everything Apex follow her on Twitter at @ApexBookCompany. For everything else, you can find her at @LesleyConner.