As wives and mothers, we lay down our lives for our family. We love them as we love ourselves—often much more. But how do we balance our duties to our family, friends, and community with our own personal passions? How is God calling us to love both our families and ourselves in our own unique situations? How does He speak to us through the desires of our hearts?
This November, I published a women’s fiction novel entitled, Write in Time. One of the main characters, Marie, is a young mom of a toddler who shares the same struggle I had when I began writing this book two-and-half years ago. Marie wonders how—or even if—she can juggle her deep-seated need to write with her desire to be an attentive at-home mom and wife.
Meg Matenaer is a writer from Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and six children. Her book, Write in Time, is available on Amazon. You can find her at megmatenaer.com
Marie has joined a writers’ workshop on the nearby college campus. Her dream is to finish her children’s chapter book by her workshop professor’s Christmas deadline in order to have a shot at being featured in the city’s literary magazine. But life seems to keep pulling her writing dreams out from under her feet.
In this scene, we see Marie, mom of Timmy, feeling pulled in too many directions, lamenting not doing anything very well, and wondering if her struggles and sacrifices are going unnoticed by the very people she’s serving, especially her husband Dan.
Thursday, October 12th, 11:31 a.m.
Timmy, Dan, and Marie ate ham sandwiches in silence. Maybe this would be a good time to tell Dan what was on her mind.
Marie watched as Dan scrolled through his phone. She had been counting the minutes until he came home for lunch. He obviously hadn’t been doing the same. She picked spaghetti sauce off the table, not remembering the last time they’d eaten spaghetti. “Thanks for coming home to eat with us. Since your promotion, it seems like we don’t have as much time together,” she said as casually as possible.
“No problem,” Dan said, not looking up from his phone.
“Daddy play.” Timmy drove his car into Dan’s sandwich.
“No, Timmy!” Dan grabbed Timmy’s hand and pulled the car out from under the bread. He walked to the sink and rinsed the car off. “I have to get back to the office.”
“Right.” Marie frowned. “It was good seeing you, stranger.” So much for their heart-to-heart.
Dan kissed her on the cheek, handed Timmy his car, and headed for the door. “I’ll be back late tonight.”
Marie nodded and closed the door behind him. She felt invisible. Did he appreciate everything she was doing to keep their home functioning? Did he appreciate her?
She plodded back to the kitchen. Her heart still skipped a beat when he came home at the end of the day, looking smart and successful in his dress clothes. She tugged her stained shirt stretched within an inch of its life over the waistband of her yoga pants that she had been wearing for three straight days. No doubt he did not think the same. It was all so unfair! The baby was a joint decision, but she was bearing the full burden of its care. How would Dan handle being pregnant?
Her cheeks burned. She cleaned off Timmy’s right hand as he wiped his left on her belly then helped him down. He wandered off, calling out for his blanket that didn’t answer back.
She sat in a huff at the kitchen table, aware that she was winning an argument Dan did not know they were having. Maybe that wasn’t fair, either.
The sun peeked out from behind a cloud and cast a ray onto her neglected laptop. She knew without looking that she was only on page ninety-nine, already far behind on her action steps. Professor’s December twenty-second deadline was looking more out of reach each day.
She lifted the silver top, wondering if she could sneak in a few paragraphs before Timmy noticed. The computer came to life in a comforting glow. A sense of power ran up her hands. Here in front of the screen she was master—mistress!—pushing buttons as she saw fit, sending characters to and fro, making everyone jump at her whim, not Dan’s, not Timmy’s, not the house’s. Here at her keyboard she was in char—
The baby kicked her square in the bladder. She gasped and ran for the bathroom, hoping she would make it time. She was looking forward to not sharing her organs anymore—except her heart. Her family could still have that. Her bladder, though, she needed that back to herself. But she deserved the kick. That was another downside of staying at home. There were so few people to keep her mind on track.
She flushed the toilet and forced her thoughts back in line with reality. Maybe a quick chat with Dan would be all it would take. He probably didn’t not love her anymore because she was pregnant. That would make him a monster and he was not a monster. He was her best friend.
She knew it the instant he smiled at her in a sophomore literature discussion group as she gushed over Shakespeare’s “Sonnet Eighteen,” by chance the only literature class Dan ever took. He genuinely loved when she got passionate about something. He even wrote her his own sonnet by the end of the semester. She blushed at the memory. She made a note to go look for it later in the box under her bed.
She took a deep breath. Everything was fine. She would get some pages written this afternoon and would be caught up on her action steps in no time.
As she washed her hands, she noticed that a light was out above the vanity. Was that a smudge on the ceiling? She peered at the popcorn ceiling. A four-foot-wide watermark ring came into focus. Her blood froze. She pulled out Timmy’s step stool and stepped on. She reached her hand up to the ceiling and touched it. The plaster was soft and spongy as if it would fall off any second. She screamed.
“Mama?” Timmy wandered into the bathroom.
Marie whisked him out. Why was the ceiling wet? It wasn’t raining outside. Was a pipe broken? Was something wrong in the bathroom directly above? Would the tub fall through the ceiling?
As she was deciding who to call first—Dan, the plumber again, or nine-one-one—her phone rang. It was Rebecca Clarke, her best friend from childhood.
“Rebecca!” Marie gaped at the ceiling. “So great to hear from you. How are you?”
They hadn’t talked since July at Rebecca’s father’s funeral. Marie’s stomach twisted from guilt. Why hadn’t she called Rebecca since? The days at home with Timmy were both endless and a blur, a Bermuda Triangle of time.
“Okay,” Rebecca said. Her voice sounded pinched. “I’ve been going through Dad’s things. They’re mostly auctioned off or donated. I just sold his house.”
“That’s great news,” Marie said. Oh no, did she sound too upbeat? She wanted to wrap her arms around her beautiful friend from Appleton, who now had no family at all at twenty-four.
“I’m moving to Madison. There was a nursing position open at the hospital. I was wondering—” Her quiet but strong voice broke. “Could I stay with you for a little while? It’s not about rent—I have money—but I’ve been lonely in the house by myself. I’m not sure I could handle living alone right away in a new city and starting a new job.”
Timmy, Dan, the house, now Rebecca. Someone else to care for that would make it harder to finish her writing—
“Of course!” Marie blurted out. It was Rebecca, of course she would help her, aware that she definitely should have checked with Dan first. She eyed the sagging ceiling of the guest bathroom. “I would love that! It’ll be a super long sleepover, just like in high school, except that we can drink now. Or, well, you can, I’ll just watch. And I have a child—two—but it’ll be like the old days! You can keep me company until your job starts. You’ll be so happy when it does. You won’t believe how boring my existence is.”
“Boring sounds nice.”
Marie’s heart broke. Why hadn’t she thought to call her?
Rebecca cleared her throat. “I’ll be helpful. I’ll watch Timmy if you and Dan want to go out. I can cook and clean.” Her voice shook. “Thank you, Marie.”
“Absolutely. When do you think you’ll be in town?”
A broad silence followed. “Tonight?”
Marie swallowed. “Wonderful! I’ll get the guest room made up. See you soon!”
She hung up. Now she knew she had to call the plumber first to get the bathroom under control before she called Dan with news of their houseguest.
Meg Matenaer is a writer from Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and six children. Her book, Write in Time, is available on Amazon. You can find her at megmatenaer.com.