Making Hard Choices

My name is Daniel Kenney, I write books for kids, and this is my first post for Emblazoners, this awesome group of writers I’ve been so fortunate to recently join.

Since I started publishing kid’s books last September, this is as good a time as any to share with you what I’ve learned over the last year. But before I share with you what I’ve learned, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve done.

Since last September, I have published eleven books for kids. That’s right. ELEVEN. Here they are (just to give you an idea of the kinds of stuff I write)

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For some writers, this isn’t that much…but for many, eleven is a lot.  And so far, things have gone really well. My books mostly sell, I’m able to make extra money for our family and everything is hunky dory…right?

Well, not exactly. Let me tell you a little more about myself and then you’ll see why. Along with writing kids books, I am a stay at home dad of eight. That’s right. EIGHT. I have eight crazy, loud, and mostly fun kids.

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These may not be my actual kids but this is a fairly close approximation of what our house looks like on a daily basis.

You see, my wife works outside the home. I take care of the kids, get them to school, bus them from practice to practice, clean the house, cook the meals. You get the deal. And inevitably, whenever I post a new book on Facebook I get some comment like….”Dan, how on earth do you get so much done AND be a stay at home dad of EIGHT KIDS?”

For awhile you can delude yourself into thinking that you’re some kind of super genius wonderkind. Or, at least that’s what I did…at least a little. But that’s not the truth. The truth is something that became very apparent in the last month. The truth is…the reason I’ve been able to get so much writing and publishing done over the last year is because I just haven’t done a very good job at doing the DAD stuff.

Now, before you go with the whole “Don’t be too hard on yourself” I’ll just say up front that I’m not being too hard on myself. The truth is, I am not a person who can do everything. I am not a person who can survive on 4 hours of sleep. I’m not particularly good at getting lots of different things done and doing them quickly. So for me to pull off what I’ve pulled off over the last year has meant that I have had to take valuable DAD time to be a writer.

So what does this have to do with writing and why am I blogging about this? Very simply because I’m also not one of those people who believes you can really have it all. Choices must be made. Time has to be carved out of something else. Something will suffer. And, each of us has to decide what we are willing to let suffer. For me, the path I took over the last year is not particularly sustainable for me. So I need to find a new path that WILL be sustainable…for me…and my wife…and our kids. Our family. Long term, this whole writing thing can’t be just about me. It’s got to work for us.

So, in year TWO of this publishing journey, I’ll be trying to carve out a new path, one that lends itself to a healthier and happier path for my entire family. For example, as I write this blog, I’m in the lobby of a gym while my 2 youngest are in the daycare twenty feet away. I’m using my workout time to write this blog post. Then, I’ve got to grab the kids, get an electronic game fixed, bake a cake, feed the boys lunch, get them down for lunch, clean the house, pick up the kids from school, drive one daughter to soccer, take my son and two friends swimming for my son’s birthday (which by the way is today, HAPPY TENTH BIRTHDAY BRENDAN!), then I’ve got to race them home, cook them dinner, have a party, get the friends home, make sure everybody’s done homework., pray our family rosary and….well, you get the point. THAT…that truly is my life and at least for awhile longer, the writing will have to fit into my life…as opposed to my life fitting into my writing.

It’s so great to be a part of this community and a pleasure to get to know you all.  Happy Writing!  Daniel

Daniel Kenney is the author of the popular THE MATH INSPECTORS series along with the hilarious graphic novel, THE BIG LIFE OF REMI MULDOON. He and his wife Teresa live in tropical Omaha, Nebraska where they raise eight children, one gecko, and two rather unhappy toads. Find out more at www.DanielKenney.com or see all of his books by searching for Daniel Kenney on Amazon.com.

11 thoughts on “Making Hard Choices

  1. Dan, Great post. I think as stay at home parents we all guilt our writing selves quite a bit. Writing helps me stay sane so I’m a better mom to my kids. It also shows my kids that I have a job, something I work at to accomplish things and for them a very tangible book is a great lesson.
    You’ll find that happy medium where the guilt isn’t overwhelming the writing any longer and you’ll enjoy your family time along with your writing time.
    Here’s to a wonderful year 2 in your writing life!!

  2. Congrats Dan! I say that as I newly enter the empty nester phase of life. It’s been a not-so-smoothe transition for me since January, surprising to me as I did not do well as a stay-at-home mom when my kids were young. I found I had to harmonize doing things outside the home with being Mom or I would have gone nuts!!

    I reflect on the 17 years we’ve had with our kids at home and I think it was healty for them to see Mom productive, having wins as well as heartbreak from my business pursuits. My kids were both clear they were not the center of our universe, and that was healthy unlike many families we knew who were exactly the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely did stuff with our kids, but because our lives were hectic, we had to be strategic and accomplish multiple things at the same time like creating family sharing while eating dinner out because we had a school play to be at…You know the drill.

    Dan, I appreciate your angst, for it’s not easy (I know), but I think it reveals your heart for your kids. My word of encouragement for you: Don’t measure your efforts by a narrative of “shoulds” running in your head, but from a narrative of how you want your kids to turn out in the end. Our objective was simply to produce kids who were respectful, happy, contributing members of society who loved their family. In hindsight, I think our actions produced exactly that even though we were plenty busy and had a few hurdles to overcome along the way. So, think about what you and your wife want your kids to turn out like, and measure your actions against that, not against the number of hours you spend with them.

  3. All of which is exactly why no one cares if a post is a little late. 🙂 I’m there with you Mr. Mom. My writing time usually coincides with my kids “independent” half of our homeschool day. Or I just skip sleep, which is only sustainable for about three days. Kudos to you for making it work and choosing family first. These years with our kids only last so long.

  4. Wow, 11 books in less than a year while caring for your 8 kids! Amazing. You’re a saint! Today is my grandson’s BD too. He’s 4! Happy BD to Brendan! Cheers to your new path & much success!

  5. As a busy parent myself, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Haha, just kidding – you are writing about my life, only I don’t expect to get a single book out in 2015, let alone 11 (though three are very close!). The only reason I ever started writing was a major leg injury that sidelined me for 6 months. All I could do was sit. Looking back now, what a blessing, because carving out the time during “normal” life is just so hard. What you’ve got now though, in one year, is a fantastic platform of books, which means you can “slum” a little over the few years. Please? So my own publishing history won’t look so pathetic? I also really like that idea of going to the gym to write blog posts. That is the perfect use of a gym.

  6. Wow, I’m exhausted after reading this post. I’m busy raising my (hopefully) last child and a young grandchild, and I achieved absolutely no writing over the entire summer! I don’t understand how anyone manages their time to work in writing while keeping house, cooking, and raising even one child. My brain simply shuts down with that much stress.

    I haven’t read any of your books yet, Dan, but certainly will try to remedy that before too much longer. Because even though I’m just getting back to the writing after a summer hiatus, I do make time every day to read – or I should say night since that’s the only time it’s quiet at my house!

    Best wishes for a continued productivity, and many happy return birthday wishes for the young one.

  7. Thanks for the nice stab of guilt, LOL. In all seriousness, I understand the challenge trying to balance family, work, household, and writing. Hence, why #5 in my series hasn’t been published (nor written) yet. There’s a time for everything, and at this point in life, time is best invested in these little bright-eyed human beings we’ve brought into the world, and making sure their needs are met and their tummies are filled (have you noticed the bigger they get, the more they eat, especially the male of the species?). Speaking of which, I’d better get dinner started. Enjoy this time with your family, Daniel! Someday we’ll be old and gray and probably a bit wacky and will have ample time to write all these stories tripping through our heads… if we can remember them…

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