How to Balance Motherhood and Writing

I’ve been a professional writer for the last decade, and for the last half of that decade, I’ve also been a mom. I deeply love being a writer, and I deeply love being a mom…but the two passions don’t always line up smoothly. Writing requires a certain amount of focus and quiet and time–three things that are often difficult (if not impossible!) to find as a mom. Kids don’t seem to appreciate the fine art of offering their parents uninterrupted blocks of quiet, focused time…

Still, I don’t think that writing and motherhood are mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve found that the two can jive really well together–with some creativity and help. Over the years, I’ve talked with so many fellow moms who are struggling with how to stay connected to their passion as a writer while simultaneously holding down the fort at home (and also sometimes at work). And that’s why I’ve created The Writing Mom Course.

How to Balance Writing and Motherhood at The Writing Mom. www.thewritingmomcourse.com

This course covers the big questions and practical insights that women are looking for as they pursue writing in the season of motherhood, and I am SO EXCITED about it. We talk about issues of time, balance, writing voice, platform, and others–the list goes on! I’ve poured what I’ve learned as a writing mom into these six classes and worksheets, and I’d love for you to visit the new site, watch the video, and learn about how I want to encourage and equip you on your writing journey!

Also, this week only, I’ve knocked the price down to $39.95…which is cheaper than a family of four going out to eat! I’m hopeful that this can be a resource for you as you pursue your passion of writing as a mom!

Join me here, at The Writing Mom!

The Writing Mom Course at www.thewritingmomcourse.com

Stewarding Your Passions in the Season of Motherhood

How to Steward Your Passions in the Season of of Motherhood at annswindell.com

This is the start of my newest piece for The Gospel Coalition. You can read the whole piece here!

I love to write; it’s one of the ways I feel most connected to God. Before my daughter was born, I wrote for several publications. But when she came into the world, my writing life was put on an abrupt hold. I often wondered: Do I have to wait until my children are grown to return to my passions?

As Christian mothers, this question bubbles up often: How do we navigate the years of childrearing with our own desires to create and innovate and learn?

While there’s no one response for every woman, it’s important to ask the right questions as we consider how to steward our passions and live faithfully in our current season. Here are four such questions.

1. In pursuing this passion, do I have the support of my family and church family?

When Hunter Beless was still nursing her second daughter, she considered starting a podcast for women, but she hesitated. “I thought motherhood wasn’t the season to explore my own passions and desires, and I feared not having enough time or energy to do something outside of caring for my husband and children,” she recalls.

Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that this was something she should pursue. “I prayerfully submitted both the dreaming and planning process to the Lord. After developing my ideas, I began to seek counsel from my husband, mentors, and friends. Things continued to align as I moved forward, which led me to ask, ‘Why not?’ At worst, it offered an opportunity to experiment, play, and create while my kids were sleeping, and at best it had the potential to encourage other women to glorify God.”

With the support of those around her, Hunter started the Journeywomen Podcast, which is growing rapidly and blessing women across the country and world. But it began with submitting her ideas to the Lord and her community, trusting him to guide her in the right direction.

2. What’s the ultimate end of pursuing this passion?

There are countless ways to pursue our passions, but we must always reckon with the centrality of the gospel. Is Christ at the center of this pursuit? Is the good news at the core of why I’m doing this? Whether you work a secular job, volunteer at a nonprofit, join a neighborhood committee, play in a tennis league, or serve in your church, it’s helpful to consider how this pursuit will give you opportunities to live out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20).

Dianne Jago started the magazine Deeply Rooted because she sensed a need for something other than what she was seeing in “popular Christian women’s ministry, which unfortunately included a lot of misuse and misunderstanding in the interpretation and application of the Scriptures.” She desired to see Christ exalted in media and to point other women to a right handling of the Word. Jago’s passion is anchored in the gospel, and it has borne beautiful fruit in her life and in the lives of readers.

Read the rest of the article here, at The Gospel Coalition!

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Summer Stitch Fix Review (#3!)

I haven’t gotten a “Fix” for several months, but I had some credit built up and was looking for some pieces to refresh my summer rotation of clothes, so I scheduled a box for this week–and it came!

