So now it’s Thursday. My husband and oldest son left Monday evening for Alaska, where they’re fishing for two weeks along with my father, brother, neighbor, and first cousin. (It’s a real male-bonding trip. No one, apparently, is going to shave for the entire fourteen days.) Meanwhile I am sitting down here in my office, absolutely exhausted, and realizing again that I couldn’t be a writer and a mother without my husband’s holding down the home-fort for half the week.

I’m in charge of the younger three for the next fourteen days.

And because of various deadlines, I couldn’t just take two weeks off from work. So I’m trying to slip in a few working hours early in the morning, late at night, and in the hours that my mother is doing reading lessons with my five-year-old. Oh, my goodness. I am so very tired. And not getting a great deal done. When Peter’s with the kids, I don’t even think about them. When they’re with anyone else, I’ve always got half an ear open for shrieks or explosions. It’s almost impossible to sink myself into my work.

(Number two son. And you wonder why I can’t concentrate?)

More than that, though: Parenting takes emotional energy. Writing takes emotional energy. I’ve only got so much emotional energy.

“How do you do it all?” This is the number one question I get from other moms, particularly those who are also writers. How do you manage to write, run a publishing company, home school, be a pastor’s wife? Well, I’ll take credit for a working pace that’s naturally set on “high,” but the truth is that no parent can do what I do without a full-time, fully dedicated partner.

I have a wonderful housekeeper (“cleaning woman” doesn’t do her justice) who comes in three days a week, and she has made the last six months amazingly productive for me. But I’ve done without household help in the past, and I could do it again without dropping any of my writing projects. The same is not true of my husband. (Aren’t you glad?) Apart from the fact that I just miss him, I can’t keep these kids properly parented and write at the same time. If he were to change jobs and lose his flexibility, I’d be facing a serious life reorganization.

And it’s not just my husband. My father makes the business decisions for Peace Hill Press, and acts as general manager for the farm (110 acres, far too many random domesticated animals).

(Back garden. Needs spraying, disking, and possum-shooting to stay productive.)

Since Dad’s also in Alaska, I’m dashing back and forth to the Press offices and struggling (not very successfully) to keep an algae bloom out of the pool.

(Dan leaping into pool. You can’t SEE the green tint, but it’s THERE. As soon as I go inside, the whole thing’s going to turn the color of lime jello.)

One of my favourite movie quotes is from the end of the Hugh Grant-Toni Collette About a Boy, which is about various pairs of people trying to cope with the difficulties of daily life. “I don’t think couples are the future,” one of the young characters remarks, at the end of the film. “Two people isn’t enough. You need backup.” I think he’s right. It takes four adults to run THIS enterprise, and with two of them gone, I’m absolutely beat. I’ve only written five paragraphs of the Medieval World since Monday, and I haven’t even tried to finish up those first-pass proofs of the Ancient World.

Interesting wrinkle: I normally try to write a little bit of fiction every couple of weeks, just so I remember how to do it. I tried last night, after a day of schooling/refereeing/comforting/library visiting/grocery shopping. I couldn’t get a single word down. I can keep plugging away at this history, though. I’m not getting a tremendous amount done, but I’ve just polished off Constantine’s second wife (she boiled to death in her bath) and I’m steaming on towards Julian the Apostate.

Which is illuminating, to me. I haven’t written much fiction in the last couple of years, partly because I’m slightly discouraged by the fact that the perfectly brilliant novel I finished in 2004 keeps bouncing back into my agent’s mailbox. ( He never thought it would sell, to be honest. “I didn’t say it wasn’t any GOOD,” he told me, last time we talked about it, “I just said I didn’t think anyone would BUY it.”) But mostly it’s because fiction requires immersion in an alternate universe, and with my kids at the age they are, I haven’t got the energy to create one.

Yes, I know women write novels when they have multiple children in the house. Kudos to them, but I’m betting that they’re not also turning out nonfiction books. I can only exist, simultaneously, in the Peace Hill Farm universe and the Medieval World universe. Trying to create a third world would blow out all the gaskets.

