Interview with a Happy Mom

I’m a relative newcomer to the blogging world. I’ve been blogging since the summer of 2008, but at Coffees & Commutes only since March 2010. I first started reading blogs after the birth of my second son in 2009. I could kick myself for all that I missed before that, but that’s a topic for another post.The very first blog I read was The Happiest Mom with Meagan Francis. I found her at a time when I was decidedly disenchanted with motherhood, I was feeling tired and overwhelmed from around the clock nursing with a young baby and the daily cycle of tantrums with an almost 3-year-old preschooler.

At Meagan’s I found compelling content about real life motherhood. She didn’t sugar coat the messy bits, but she didn’t play on mother’s usual complaints either. I was captivated by her insightful, well-developed and practical writing about motherhood. I’ve remained a regular reader for almost two years.

Now Meagan has published a book The Happiest Mom: 10 secrets to enjoying motherhood. You can imagine my excitement when she asked if Coffees & Commutes could be a stop on her virtual book tour. I was only too happy to oblige! There is much to say about the book, which I enjoyed tremendously, but today I’m pleased to feature an interview with Meagan on two of my favourite topics: writing and motherhood.

On Writing

Why did you decide to write this book?

I have been writing professionally about parenting since 2003, but was always most interested in writing about the mother’s experience: her relationships, home, work, passions, and outlook on life. It was difficult to find magazine outlets that would let me explore these topics in-depth, so one day I thought, “I ought to start a blog!” It was very well received, so a few months later I thought, “I ought to write a book!” I went back through my blog and pulled out the topics that readers seemed to identify with most, those that seemed to form the “skeleton” of a book, and wrote a proposal. In early 2010 I received a contract from Weldon Owen to write The Happiest Mom in partnership with Parenting magazine.

How did you manage to write it and manage such a big family?

Well, I’ve been writing around kids for a long time, so I had already gotten my routines down to some extent. But then my daughter Clara was at a very difficult age–just a little over a year–when I started, and my dad died very unexpectedly when I was just a few chapters in. I stopped working entirely for a couple of weeks, but I found that having the project to return to after all my family had gone home formed a welcome distraction.

I’m not sure writing with a large family is any more difficult than writing with a smaller family. If anything, there are more hands to help out in a large family. For instance, my older boys did the dishes every day all summer and would often take their younger siblings to the park behind my house. My seven-year-old son would often get up the minute he heard the toddler stirring and they would play happily together for an hour sometimes while I’d rush into my office and work. It’s amazing what you can get done in an hour of quiet time when you know it might be all you get that day.

What was the writing process like? How long did it take and how did you organize your time to do it?

The deadline was tight–about three months to write the whole book, and there were lots of revisions flying back and forth between two sets of editors–so I had to put pretty much all my other projects on hold and lean heavily on my husband and other family members for help during that time. My husband generally took one full day off of work each week, (he’s self employed) and I would work from about 9 AM until 3 or 4 PM those days. Then I’d work for an hour or two in the mornings before the kids woke up on the other days and try to eke out time when the kids were playing happily or at the park.

Every night when I went to bed I’d jot down a few things I’d absolutely need to get done the next day, so that in the morning when my brain was still trying to wake up I could just glance at the list and pick something to get started on. That cut down a lot on aimless Twitter procrastinating or spinning my wheels.

I also took advantage of every little snippet of time I had. If the kids were playing together quietly I knew I might only get 15 minutes, but that’s long enough to write a section, come up with a list of quiz questions, or print out revisions and take a quick look. You really have to guard your time when you’re working at home around little kids. Every minute counts.

What advice can you offer other aspiring writers, or people who want to share their stories about life and motherhood?

Stop talking about writing. Sit down in your chair, apply your fingers to the keyboard, and do it. You will write some stuff that’s not ready for prime time, but every time you write you’ll get better. Obviously, a blog is a great place to get practice, but I’d also recommend submitting your work around so that you get used to being edited, criticized, and rejected πŸ™‚ Being able to deal with those three things with grace and persistence are what take you from “wannabe” to really doing it.

On Motherhood

What’s it like to have a house with so many kids? How do you find time for yourself?