If you’re not familiar with Stitch Fix, here’s how it works: you order a “Fix” (a box of clothes) based on a style profile you fill out about yourself–colors, sizes, styles, patterns, lifestyle. A stylist picks five items for you (from skirts to tops to earrings to jeans), which are sent to you in the mail. The five items are a surprise! You try on clothes at home with the wardrobe you actually have, keep what you love, and send the rest back in a pre-paid envelope. It’s remarkably simple.

Summer Stitch Fix Review (The good, the bad, the Maxi) at annswindell.com

Why I like Stitch Fix in this season of life:

1. I’m not in a season where I can spend much money on clothes, and I can set my price point with Stitch Fix. Also, if I buy all 5 items in the box, there’s a 25% discount on everything.

2. I don’t have to leave the house. Three words: Kid. Time. Heat Index of over 100 degrees.

3. I can get a “Fix” as often or as rarely as I want. I don’t get mine regularly (although many people do); usually, I request a box when I have an event coming up where I need a specific item (a dress for a wedding, for example).

4. The cost is a $20 styling fee, which goes toward any item you purchase.

5. Stitch Fix works for women in almost any season of life. From teenagers to retirees, they’ve got clothes for women in many stages, sizes (even maternity!), and professions.

My box just came this week; here’s my review–so many great pieces in here (and I loved opening up the box to find these colors and patterns!)

Stitch fix box #3

First up, the Carmela Printed Crochet Detail Flare Skirt. The colors and are so fun, and while the pattern isn’t one I would have picked up in a store, the crochet detail above the knee is really lovely. I paired it with a casual tee shirt, which is right in line with my summer style. This is part of why I love Stitch Fix; I can try on the pieces that they send with what I already own and see how it will actually work (or not work) with my current wardrobe.

Carmela Printed Crochet Detail Flare Skirt

I’m honestly still on the fence about this skirt. It’s flowy and soft and the design is beautiful! I’m just not sure if I’ll wear it enough to justify purchasing it, as I already have a lot of skirts. What do you think?

The second item in my fix was the Roquette Off the Shoulder Tunic. Off the shoulder tops are all the rage this summer, and this top was airy, lightweight, and was comfortable to wear.

Roquette Off the Shoulder Tunic

I think I’ll be sending this one back; as cute as it is, I don’t have a lot of reasons to wear an off the shoulder top, and it was a bit baggy.

Ok, on to the third and fourth item in the box–the Lucienne Knit Maxi Dress and the Carlos Turquoise Stone Collar Necklace. I’m a bit of a pushover for a good Maxi dress–it’s like wearing pajamas all day but looking put together! And the Lucienne Knit Maxi Dress had me when I saw the strap/shoulder situation. I love the higher neck!

Lucienne Knit Maxi Dress

Here’s the closeup of the Carlos Turquoise Stone Collar Necklace. This is a fun necklace, with some really creative details, but I don’t think I’m going to keep it. I usually wear more delicate pieces (unless I’m rocking a 31 Bits necklace!), and I can’t foresee wearing this any time in the future.

Carlos Turquoise Stone Collar Necklace

The last piece in my fix was the 41 Hawthorn Merise Split Neck Tunic. My stylist gave me such a great fix–this top is right up my alley, too. It’s a little on the preppy side, and perfect for the crazy heat we’re having in the Midwest. Sadly, it was a little too tight in the hips for my preference, and going up a size would have made the top too big. It has to go back.

That’s it this time around–and it’s getting me excited for my next fix. Maybe this Fall? Let me know if you have any questions, and if you want to try Stitch Fix, please click this link and I will get a referral credit. And tell me how it works out for you!
7 Ways Jumpstart.bar ad

4 Things I Wish I Knew About My Body in My Twenties

What I Wish I Knew About My Body in My 20s. www.annswindell.com
This is the start of my newest article for RELEVANT Magazine. 
You can read the entire article over at RELEVANT.

I spent a good portion of my twenties focusing on my body and being critical about the shape of it, the size of it, the weight of it. If my pant size moved up, I did what I could to move the size back down. I worried that my body wasn’t as it should be, that it wasn’t good enough and that it needed to change.

