Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Price of Dreams

Last year I decided to follow my long-held dreams of becoming a novelist. It was scary. I feared rejection so badly I didn't even want to try. What if I put myself out there and found out I had no hope of ever reaching that dream? What if I had to lay that dream down and get a new one? Would I even know how to after all these years? For a long time, I didn't even try because of those fears. It was safer to hold onto my dream, keep it close where I could pet and admire it-- not send it off into the world to be trampled and crushed.

Well you know the rest of the story... or maybe you don't, depending on how long you've been reading this blog. I met this girl who started turning the screws on me to pursue this dream, to take it out of the greenhouse and expose it to the elements. She wouldn't let up to the point that I finally just did it. It wasn't that I stopped being fearful, it was that she just wore me down. And she might have helped me believe just a little bit that it was possible.

So, I submitted this novel that she talked me into writing, even though a lot of the time the writing of the whole novel felt like a big fat waste. But then this publishing company that I really loved offered me a contract for not one but two novels. And then the publishing company shocked me when they moved the first book up a year, which meant a tight time deadline for getting the book out in time.

Which brings me to the price of dreams. Make no mistake: I am living my dreams. It is amazing. I am finally becoming a published novelist. It's everything-- and nothing-- I imagined when I was a little girl and teen and young woman who dreamed of such things. It is surreal, yet very real. Because dreams, I am learning, come with a price.

Suddenly the calmness that lent itself to me being able to write a whole novel on my own terms last year looks positively lovely. Moving up the novel condensed everything from cover design to editing schedule to endorsement requests to... you get the point. I am not complaining, I think this was the best way for me to go through this-- a quick gulp and it's done. But I would be dishonest if I didn't admit to you guys who are moms and wives balancing family and demands that pursuing-- and living-- your dreams comes with a price.

And sometimes your family pays that price.

You all probably know that my husband is out of work. That in itself is hard. But it's especially hard for me to be busy and him to have not a lot going on. Our roles have been reversed and it feels unnatural. He is used to charging out of the house in the mornings with a purpose and a destination. But lately he has been the one staying home while I run out of the house. The balance of our home is off and neither one of us can do anything about it. We have to just do what's in front of us, and hope that we can learn from this tough time the same as we have learned from other ones. (God gave me some insight about that that I will share tomorrow.)

It's also affected my mothering. My son had to write an essay about me and he had trouble coming up with things I do with him. You must know that broke my heart. I went from homeschooling him last year-- cooking with him, taking him everywhere I went, eating every meal with him, doing crafts, reading aloud, etc.-- to him struggling to come up with a few things to include in his paragraph because I am gone a lot more now, trying to keep up with deadlines. I am not the same mom I was before I pursued my dreams. I want to be, but time does not allow. Right now I can not change that. I can only take comfort in the fact that, when I am gone, he is with his dad. And yet, I miss the mom I used to be.

So what do I do about it? I put my nose to the grindstone and finish all my to-do's, with my eye on the prize of turning in my second novel and my first one coming out this summer. I keep on speaking and running She Reads and try not to think about the amount of work I have on me. Because I know that I am not different from any other busy woman, I am just not used to it. Instead, I look forward to lazy days at the pool with my kids, to a week at the beach, to T-I-M-E I do not have now. I pray that God gives us all enough grace to cover this time and try to focus on the fact that God is sovereign. We are surprised at the timing of how all this has shaken out, but He is not.

Still, I am not the mom or wife I want to be right now and that will continue to bug me. I feel I need to say that-- so you all don't think I am balancing it all perfectly and life has rocked along unhindered by the extra things I have taken on this past year. We are walking it out, but with a limp. I love what I am doing, but I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that there has been a pricetag attached to this dream. I am so, so grateful for the opportunities I have been given. So please don't hear ungratefulness in this post. But I am also struggling to persevere and my heart keeps looking backwards to times when I could just be a mom without other things interfering. Motherhood is, I am learning, my true passion, my best dream.

I will figure all of this out. I will make my peace with it, find the balance that has been eluding me. I will slow down my writing pace, say no to other things, and get back to what's important. I have discovered more about my limits through this experience. I do not share this here to whine, but to offer a glimpse of my reality. I am glad I pursued my dreams and I would not change anything that's happened. But I am dropping balls; I am not perfect and neither is my family. In the interest of keeping this blog of mine gut-level honest, I just needed to say that. Just in case you had the wrong idea and thought all of this is wonderful and easy. I know I present the wonderful side a lot. But there is a dark side. To not give you a glimpse of that every so often would be wrong and would do you all a disservice. I would be inventing some impossible standard that you all could kill yourselves trying to keep, but it would be an unobtainable illusion.

