Writer’s Guilt

I have a beautiful sleeping baby resting on my chest. I am so lucky that I get to see and hold her every day. She is mine.

I think I underestimated how little free time I would have while home on maternity leave. I thought I’d be able to steal little moments throughout the day to jot something in my journal or post something to this blog. That’s been much more difficult than I expected.

As I’ve discussed with grad school friends and other writers, being disciplined in a writing practice is one of the greatest challenges of being a writer. Since I’m a nonfiction writer who specializes in memoir, I feel that regular writing in the form of journaling is particularly vital. It doesn’t help that I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. (No, not tons of time to read lately either; it’s my bathroom book.) Operating Instructions is a published version of the journal Lamott kept during the first year after the birth of her son Sam. She wrote almost daily. Her insights are both funny and candid. Lamott’s book makes me feel even more guilty for not journaling enough during this very important time. To me, she seems like a “real” writer.

I’ve heard a lot about mommy guilt – about how women feel pressure to live up to others and feel as if they aren’t “enough.” But right now, I’m feeling writer’s guilt. I’m not writing enough. I’m not documenting my experience enough, my thoughts on the first weeks of motherhood. I’m afraid that I’ll forget, that I won’t have enough raw material for future writing projects on the topic, that I won’t have a good record to share with Adelaide one day.

I feel these pressures with photography, too.  Did I take enough photos of Adelaide this week? Did I capture that expression yet? My photos aren’t as good as the ones on that woman’s blog. I need more photos of this and that. And video!

I know not all of these feelings are fair. While every mother intuitively knows what’s best for her and her child and should relieve herself from feeling any guilt, I too should forgive myself for not being “enough” as a writer and documentarian. I have likely taken more photos and written more than the average parent. This makes me no more or less of a mother, and it shouldn’t reflect my dedication or competence as a writer. Plus, when Lamott’s son was born in 1989, she didn’t have the competing documenting outlets of blogs, written journals and Facebook updates. She didn’t have a Flickr account to keep up to date for family who lived across the country. It feels good to vocalize the guilt, to name it and put it in perspective. I shall try to write more, but also repeat the mantra, “I am doing enough. I am enough.”
(I drafted this post pick-typing with just my right hand. In fact, I wrote the first two paragraphs on my phone while cradling Adelaide in my left arm. I’ve been forced to do a lot of things one handed lately.)

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  1. Helen’s avatar

    That book is on my wishlist! Let me know how it is. I just started another mommy guilt new release, Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

    I hear what you’re saying about forgetting stuff. I wrote myself a series of emails as the motivation struck. That way, I could record what I could, without feeling the need to edit as I would have if I were even sending it to Bryan.


  2. Jennifer Gandin Le’s avatar

    Oh man, do I hear you. Chris and I were just thinking about how we used to say, “O! It will be so easy to work from home and co-parent our baby! We’ll just work while he sleeps and hangs out!” hahahahahahahahahaOhohohohhaha heeeeeehehehe. Thankfully, no other parents laughed outright when we said that to them. They let us figure it out on our own.

    I’ve heard of the parenting theory about being a “good enough” parent. Maybe this is the time to be gentle on ourselves by being “good enough” writers and photographers, as well as mothers.

    Sending you love in the middle of this wild and wonderful new era.


    1. Leigh-Ann Campbell’s avatar

      Hey Beth :)

      So….I am onto year number 2 of my little man’s life and I have a guilty secret…I STILL have YET to have created ANY sort of baby book from Micah’s first year of life. We have pictures and I have LOTS of keepsakes stuffed into a bag in our closet. I keep telling myself – I am going to do it when I get some time off. But it always seems like there is other STUFF I have to do during that time off. Life always just seems so hectic and busy.

      Anyway – I loved reading your post because I kept thinking to myself while reading it that there is so much going on during that first year – it should really be about stopping and smelling the roses and enjoying those little ones :)….So I am realizing that I need not feel guilty…I have lots of wonderful memories!

      Enjoy your memories 😉 – and thanks for letting me off the hook!




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