Now, in my thirties, I have come to a comfortable peace with my body. Are there still things I would change if I could? Sure. But over the last decade, as my relationship with God has deepened—and as my body has altered and shifted—I have been able to cling to gratefulness.

Your body’s main purpose is to worship the God who created it. Click To Tweet

My body has carried me through severe sickness and emotional pain. It has grown and stretched with a child I love dearly. It has walked me over thousands of miles across the world. I am thankful for it, jiggles and all.

Here are the things I wish I had understood about my body in my twenties—the things that have allowed me to not only accept but rejoice in the body I have:

Your body’s main purpose is not to attract others to it.

Our culture shows us more than enough images of bodies to make us believe that they exist simply to attract others. And in large part because of that, I had a lot of angst in my twenties about how my body appeared to others. I looked in the mirror for lumps and bumps in what I considered to be the “wrong places,” and chose my clothes based on how attractive I thought they made me look to others.

I wanted to look beautiful, and I wanted to be attractive.

Now, hear me: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting to appear attractive. I still want to be a beautiful woman. But it was the way I approached my body in my twenties that made my mindset so unhealthy. I was operating from the lens that culture had taught me, rather than getting my grid for beauty and attractiveness from Scripture.

I’m not suggesting that we wear paper bags and frumpy clothes, but what I wish I would have grasped in my twenties is this: Your body’s main purpose is to worship the God who created it.

The book of Romans exhorts us: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Your body is primarily a means of worshiping God—through service, through love, through acts of praise and mercy. Attracting the presence of God through the lives we live in our bodies is much more important than attracting the passing attention of others.

Attracting the presence of God is more important than attracting the passing attention of others. Click To Tweet

Sex is wonderful but it isn’t the pinnacle of existence.

Part of the angst about attractiveness and the shape and size of our bodies stems from a culture that is obsessed with sex. And when the act of sex is at the center of a culture’s focus, then bodies become hyper-sexualized—everything about their attractiveness stems from sexualized ideals. But what I wish I had known in my twenties was that the other aspects of sex—the emotional aspect, the spiritual aspect, the relational aspect. These are the things that make sex deeply satisfying, over and over again, with the same person, in the context of a godly marriage.

I needed to hear in my twenties that it’s not the shape or size of a body that makes sex wonderful—it’s the context of sex within a loving marriage to a fun and thoughtful spouse thats gives sex its power and delight.

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

The Unhappiest Year of My Life: The High and Holy Calling of Motherhood

This is one of my articles for Today’s Christian Woman.

Everything about having a baby is touted as happy: the rounding belly, the cute maternity clothes, the baby showers, the adorable tiny clothes.

Yes, pregnancy can be difficult for some women (for me it was very hard), but the overarching sentiment is that having a baby is an amazing, wonderful thing. And it truly is. The miracle of life, the gift of a child, the hope of a growing family—these are all amazing, wonderful things. Beautiful things. Happy things, even. But for me, the first year of my daughter’s life wasn’t very happy.

Actually, it was the unhappiest year of my life.

I knew that having a child would change things; many of my friends had already become parents, and I had watched them go from women with time for coffee dates and professional lives to moms who were worn out and frazzled. I didn’t expect the transition to parenthood to be easy. I didn’t expect that I would sleep much or that I would have a lot of extra time.

Still, I did expect to be happy. I thought that having a baby—a baby that we’d hoped and prayed for—would bring happiness in the midst of sleep deprivation and the transition into life as parents.

How to Make it When Motherhood is Hard. www.annswindell.com

But I wasn’t happy; at least not for a good while. Don’t get me wrong—I was thankful. Ella and I were both healthy, I loved her immensely, and seeing my husband as a father was incredible. But the combination of exhaustion, the lack of time for myself, the shift in my identity to becoming a mother, the change in our marriage relationship, and the depth of responsibility I felt for my daughter, all combined with those powerful postpartum hormones, left me feeling very, very unhappy.

As a new mom, I missed my old life. Would I ever be happy again? #motherhood Click To Tweet

I missed my old life. It’s not that I didn’t want to be Ella’s mom; I loved her more than I thought was possible. But I missed the freedom and rest that I realized I would never get back. I missed being able to put myself first, something that felt increasingly impossible. I missed who I was, and I had the realization that I was never going to be that woman again.

