Looking for Motivation, Mama? Look to What You Love - by Jessica Goodwin for MotherHustle
“Even if it wasn’t a major financial contribution, I just needed to DO something.”

Ten years ago, I was an elementary school teacher. In fact, I had been voted my school’s teacher of the year and would soon be accepted to the Mickelson Exxon-Mobil Teacher’s Academy. I loved teaching. I like to think I was an “out of the box” teacher who tried to make learning fun and engaging for her students. In addition to teaching, I tutored after school.

This was way before I became a mom.

In fact, this was way before being a mom even entered my realm of possibilities, because I was married to someone else—someone I had decided I didn’t want to have a child with. (But that’s a whole other story.) When someone asked me if I had kids, I often replied, “Yes. I have 23 kids, my students.” And that was enough for me.

A few years later, I was worn out, anxious, and unhappy from being stuck in a troubled marriage. At one point, I was working two or three jobs at a time and writing, self-publishing, and marketing my romance novels. I was doing it all for me, to keep me busy and to keep my mind off my lousy marital situation. But I wasn’t exactly…happy.

My motivation was basically keeping myself occupied.

I decided things had to change. I got divorced. I moved. I got a new teaching job.

I got married again. We had a son. And I have been so, so, happy ever since.

But after the birth of our son, all the motivation I’d had previously—to be a good teacher, to come up with creative lesson plans, to simultaneously entertain and educate my students—went out the window. Our son was born in the summer, so I got an extended maternity leave; I was scheduled to return to the classroom in October.

But as October neared, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my son with someone else so I could go spend the day at work with other people’s kids. (Disclaimer: No judgment here. You do you, mama!) Why pay someone else to spend the day with my son when it was what I wanted to do more than anything? At my husband’s urging, I requested and was granted an additional year of leave.

While I love being a stay-at-home mom, teaching was all I had ever known for the past several years. It felt strange to not want to go back to the job I had previously thrown myself into. I eventually felt like I had to do something with myself.

Even if it wasn’t a major financial contribution, I just needed to DO something.

So I did what I often did and turned to my writing. Since I was deep in the trenches of new motherhood, I wrote about that. I started sending my writing out to the blogs and websites I was constantly reading and devouring. My first published (paid) piece was about the awkwardness of postpartum sex. I figured if I could write about that, I could write about anything.

I started sending writing out all over the place. I started looking for jobs where I could write from home. I landed a few here and there and actually started to make a little bit of money. I was enjoying writing so much, I decided to start working on a novel I had started before our son was born. I finished it and self-published. I kept writing and sending work out wherever I could.

My motivation was finally doing something that I loved. And, bonus: I could stay home with our son.

After a while, though, the worry started to creep in. What was I going to do when the kid went to preschool? And what about kindergarten? I couldn’t just stay home by myself all day. I’d have to get a job eventually, but…what was I going to do? I’d had a taste of the writer’s life. I’d finally gotten to the point where I felt comfortable calling myself A WRITER. I couldn’t go back to the classroom. I didn’t want to teach again. But how was I going to get any sort of writing job with no formal writing training or education? I don’t even know what kind of writing job I would want. How would my resumé look with all my years of teaching experience and then some random freelancing jobs writing about pregnancy, parenting, and babies? What would I need to do so I could stick with this writing thing full-time?

I decided it was time to head back to school for my master’s degree in creative writing and literature. I’m enjoying being a student again and not the teacher. I’m loving my classes and somehow, even amid all my schoolwork and chasing a two-and-a-half-year-old around, I managed to write another novel. (That makes number 5!) Crazy, right? How is that even possible?!

It’s possible because my motivation is doing what I love and loving what I do.

Years ago, when I wrote my first novel, I thought of it as a hobby…my dream job. I never thought writing would take me anywhere. Now that I’ve had a little taste…I want more.


Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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