Whew. Can’t wait for the men to return from their bear hunt, triumphant and bearing fresh meat to the waiting women. 🙂

(Pete with boys)

Showing 8 comments
  • Sherrill in VA soon to be WA

    Well, ya know, I’ve heard that you can do it all, just not all at once ; ). Sorry you’re stretched so thin, and sorry the algae came back. I do hope that Pete and the guys have fun in AK, though.

    And when Pete gets back you can show him how much you appreciate him!


    Take care of yourself,

  • Sherrill in VA soon to be WA

    Forgot to say–about the novel–why not try a limited run through PHP?

    I bet lots of the SWB diehards like me would buy it! (I would definitely buy it–I really liked both of your other novels.)

    Perhaps you’ve already thought through and rejected that idea, but I wanted to suggest it just in case you might actually do it! ; )


  • Anne in Saskatchewan

    My favourite tonic when feeling overwhelmed is to read a bit of A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She reminds me to truly enjoy all these wonderful blessings that sometimes knock us flat by their sheer magnitude. And reading about her two weeks of solitude on an empty beach brings me a measure of peace, almost as if I had a beach of my own.

    I admire your work and your devotion to your family greatly. Even more so knowing that it doesn’t always “come easy”. Thank you for sharing.

  • Pat H


    I really don’t know how you do it! Truly, I am not balancing as much as you are and I am exhausted today with my writing having let the children off the schoolwork hook today just so I could get something done. HAH! The best laid plans of mice and men……..

    If you need a laugh, go the k-8 general board, scroll down and find my “ChurchPat” post on my pastor’s loaded question. If I were not me, I would be laughing until I cried. Maybe it will help you feel better. Thankfully, I am not writing anything nearly as heady as a history of the world.

    Pat H (ChurchPat)

  • Ann Voskamp

    I read this post on the same day I read this article at Forbes: which speaks to not marrying a woman who has a “career”— all the apparently well-documented reasons are cited therein.

    And your post was a breath of fresh air—that a woman can dream, and create and glorify her Maker in other pursuits, while still nourishing her family. That a husband and father can support his family while supporting his wife in her own callings and creative pursuits. That the important work of raising a family is the endeavor of two people, mutually supporting each other.

    Thankfully, my husband’s self-employment allows for flexibility, thus supporting me as a person with creative (writing) pursuits, and giving us, as a team, the opportunity to co-parent more often.

    Interestingly, Anne in Sask., yesterday I too reached for Gift from the Sea. It is a touchstone to womanhood and motherhood and *person*hood.

    Again, God graciously used your post, Susan, to speak in a timely, powerful way to a wrestling heart.
    My appreciation,
    Ann Voskamp

  • Laura C.

    Thanks for explaining the amazing feat that is accomplished in the Bauer home. I guess we do need these guys after all, huh? : ) But I am also procrastinating on tasks before me. I could get stressed, but its only the beginning of the semester. Nothing is due….yet. And the inlaws aren’t coming for a couple more days. Besides, the house is so peaceful when my little ones are sleeping.

    I look forward to using your texts if my PhD in History husband permits when we get to that stage. I’m sure he will.

    Blessing to you and your family,

  • Jenny T.

    I LOVED this blog post!!! I am going to print it off and tape it to my mirror, to ward off any whiney feelings I encounter first thing in the morning, faced with homeschooling four children plus one niece. I thought I had it hard until I read this posting! If you can homeschool with everything that is on your plate, then I have nothing to whine about! 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration!!!


  • Lori

    Susan, do you know that we worship you here in suburban Cincinnati? Another homeschool mom and I talk about you in hushed voices and when we say your name, it’s in an awe-inspired voice with bowing happening from the waist.

    No, I’m not kidding, we really do, but part of that is that post that you wrote for the newsletter where you admitted to eating chocolate chips right out of the bag on those extra “invigorating” days. This is another such post. I think I’ll print it off so that I can have it for my “invigorating” days…instead of chocolate chips.

    And I’m not even trying to be a writer, just a wife and mom and homeschooler and Christian and…well, you get the picture.

    Best wishes,

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