Well, it’s kind of crazy sometimes, to be honest! But usually it’s a good crazy. Mostly it’s the noise levels that can be really hard to deal with. That and the minute you address one child’s needs, there’s usually another one wanting or needing something! On the other hand, the kids are built-in playmates. Rarely do you see a lonely kid moping about and nobody is ever bugging me to entertain them–except my five-year-old, when his big brothers are all at school.

I don’t so much find time for myself as make it. I joke that a lot of moms seem to be waiting around for the Time Fairy to show up and grant them eight hours of conflict-free “me time.” I have found it works a lot better to decide what you want or need, and take it. So maybe that’s putting your yoga class on the family calendar and just going. Or maybe it means getting up early on a Saturday morning and just leaving with your laptop so you can go work at the coffee shop. There is really so much more time in the day than we like to admit to ourselves. We lament the lack of time but don’t realize how much of it we waste on blogs that aren’t worth our time or just refreshing Facebook over and over to see if anything interesting has happened. If something that interesting happens, it’ll still be around in a few hours.

Probably the biggest way I make time is by trusting my spouse to be competent and able to take over for me without my having to do endless preparation before I go (I’m not perfect at this, but working on it). Even if he doesn’t do everything the way I would, he takes good care of the kids while I’m gone. He knows where the cereal and milk are. He knows where the diapers are. If the boys end up with the wrong kids’ clothes on, it’s not the end of the world.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a mother, but that took you completely by surprise?

I think the realization I’ve slowly come to is that my happiness and self-worth are separate from my children, no matter what a huge presence and focus they are in my life. Motherhood is not going to make me happy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy in my life as a mother. Regardless of how my children turn out, or how they feel about me, or how they behave today, or who they become tomorrow, how I feel about my self and my life and what I put out into the world is all up to me.

How do you think your children would describe you?

Probably depends on the kid. I think my 13-year-old would call me “annoying” right now. He’s convinced I’m a horrible taskmaster because I make him walk the dog and empty the dishwasher every day. My 11-year-old is very sweet and loving at the moment and we have hilarious conversations. He’d probably say I’m “funny.” My five-year-old is a mama’s boy and loves to snuggle with me and sit with me and play with me and, wow, he just really loves to be with me right now. I could imagine him saying that I’m “warm.” My two-year-old would probably simply say I’m “mama.” At her age, I am still front and center in her world.

My seven-year-old was the hardest to answer! He’s at the age where he’s becoming so independent of me, and has never been super warm and fuzzy with me to begin with–he’s just not that kid, though he can be very sweet and loving, he’s not gushy or snuggly. Our relationship right now is much more about what I can do for him: help him with homework, get him a snack. I honestly think he doesn’t give me much thought otherwise, and that’s OK. Kids are self-absorbed and I’m not delusional enough to think my kids spend a lot of time thinking about my inner life (yet.) So I think my seven-year-old would say I’m “there”–and I think sometimes just being “there” is enough.

Where do you turn when you need advice?

My sister, my friends, Twitter. Depends what kind of advice I need. I miss my mom for that–she died when I was 22, and I know there are so many things I’d ask her about now if she was still around.

If you could change one thing about motherhood what would it be?

I think it would be great if there was a pause button. Like if I was getting overwhelmed, I could hit “pause” and have ten minutes or so to go in my room and breathe with all the kids stuck in place. Or I could go on trips without the kids without feeling conflicted about leaving them. Truthfully though I’d probably abuse the “pause” button. I think sometimes those overwhelming, conflicted moments are the things that teach us the most about ourselves, even though they can be so unpleasant to live through.

The mom in me can’t live without…

Snuggles, because they make all the rest of it worthwhile.

 

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42 thoughts on “Interview with a Happy Mom

  1. Alicia says:

    Great interview. The mom in me couldn’t live without my son’s smile. Those first few weeks were tough and when he finally smiled back at me a felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Now, all my worries fade away when I see his cheeky grin πŸ™‚ I found the Happiest Mom blog only a few months ago and wish I would have found it sooner too.

  2. I LOVE the sound of Meagan and this book! Hmmm, as a mom, what can’t I live without? Coffee, snuggles and prayer (not necessarily in that order!).

  3. harrietglynn says:

    Well I’m still new so right now I love the kisses and snuggles so much, I can’t bear to think of life without them, even thought I know a time will come. *sigh*

    Other things I could not live without (right now): My father-in-law who cares for my son twice a week and adores him beyond measure; coffee; walks in nature by myself with my podcasts.