In short, I recommend following your dreams. But I also recommend you do it with the knowledge that nothing in life is free. Not even dreams.
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Ellen said...


Thank you for your honesty. Great post for all of us out there that are trying to balance so many things.

Ellen S.

Elise said...


Thank you so much for posting this. I have enjoyed "lurking" on your blog for a couple of months now.

My husband and I had a similar conversation last night. He is pursuing his dream through his job. It is a perfect fit for him and he makes a good income. I am able to stay at home and homeschool our four children. We also have a special needs child. It's a wonderful job and we are blessed to have it. But, there is a price. He's gone at least half of the month traveling. He misses basketball games, doctor visits, piano recitals, dinner, etc. We talked about it last night and even though it's hard we wouldn't change it. It's our choice. We know the sacrifices we are making. Sometimes I wonder if we'll regret it. I hope not.

I guess, I just wanted you to know that there are others out there struggling with the same balance.

Elise Speed

Lynn Cowell said...

I had no idea when I prayed for you and your precious family that this is where your life and heart is right now.
May all that you are laying aside right now be seed that is being sown. May the Lord bring a harvest that amazes you and more importantly really points to an incredible loving God.
He is faithful...

Kathy said...

Thanks for sharing. Pursuing a dream does have a cost - every action does have a reaction or consequence. I am learning this too in my life. A year and a half ago I felt and saw God opening the door for me to return to college. Now I don't have six children, I don't even have one, however life was busy anyway. I work full-time and pace and responsibilities have increased there, so now between work, school, and keeping things at home in some semblance of order, most days I'm hanging on to the merry-go-round with both hands. And I'm sitting down, so my legs don't get pulled otu from under me. :) I have had to give up on lots of things, lower my expectations, and just let it go. And it's ok. I don't have to "do" everything. Blessings to you as you pursue your dream. And blessings to your husband as he supports you, even as his roll changes or feels uncomfortable. God is good.

Michele said...

Life is truly such a balancing act. How do people who do not have Christ in their lives ever manage. I so enjoy reading your blog. Hang in there. I will be praying for you and your family during these times. There are of course positives for your family in this. They will be forced to pitch in more at home and help out Mom.(And hopefully appreciate you more for all you do.) It is also a good way to become more efficient in your time management and to learn what truly needs to be done around the house and what can wait (priorities, priorities).

My husband worked 2 jobs when our 2 boys were little so I could stay home with them until they went to school. I then went to work fulltime so we would have medical insurance so he could pursue a dream job. After 20 years of training horses, the Lord called him to the ministry and so I worked to put him through school and he has been a pastor for the past 13 years (and a very good one). Of course, the children are grown with children of their own (5 grandchildren) but being in ministry we no longer live near them. And I am still working fulltime for health insurance.

Reading your post has been encouraging to me to do something I have always wanted to do-learn to play the piano. Thank you for your examples of a godly wife and mother who is still striving to figure things out.

Hang in there!!


tiggerdaisy said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. I know that I have wondered how you do it all--it seems that you are into so much with work AND family. I knew it couldn't be easy for you; it's not easy for me.

I love your heart, Marybeth. Truly I do. I am excited about your first novel coming out and I simply cannot wait to read it. :)

May the Lord bless and keep you and your family. May He bless you all with abundant grace and peace.


Mary Y said...

I love the honestly in this post. It is always nice to see that not everyone has their life running as perfectly as we often perceive it. That we are all together in this craziness we call life. :)


P.S. I'm already looking forward to reading The Mailbox, Marybeth.

Bethany from Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom said...

Thanks for sharing so honestly, Marybeth. I'm working at pursuing my dreams more aggressively this year, and I know it's going to be harder on my family. I feel like I'm trying to juggle too many balls while walking a tightrope sometimes! Blessings to you & your family as you pursue your dream & as your hubby finds a new job.

Jill said...

Thanks for sharing MaryBeth! I have been thinking of these very things as God leads me in a different direction. It can be so hard to balance everything, I'm a homeschooling mom and a newly published book too and a newborn as well. I have been reading your the Reason we Speak book and was touched by your devo about the woman and the dream. I pray we will all remember our children as we pursue our dreams. This has been a huge struggle in my mind lately and I'm so thankful you have shared - good to know I am not alone. Praying for you my friend, Jill

Flamingo Mama said...

thank you for being honest. i often get very defeated by thinking i'm a 'loser" because i'm not juggling as much as other women and i can't keep balls in the air.

i did not hear what you said as whining at all...i heard it as God speaking to me that there is a reason for his timing in my own life and with my own dreams.

it makes me want to cuddle my kids more today...thanks:)

Kristen Myers said...