A Shared Experience

Women don’t always talk about it, but many are unhappy—to some degree—during that first year of motherhood. The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, recently reported that the “drop in happiness experienced by parents after the birth of first child was larger than the experience of unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner” (Source). Similarly, an earlier study published in Great Britain noted that “parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction and mental well-being compared with non-parents” (Source).

Here’s what some other moms told me about their first year of motherhood:

“I wanted adult conversation. Because I was doing same routine everyday, I felt my intelligence and self esteem diminishing.”

“Having no time to myself and being utterly sleep deprived brought out bitter anger that I’d never dealt with before and was without tools to deal with.”

“I was terribly caught off guard by how my relationship with my husband changed. I suddenly had experiences and a life he couldn’t relate to.”

“I lost any desire for sex because of the fatigue and the physical and hormonal changes.”

Additionally, for many new moms, the shift in their spiritual life—on top of and because of all of the other changes—can cause a great deal of unhappiness, too. One mom remembers that she “found it completely impossible to pray because my mind simply would not stop buzzing with so many things.” Time for a devotional life dwindles down to nothing, or emotional and hormonal changes send us into a dark spiral of depression.

So: the drop in happiness, the loss of identity and adult interaction, the lack of sleep and energy, the change in our marriages and even our relationship with God—these are high costs that most mothers pay time and time again in the early years of child-rearing. So why have children? Are mothers giving themselves over to a life of exhaustion and self-loss?

The Cost of Motherhood

In some ways, the answer is yes. Yes, every intentional mother (and father, albeit in different ways), is giving herself over to a life of exhaustion and self-loss. The cost is very real, and, at times, very painful. And still, we have a model who taught us about the surprising gift we can receive through exhaustion and self-loss: Jesus.

Jesus was, undoubtedly, exhausted at times by his ministry on earth (Mark 4:37-39), and all of his life was aimed at the supreme act of self-loss for the sake of those he loved through his death on the cross. Does that mean that as mothers, we are called to give up everything, too?

No, not in the same way Jesus did. We are not the savior of our children—Christ is. We are not supposed to find our identity or value in our children—that is found only in Christ. We are not asked to find our value in our role as moms—our value is in who Jesus says we are, not in what we do. But the way of Christ is the call to pick up our cross and lay down our life (Matt. 16-24-26), and for many of us, mothering will reveal the depths of that call like nothing else. We will be asked to lay aside our immediate desires for the sake of our children’s wellbeing and growth. We will be asked to consider one little life—or many little lives—as more important than our own (Phil. 2:3-4). And we will feel the loss of self in new and, often, painful ways—sometimes in ways that make us very unhappy.

We are not the savior of our children—Christ is. #motherhood Click To Tweet

The Gift in the Struggle

Yet, there is a deeper joy that goes beyond the cost of our unhappiness—the gift of sufficiency in Christ. For Christ himself tells us that “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). In our weakness and our pain and our sorrow, we are offered the gift of Christ’s strength: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In the places where, as mothers, it often feels most like we are losing our own lives—losing our freedom, our time, our sleep, our energy—we have the opportunity to find our lives through the sufficiency of Christ as we rely on him for everything. One mom puts it this way: “Being a mom drove me to my knees in helplessness before God, which in the long run did a great deal of good in me.”

So while having a child may make us “unhappier,” perhaps that is not a bad thing.[1] Perhaps the gift of getting to experience Christ’s strength in our weakness, perhaps letting the struggle of motherhood reveal our reliance upon Him—perhaps these are the very things that will lead us into joy that runs deeper than fleeting happiness. I know it has for me. I don’t always feel thrilled about the responsibilities that I carry as a mother, and I don’t usually feel happy about being exhausted. Still, I’ve never felt more joyful than when I’m holding my daughter in my arms, aware that my loving Heavenly Father—who sees me, cares for me, and knows my needs—is holding me, too.

 

[1] If you are struggling with deep sadness that persists or anxiety that won’t go away, you may have post-partum depression. Please seek professional help and start the journey to healing—in Christ, healing is possible.

 

Still Waiting is available now! www.stillwaitingbook.com