  4. Melissa says:

    I am not even being cute when I say that as a mom, I need sleep. Since baby #5 was born, we’re really noticing how much better we adults function with regular sleep vs. not enough. We’ve always muddled through, but now we’re trying to make it more of a priority!

  5. Yay! So happy to see Meagan here today! She’s truly an inspiration.

  6. Christa says:

    What a great book! And a great gift for new moms, or maybe not so new….

    Walks, meditating, good books all help, but if I had to choose one thing, it would be long, hot baths. With the door closed!

  7. Heather says:

    The Mom in me cannot live without my children’s smiles. They just give you 100% everytime. It melts my heart. Being a mother is wonderful and I cannot imagine my life any other way.

  8. Kameron says:

    Wow, I can’t imagine juggling 5 kids and trying to be productive at the same time! I am swamped with the 2 I have. I think she is so right about being happy independently of being a mother. I find that when I am happy with myself and more relaxed I am a better mother. I will have to check out her book!

  9. Tracey says:

    Wow, what an inspiration. The mother in me cannot live without hearing my daughter laugh at least once a day. It makes all the tough times seem silly and the good times all the more memorable.

    Oh, and a glass of wine on a Friday night – toasting the end of another successful work week.

  10. Jill says:

    The mom in me cannot live without my daughters’ toothy, nose-wrinkled, little grins. Oh, and the smell of freshly washed baby hair (even if the shampooing itself is a nightmare…). Heaven!

  11. Justine says:

    Mom of 5 and a book! Wow, I’m in awe. Great inteview!

    Mom in me can’t live without coffee. Err…I meant cuddling with my little one(s).

  12. The mom in me can’t live without my quiet time. I know that sounds terrible, but I am a MUCH better mom when I get 30-60 minutes in the morning to just do something for myself. That usually means playing on Facebook, blogs, and other internet interaction. Once I’ve woken up to peacefulness, I am ready to start my day. I was not a happy mom when my girls were little and their cries were how I would wake.

  13. Pattie says:

    The mom in me can NOT live without talking to my girls and hugging them. Now that they’re older, those times are more precious and a bit more far-between than they used to be.

  14. Chaunie says:

    Our finished basement, with a door that I can shut and say “Have fun!” πŸ™‚

  15. Debbie says:

    The mom in me can’t live without the support and help of my husband. Knowing that I have his support and encouragement 100% helps me to know I’m not doing this job alone!

  16. This Mama can’t live without a little “talk time” each night before bed with my daughters. It is my refuge from the hustle and bustle of the day. It is my sanctuary from all that distracts me from what really matters. While in the coziness of my children’s beds, I get to hear the problems on their heart and the dreams of their future.

    Thank you for this wonderful interview. As an aspiring writer, I can use all the tips I can get. This has been so helpful.

  17. Joanne says:

    So excited to read Meghan’s book…she is one funny, warm, and inspiring lady! As a mom, I can’t live without my “village” – thanks to the endless support of friends and family, I have the freedom to pursue my personal goals and my daughter gets the feeling that the entire world loves her. Yoga, a sense of humor, and a good night’s sleep are pretty essential, too!

  18. Andrea Penny says:

    As a mom I can’t live without smiles, and hugs and kisses from my kids. No matter what kind of mood I can be in, one little hug can turn it around πŸ™‚

  19. Claire says:

    I can’t live without my daughter’s laughter – when she laughs it feels like a thousand pounds are lifted from my shoulders.

  20. Melissa says:

    Great interview. Looking forward to reading the book. As for what I can’t live without, well it’s hard to pick. Laughter with the whole family. Quiet time with my husband. Time by myself. Hugs from my girl. It all makes for a better day.

  21. jenny martin says:

    This looks like a great read! I can’t live without the snuggles I get–the random I love yous–that make it all worth while!

  22. Eve says:

    I only recently discovered the awesomeness known as Meagan Francis! As a mom, I can’t live without God. Encouragement, instruction, sympathy, forgiveness, rest…whatever I need in any moment, He can provide. I would be screwed without Him.

