Most of us make book recommendations and leave it that. Imagine my surprise when later that week I received a text from our host telling me to stop by her house because her friend had left a book for me. Sure enough, it was One Beautiful Dream.
I began reading the book and hoped that I would like it. After all this build up, who would want to say, "Sorry, that book wasn't really my thing." Happily, I was hooked almost immediately. Fulwiler is a very honest mother. She freely admits her shortfalls and I readily related to being a once professional woman who now might be found in a grocery store totally ungroomed with a cart full of kids. I know from personal experience those feelings of inferiority when confronted with the "perfectly engaged mom" or the "totally put together and unbelievably tidy mom." I know the horror of someone walking into your kid-filled house and seeing your family's true mess. Fulwiler's stories are beautifully relatable.
If the book ended with these anecdotes, it would be an enjoyable read. But I am happy to say, it offers so much more. The gist of Fulwiler's book is that she knew writing brought her happiness, so for many years she tried to write in spite of having lots of small children. (At the beginning of the book she is expecting her third child. By the end of the book, she has her sixth child.) Finally, at a retreat that she is not particularly enjoying, a priest helps her to see that her writing should be a family project and not just her own individual work. She and her husband begin to make work decisions based on family goals. Soon her work is not competing with her family; it is an outgrowth of her family. Perhaps the sweetest and funniest chapter comes near the end of the book as Fulwiler is driving her van around town with her older children trying to keep her smallest child calm. When the child is calm, Fulwiler stops the car and writes. When the baby begins to fuss, she drives again until her older children can distract the youngest. In a beautiful family effort, her older children managed to entertain her youngest long enough for her to finish the last chapter of her first book.
Light bulbs were going off and aha moments were happening like crazy as I read this book. I knew so much of this was true. My kids love to be a part of my work. They love for me to talk about what I'm writing. Rather than rolling my eyes and complaining about how I don't have time to write because I'm a mother, I need to make our home life and my writing life a family project. I immediately began plotting in my mind how I would do this over the summer. Not only are my kids at home 24/7 during the summer, but my focus rightly becomes our summer adventures--not my writing aspirations. Imagine my delight when an administrator at our school suggested I challenge Meg (whose great reading skills make it hard to find challenging but age-appropriate books for her) by encouraging her to write more. Thanks to sibling rivalry, if Meg is writing more, Clare will be writing more as well. I haven't figured out all the details yet, but I do see some fun family writing adventures happening this summer.
I very much want my kids to see us as a family unit. They are not just three separate individuals that we happen to be raising at the same time. Each member of our family plays an important role. We should constantly be learning from each other, supporting each other, and depending on each other.
I should note that Fulwiler's book is not just for aspiring writers. She effectively demonstrates how each mother has their passion and the same concepts apply to these various passions.
I am so grateful that this friend of a friend made sure I read this book. Fulwiler has inspired me to change the way I approach my writing. She has also inspired me to reevaluate how I view the role of family. I come from a loving family and I believe my husband and I have created our own loving family. But we have a lot of work to do when it comes to depending upon each other and sacrificing individualism for the sake of our family unit.