When I first met Sarah Jio – at the Pulpwood Queens Weekend in January of last year – she had both a new baby and a new book along with her (and a very supportive spouse). Since then, I’ve watched her do the career life balance thing at an awesome level, cranking out books and articles at a dizzying pace while raising children with a husband who works full-time. Her fourth novel, The Last Camelia, released yesterday, she has pieces in two major magazines this month, and she has a fifth novel releasing this fall. They are great reads, too. Real Simple calls The Last Camelia “Terrific … compelling … an intoxicating blend of mystery, history and romance, this book is hard to put down.” And she is incredibly nice, too. I know all of you who are parenting while trying to write, as I once was, are going to love this post. – Meg
Years before I published my first novel, The Violets of March, I was a freelance writer. And shortly after my first baby was born, one of my longtime editors asked me to have lunch with her. I remember getting ready for that first post-baby outing. I was tired, with big, puffy bags under my eyes, dark circles–the works. (For heaven’s sake, I’d delivered a baby five weeks prior. And, said baby had a serious case of colic.) My life had changed in a major way, and that morning, I was trying to squeeze into my pre-baby clothes and go out and behave as if I was the same old me. I missed my baby terribly, but I drove to the restaurant, and ordered a salad. I picked at the lettuce leaves on my pate and listened to her talk about new assignments, work stuff. Then things got personal. Did I have a nanny, she asked? Well, no, I said. Would I be getting one soon? Well, I’m not sure, probably not; I want to be hands on for now.
She shook her head, and gave me a stern look. “You do realize that you’ll have to choose one or the other, don’t you?” No, I did not realize. “Yes,” she said. “You can’t do both well. You’ll have to choose.” In other words, at least, according to her, I’d get to be a great writer, or a great mother.
I drove home that day completely disillusioned. Did motherhood mean the end of my career? The end of my writing dreams? Would I have to sacrifice quality time with my baby to be a successful writer? Fortunately, by the time I parked my car in front of my house, I’d come to my senses. It’s my life, and I get to choose. And that day, I decided to choose both. I could be a great mother, and a great writer.
That was a turning point for me. From that day forward, I didn’t let anyone place limitations on me. That day, I decided to soar.
Six years later, I have three children (all boys), and no nanny. Shortly after that meeting with this editor, I accepted a job with Glamour magazine, and became their founding health and fitness blogger, a job I’d have for almost five years—a job I’d balance with babies, pregnancies and childcare. I regularly contribute to major magazines, including Real Simple and O, The Oprah Magazine (I have contributions out in both this month), and I’m the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, with two more contracted with Penguin. My books are now published in 21 countries. Imagine the way my career—my life–would look if I’d decided to believe this editor, to internalize her comments.
Yes, life is crazy sometimes. It’s not always easy. And sometimes (a lot of the time) the house is a mess, or I’ll have to stay up late on weeknights writing instead of working during the day like normal people do. But, I love that I get to be a mom and a writer. I love that I get to do both. And no one gets to tell me that I can’t.
Moral of the story: Silence the naysayers. Make the life you want for yourself. Because you can. – Sarah