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How motherhood made me a better writer


By Rashida Tayabali

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I had always worked full time in paid employment before I had my son.

I was used to being busy, challenged and stimulated by the work. Then along came motherhood – I was still experiencing all the three things but in a much harder and different way sometimes to the point of exhaustion and tears.

A whole human depended on me for his every need. A part of me was exhilarated at being a mum; another part of me knew I needed mental stimulation and the continued ability to earn my own money. My self confidence and self worth depended on these two crucial aspects.

Writing had always given me a creative outlet for my thoughts and while on maternity leave, I decided to start a part time freelance writing business.

I learnt a few valuable lessons during my first year of freelancing – both good and bad:

1. Running a business and working from home is completely different to being an employee – results are directly proportionate to the number of hours you put in. The failures or successes are only yours to experience. I learnt to celebrate my own successes and failures instead of moaning to my co-worker.

2. In my most frustrating moments, I sometimes lost sight of why I had left my stable job and decided to stay home. I alternated between guilt and relearned to set different priorities. I learnt to identify what was really important and let go of what wasn’t.

3. It took me a few months to go from thinking about just “me” to thinking about “us” – if my son needed me then I left everything and focused on him. I learnt to treasure every moment with my son and developed patience.

4. I started off slowly instead of rushing headlong into trying to write – I attended one evening seminar to get a taste of what freelancing would be like and then did the subsequent courses over a few months. I learnt to think, digest information and make rational decisions.

5. I had to learn how to stop comparing my progress to others’. It was all about approaching one editor at a time and writing one article. I became my own critic and motivator.

6. I had to develop a thick skin to rejections – it took me a while to understand the process. So while the first ten rejections really hurt, I ended up critically analysing my ideas, reworking them and then pitching to publications. I developed the courage to keep getting up after falling down.

7. I was scared, scared of failing and scared of not meeting expectations – then I realised that it wasn’t so much others’ expectations that scared me but my own. I learnt to tone down the high achiever part of me and told the perfectionist in me to learn to accept flaws.

8. I wrote for free at the beginning. I needed clips, the editor needed quality articles. But I refused to diminish my self worth and started pursuing those magazines which paid. The two free clips were a confidence booster and gave me the encouragement to continue. I realised money is not a true measure of my skill.

9. Freelancing is a lonely gig and when you only have a baby for company it can get even more isolating. So I picked a few hours during the week to work. The rest of the time, I enjoyed spending time with my son or caught up with friends. I learnt that time and memories were precious. Time spent with people you love can provide a much needed boost and support.

10. Work can easily take over your life when you’re working from home and when you have a child it becomes even more imperative to set boundaries regarding technology. So while I still struggle with this, I try and not check my emails or Facebook all the time. I learnt that technology doesn’t always make your life easier; and tomorrow if all the apps, Facebook, Twitter would disappear, I could still earn a living with my writing as I’d have tons of time left over!

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Rashida Tayabali - to view all of Rashida's blog post click here

Rashida Tayabali is a freelance writer and the founder of Project Mum, a job matching service that connects highly skilled mums to small and medium sized businesses for short and long term projects. She has been published in Essential Kids, Lifestyle (SMH) and various health and fitness magazines.