Guest Post: A Little Theory of Mine by Marisa de los Santos

Marisa sitting oneThe lovely Marisa de los Santos, author of the New York Times Bestseller Love Walked In and Belong to Me (review and giveaway HERE), is guest posting today about balancing work and family.  Thanks, Marisa, for this wonderful essay!

A Little Theory of Mine by Marisa de los Santos

I get the question a lot, usually from women and often during book group meetings:  “How do you balance writing and family?”         

The easy answer is that I write my books while my children are at school.  Technically, this is true.  Any writing I do happens somewhere between drop-off and pick-up.  Weekends and evenings, I get a little time at my desk, but mostly these parts of the week are given over to homework, ballet classes, piano lessons, swim practices, meets and games, family dancing in the living room, family singing in the car, family bike-rides, movie-watching of the G/PG variety, and general hanging out.  When the kids go to sleep at a reasonable hour, which doesn’t consistently happen, weeknights belong to my husband and, sometimes, a glass of wine.  Saturday nights are ours, too.  So I balance work and family by writing my books Monday through Friday, while the kids are at school. 

imagesBut this answer is really too easy.  In fact, I stopped giving it for the same reason that I am deeply attached to it:  it makes my life sound tidy, when my life is anything but tidy.  Plus, I didn’t usually get away with it.  Most of the time, before the answer was completely out of my mouth, people jumped in with:  What about groceries?  What about laundry?  What about reading and exercise and volunteer work and meetings and friendships and email and shopping and dealing with the plumber?

While I have some help with some of these tasks and obligations, both from my husband, a true partner, fellow writer, and prince among men, and from a highly capable and much-loved young woman who helps with the kids a handful of hours a week and does errands for me on Thursday afternoons, I end up attending to many of them myself, usually during the hours between drop-off and pick-up.  When I explain all of this to people, I’m sure they wonder how my books get written at all.  I wonder myself.

lovewalkedpaperbackBut the truth is that I do all of the things I do not only because I have to, but because I want to.  I want to sit in the choking heat of the indoor pool or in the lobby of the ballet school and watch my kids do what they love.  I am co-president of Home and School (our school’s version of PTA) because I want to be part of the place where my kids spend so much of their time.  I want to be the one who thumps the melons and picks the piece of salmon my family will eat.  I need exercise, friendships, and family dancing to keep me sane.  Still, sometimes I resent how little time I have to write.  On bad writing days, I beat myself up over the squandered hours.  I envy the lives I imagine other writers are leading.  I long for the peace and time and big trees of writers’ colonies, despite the fact that I have never been to one and, in my heart, don’t really want to go. 

Over time, I have developed a theory.  If people hear it and dismiss it as rationalization, well, I don’t blame them.  It probably started out as rationalization, my putting a positive spin on my frenetic days and limited writing time.  But no matter why I came up with the theory, I’ve come to believe in it.  Not just believe in it.  I’ve come to see that it’s more than just a theory.  It’s big and holistic, ill-defined and not terribly original, but I recognize it as one of the deep truths of my life.

It goes something like this:  everything feeds everything else.  Writing time and family time are false distinctions.  Sweating it out at swim practice, watching my son’s arms arc and arc and arc; choosing one tomato over another; helping set up for the school book fair; listening to my daughter read an Ivy and Bean book aloud, her downward-cast eyes and chirping voice; watching Law and Order reruns with my husband; my obligations to the people I am honored to have in my life, the hours I spend with them:  all of these things make me–I almost wrote “a better writer,” but better than what?  Better than who?  All of these things make me a writer.  They impact directly the words I write in palpable and invisible ways.  Just as the hard-won hours I spend with language, story, and characters make me the friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother that I am.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


16 Responses

  1. […] it! Guest Post: A Little… on Review and Giveaway: Belong t…Heather on Review and Giveaway: Belong t…gwendolyn […]

  2. Thank you for doing this interview. I haven’t read anything but Marisa de los Santos yet, but I very much enjoyed hearing about her life and her approach to life & writing. So sensible and positive!

  3. I love her theory and the cute picture of her. Great guest post!

  4. What a great philosophy. I have been struggling with finding some balance with my many commitments at the moment and I love the rather liberating idea that different areas of my life are not isolated and distinct, but interelated.

    I’m adding Maria’s books to my TBR list, as I haven’t read them yet. Thanks for this great post.

  5. What an excellent theory. Makes sense to me & sounds really well-rounded and healthy. Also fits to me what what I’ve read in her books (which I loved).

  6. hmmm…i always wonder how authors find the time to balance everything. seems like de los santos has found the way! in my head, i imagine authors to be single people, holed up in some garret with a typewriter. 🙂

  7. I checked out your site from the blogger awards and liked it. I voted for you. I hope you win.

    Please check out my site nominated for the best blog design. I hope you will vote for me also. Thanks!

  8. Great post. I need to double check to make sure her books are on my list. What a day this is for adding to my tbr!!!!

  9. I’ve not read one of her books yet either but I definitely will after reading this guest post. I often feel that women need to support each other. Balancing work and family is something that we all strive to do and I appreciate her honest and sincere answer.

  10. This is a fantastic guest post! Life balance is such a tricky thing and I have to admit that I’m not doing so well myself. It’s hard stuff!

  11. What a great, positive perspective on this issue. Thanks for this! I really enjoyed a little snippet on one topic like this.

  12. Great interview! I really enjoyed Love Walked In, but haven’t gotten to Belong to Me yet.

  13. Great interview! She sounds like a really industrious woman. It is nice that she spends a lot of her time devoted to her family. I have been wanting to read Belong to Me since I first saw it mentioned. It looks really promising.

  14. […] ~ Books on the Brain has a guest post by author Marisa de los Santos: A Little Theory of Mine. […]

  15. […] Belong to Me – Marisa de los Santos (Books on the Brain) […]

  16. […] A Little Theory of Mine by Maria de los Santos – guest post at Books on the Brain […]

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