Keeping it Real

I have a confession to make. I’ve been following the reality train wreck that is True Tori. I’m not going to provide any links here – that televised fiasco doesn’t need any more promotion. Either Tori Spelling and her husband are going through an actual marital crisis and have decided to document their troubles in real time, or, more disturbing, they’ve invented a marital crisis to milk on reality TV. Either way, the idea that their children are living through this messy, murky, very public pseudo-reality is highly disturbing to me.

However, as a stay-at-home mom and writer, I have some sympathy for Tori. A couple of years ago, I wrote a weekly green living column for a local online newspaper. During the school year, with my youngest in preschool a few hours a week, the job didn’t conflict much with my mommy duties. But during the summer, with three kids under twelve to herd and a weekly column to write, I was swamped. I found myself looking for any way to combine my two jobs. Could I interview the invasive species sculpture artists that I bumped into while taking the kids to the local butterfly garden? (Yes. You can read that column here.)

My kids and I did a lot of fun activities together that summer, but they weren’t happy about it.

“It’s like you were home, but you weren’t really there,” my older boy observed.

Ouch.

I have the utmost respect for working moms. And having been a stay-at-home mom, I know what a difficult and isolating job it can be. Women who successfully combine the two are amazing.

I was not amazing. I couldn’t even handle a part-time job mixed with full-time parenting.

And so I wonder, as I watch Tori Spelling flail and founder, if she’s completely lost the line between work and home. Is she wreaking havoc in her life for the sole purpose of selling her story? Has selling reality become more important than what is actually real?

I can see how it can happen. And I was lucky – I wasn’t in very deep, just writing on nice, happy topics that weren’t personally damaging to my family. But that experience still left me wary of writing about myself.

My new rule of thumb is that I can write non-fiction, but only after it’s happened. I’m not going to warp reality in order to write about it unless I can do so in a way that doesn’t involve my kids.

How do you keep your writing life from negatively impacting yourself and your family? Do you have any writing rules to keep you grounded?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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