Thank you for your authenticity.

Your post made me think of a recent quote I read in Kurt and Brenda Warner's book: "If you want the blessing, you have to take the burdens that go with it."

Hang in there! The pendulum will swing back!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your honesty. I'm a newspaper columnist and homeschool mother. I'm always trying to fit the time in to "writing that novel" ... and I've been struggling lately w/ writing vs mothering. I know in my heart what's the most important, but my actions don't mimic it. Thanks again for your honesty - they were words I needed to hear today.
- Amanda

Rachel Olsen said...

And THAT, my friend, is why I like you so much.

Debra said...

You were in my thoughts today and then I check your blog and there you are, all down to earth and honest about your life, I so love that about you!
Continued prayers and Love, Your friend on the other side of the US.
Thank You Lord for our friendship..

Steph. said...

Gosh, I get this!!! I am a school psychologist and ever since our first child was born I have worked part would think that would be an easy balance but it really has been difficult. So many days I have wished to be a SAHM, without the stress of the job on me and so I could focus more on my kids. But my job makes my husband feel so much more comfortable financially, and I am helping him this way. I try to remember that the Proverbs 31 woman was a worker, an entrepeneur of sorts, and helped the family financially while putting her family first.

I love your writing and am eager to read your novel when it is out!!! Hang in there. Love and prayers, Steph.

DOakley said...

Hi, Marybeth,

I so hear what you're saying. I, too, am pursuing my dreams in writing and editing - it's been the only thing I've ever wanted to do - but, yes, it does have a price.

My housekeeping is what's suffering. But I'm trying to work in time every week to take care of such things - especially considering we will need to sell our house in the spring.

My husband has been out of work several times when I was working outside the home and I could see the impact that had on his self-esteem.

So, I am and have been where you are. For me, the sacrifices have been worth it. My work means I don't have to travel very much. I'm always in the house. In fact, I have to schedule time to go out.

I wanted to be home without the commute and hassles of working in an office. I love it that my 13-year-old charges into my office at the end of his school day and tells me about his day. I love that I can watch every moment of my 18-month-old's milestones.

My dream has manifested itself a little differently than yours, but I, too, have dreams of actually publishing myself (and no just working on someone else's books) so perhaps that will change things.

But I trust the Lord to know the desires of my heart and to fulfill them in the way He sees best. He will work out all things for His glory.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for posting this!!! I am in a very similar situation, my husband and I have a two year old. My husband lost his job at the end of 2009 and we too are struggling with the fact that I am working and he is at home with our precious little boy. We want what each other has... but we are learning that God has a plan for us "for such a time as this" Esther 4:14. That we are following Gods time line and not our own... phew why is that such a hard concept? Anyway, thank you for your blog, I check in about once a week and there is always something that inspires me... thank you!

Momto3Boys said...

Thank you so much for your honesty. It's so easy to think, as an outsider looking in, that someone's life is near-perfect when, in reality, they share the same struggles I do. I decided a couple of years ago to pursue a dream and return to college. I went from a SAHM to taking a couple of classes each semester (online) and working part-time. It may not seem like much, but I missed being at home. I understand so well your feeling of not being the kind of mom and wife you want to be right now. I feel the same way. This is not what I wanted when my journey to puruse a dream began. But I will finish what was started and search for ways to become that mom I want to be.

I've been searching my heart over the last few days, asking God to show me something to encourage me...I was second guessing everything I have been doing over the past two year. Your blog was just what I needed....God has used you to bring a bit of peace and settle this whirlwind in my heart. You are a blessing to many people...and I thank you so much!

Marybeth said...

Hey guys-- thanks for writing and saying this post has helped you. I want to always be honest about where I am and the struggles I have. I think that presenting myself any other way would not only be dishonest, but also misleading. I don't want to present some impossible standard that you can't live up to... and neither can I! Momto3boys, your response was exactly what I hoped when I wrote this post.

Sridhar said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I can truly get a feel of what it takes to pursue your dreams.

And I can connect to what you wrote as a son to a working mother. I missed so many moments with my mom. When I wanted to share my tiny feelings of happiness and sadness after each day of school. I really missed my mom a lot.

Fantastic writing!