As a best-selling author ("In Her Shoes," "Good in Bed") and mom of two daughters, Jennifer Weiner knows the difficulty of balancing work and family. She gives TODAY Moms a glimpse into how her kids have grown up with a "sizeable extended family," made up of the characters she writes about.
On the surface, being a mom who writes is no different than being a mom with any other job that requires her to travel a few times a year. You make the best child-care arrangements you can, you reassure your three-year-old that mommy always comes back. You pre-write a weeks’ worth of notes to tuck into lunchboxes and have a long, meaningful talk with your eight-year-old about the importance of wearing a skirt when she spends the day with Grandma.
On the road, you do what traveling parents always do: you call and you Skype, you send postcards and buy guilt-gifts at the airport shops, sparkly key chains or stuffed animals that squeak when you squeeze them and make friends when you register them online, and if you’re out of town for a TV appearance you make sure the show gets recorded so the kids can watch and imagine that you’re there. As much as you enjoy spending days and nights as a grown-up, breezing through airports unencumbered by a stroller or a toddler, eating meals where the only food you have to cut is your own, a part of you is longing only to go home. Like I said: no different than any other parent with a job.
The really hard part about being a mom who writes isn’t about sharing your time. It’s about sharing your imagination. Because a writer, even when she’s physically present, sitting right in front of you, eating an ice-cream cone or swimming in the ocean or curled up on the couch live-tweeting “The Bachelor,” isn’t really, entirely there. A part of her imagination is always with her work in progress, with the characters she’s created and the journey she’s set them on.
Whether they’ve known it or not, my daughters have grown up in a raucous and sizeable extended family. They’ve shared my time with Joy, Cannie’s daughter in “Good in Bed” and “Certain Girls,” and with Milo, the serious and slightly dental-floss obsessed child in “Fly Away Home.” While I was pregnant with my eldest, some of the time I might have spent imagining what she’d be like was instead spent with Maggie, deep in the basement of Firestone Library at Princeton.
When Lucy was learning to walk, I was writing a murder-mystery about an unhappy housewife stuck in the suburbs. When I was nursing my second daughter, I was using my free hand to scribble notes about Addie and Val and the redemptive road trip they’d take in “Best Friends Forever” …and I wrote parts of “Then Came You” with my laptop balanced on my knees while Phoebe cavorted in Little Gym.
There but not there. I worry, sometimes, about how my daughters will remember me, if they know that I’m daydreaming or working out plot points as I pilot the stroller, cut the crusts off sandwiches and watch swimming lessons from the shore. I worry…but I also tell myself that they’ll grow up with a mother who’s fulfilled and happy, personally and professionally, who loves them dearly but loves her job, too, and that my example will empower them to choose jobs they love, to balance their work and their families as best they can, to know that no mother does it perfectly but every mother tries.
Jennifer Weiner is a mom of two and author of numerous books, including "Good in Bed," "In Her Shoes," "Certain Girls," and "Fly Away Home." Her latest book, "Then Came You," is available now. Weiner is also co-creator of the current ABC Family show "State of Georgia."
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