This essay is a microcosm reflection on how my writing life has changed since I became a mom, including whining about never wanting a kid in the first place and how having one maybe makes me a better writer. I wrote this for an award application, and it appears here unedited (with a note). I wanted to share because, well, that’s just the kind of guy I am.
I broke my mother’s heart, not for the first time, when I was twenty-eight and told her that she’d better put all her grandma-hope eggs in my younger brother’s basket because my husband and I had committed to staying child-free. I was fed up with how urgent the question had become after three years of marriage. Besides, I’d just written my first book. The path ahead promised to be an unpredictable adventure of discovery and entrepreneurship, and there’s no room for babies on an adventure like that.
My name is Ellie Di Julio. I’m an urban fantasy and speculative fiction writer; a Midwesterner who immigrated to Canada to marry the son of an East Berliner and an Old World Italian; a spiritual and global nomad with a longing for home; an aficionado of odd punctuation. And I never wanted children.
My daughter, Mackenzie, just turned fifteen months old.
When the call comes, you answer, even if it doesn’t come until after thirty.
The transition from aggressively productive author-publisher to full-time mom has been rocky. Where I used to crank the word machine uninterrupted for six-plus hours each day, I now have to sneak in a paragraph here, a sentence there, jockeying for time around Blue’s Clues, playdates, meltdowns, and cleaning avocado out of the carpet. Where I used to sit on panels and do public readings of my novels, I now sit on the floor and read the same board book fourteen times. I often feel like I’m trying to fit in my real life around mom life, as if someone more qualified will eventually come to pick her up so I can get back to work.
This is my real life. More real than anything I’ve ever done.
My heart soars when she tumbles into my lap, laughs uncontrollably, says a new word, or launches herself at the bookshelf. It breaks when she cries because she can’t stand, inhibited by the hip brace she’ll wear for another year before undergoing the same surgery I had as an adult [note: she did not]. It’s stitched back together when I get to see the world through her explorer’s eyes: the thrill of icy water in summer, the magic of bubbles in the sunshine, the soul-swinging rhythm of New Orleans jazz. And that’s all in just one day.
This kind of rollercoaster changes you, if you ride it right. I’m not who I used to be. I’m stretching in directions I didn’t know I could stretch, loving in ways I didn’t know I could love, living a life I didn’t know I could live.
And because of that, my writing is different. More hurried and rare, yes, but also richer and deeper. It wants to find the good, the lovely, the shiny, the light. It’s more curious and introspective, experimental and growing.