  23. I can’t live without laughing with my kids, heartily.

  24. Liz Martin says:

    Can’t live without the running tackle when I pick her up from daycare. I walk into the room and hear “My mommy!!!” and then suddenly it’s as if everyone else has melted away and she’s running to me with all her might. I’m going to be so sad when I start getting the distracted “Hi mom . . . “

  25. Great interview. I’m so glad to know that someone else–and a published writer, at that!–writes in fits and starts, in short intervals at seemingly inopportune times. I often find myself writing a few short sentences when my kiddos are otherwise involved, and I wonder if this kind of frenetic work is more overwhelming than helpful. But sometimes it’s the only way I’m able to do things, since my time is so limited. Thanks for sharing Meghan’s words with us here, Christine!

  26. Leslie says:

    The mom in me can’t live without friends – other adults to share and laugh and worry and commiserate and have fun with and to be comforted by. Whether local or far-flung or limited to the blogosphere, they support me in my happy belief that parenting is everything to me, but not quite all that I am.

  27. The mom in me can’t live without stepping back and watching my daughter learn and be creative. So often I fall into the habit of thinking of motherhood as a never-ending chore list (you know: giving baths, prepping meals, changing diapers), but the very reason I wanted children–their zest for life, their creativity, their interest in learning–is often the thing I find hardest about being a mom. Sometimes I forget that THOSE moments are the ones that matter, not the logistical details of parenting. So when I do step back and watch my daughter play in the dirt, or cover her dolls up with a blanket, I’m much happier than I am otherwise.

  28. SleeplessinSummerville says:

    I hate to say it, but the mom in me needs the internet! In the beginning, it was the community of parents with babies with health problems like mine had. I got little to no support from the medical professionals that we saw, and I needed not only helpful suggestions on how to make my child feel better, but I needed to hear that I wasn’t the only one dealing with disrespectful, distracted or uninterested pediatricians. Now that my child is on a more even keel, I still need it to help me think about motherhood and make meaning of it, apart from simply surviving. I love reading what Maegan Francis has to say: She’s just so real!

    • Christine says:

      The mom in me needs the Internet too, in this you are not alone! The connections I’ve made here and in other places are some of the most important in my life at the moment. The Internet has allowed me to connect with like-minded women, who worry and think about the same things. That’s an incredible opportunity.

  29. lil says:

    As a mom, it’s the laughter that I can’t do without–it makes my day suddenly become bright. I don’t even have to be involved. Hearing my children laugh with each other while they are in their “secret” fort . . . ahhhh! But pictures come in a pretty good second. They let me relive all those amazing times we’ve had. One can forget how quickly they grow . . .

  30. The mom in me can’t live without: those belly giggles; especially when they are all together and don’t realize that I’m listening. Where they just laugh and laugh at the silliest things – like farting or some weird sound that someone made. It makes me laugh just writing it down. When they get the giggles it is the BEST feeling ever and totally reminds me what it’s all about. πŸ™‚

  31. Liz Farrar says:

    The mom in me can’t live without my “ME time.” Gotta get it once a week or I go nuts. πŸ™‚

  32. […] of Meagan’s book. The winner was randomly selected from the comments on Monday’s post, Interview with A Happy Mom. Congratulations to Β Kristin Noelle from Trust […]

  33. Sandy Rieder says:

    The mom in me can’t live without my son’s giggles and my newborn daughter’s smiles.

  34. Sara Mason says:

    I couldn’t live without coffee, my friends, my camera and my computer πŸ™‚

  35. Esvee says:

    The mom in me can’t live without brushing my teeth and showering first thing in the morning. Well she can, but the happy mom in me needs those!

  36. paula hudson says:

    My cellphone πŸ™‚

  37. Karen says:

    What a great interview. I already wanted this book, but getting to know Meagan a bit better makes me want to dig in today. I’m also gonna have a new blog in my reader. (How did I not already follow her!?)

  38. Melissa says:

    Thanks for this opportunity – her book sounds inspiring, and your interview really tips me over the edge in wanting to buy a copy. The mom in me can’t live without joy. Life is more than chores and schedules. But I need to be reminded of that daily!

  39. Sarah PD says:

    I am so excited about the release of this book.
    The mom in me couldnt live without my kids belly laughs. There is nothing else on earth that makes me feel as happy and joyful as their laughter.

  40. Thanks for sharing her words with us Christine. I loved reading about her writing process.

  41. Amber says:

    I got to interview Meagan for my podcast, and it was so much fun! She really is such an inspiration.

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