Why I pursued my unrealistic, poor-paying dream once I became a mum

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Google the phrase "follow your dreams" and see a trillion inspirational quotes appear.

"If you can dream it, you can do it!" said Walt Disney. Oprah famously espoused, "the biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams."

I dare say, neither Oprah nor Walt were getting up to screaming babies in the middle of the night, or answering their 402nd "why?" from their toddler, while they focused on making their dreams a reality.

It's all good and well to talk dreams, to inspire people to think big and be courageous enough to act on their desires but once you factor a family in, the waters become murky very quickly around how you will actually make that happen.

Following dreams involves determination, head space, time and focus. The process is the antithesis of all things parenthood.

Like so many women, my career hit a speed hump when I had my first child. I'd been working as a human resources manager in an antiquated organisation. Once I became a mother, I was forced to reassess how I'd manage a baby and return to the workplace, particularly to a job that was an hour away in a role that drained all my positive energy. With encouragement from my husband, I resigned from the role. It was frightening but liberating.

My dream was to become a writer, maybe even a published author one day and this fork in the road was my chance to follow that dream. I knew it was a stupid, unrealistic, poor-paying dream that would probably hollow out my entire soul all so I could put my words on paper. In fact, an Australian survey conducted in 2015 found "the average annual income derived from practising as an author is $12,900." Everything was pointing towards lunacy when I threw in that paying job and decided I would write instead.

It's over a decade (and four children) on from that decision and I have just had four children's picture books published by Lake Press.

I'm ecstatic that after much rejection, a publisher saw the value of my rhyming toddler stories and agreed to publish them. It's exciting, it's my dream realised and my kids all think it's pretty cool that their mum's name is on the cover of a book. Add to that, my books have been bought by an international seller. So, maybe that impractical, poor-paying dream wasn't so reckless after all?

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Don't hold your breath. I've calculated if every copy of my books sells, I will make $900. Yes, $900. The remainder goes to the publisher, the illustrator, the printer, the on-seller, the distributor and probably the truck driver who delivers the boxes.

I was never driven to write for the money, although a tad more would certainly help support a large family. I'm a story-teller and aspired to tell my stories to a wider audience. If one child held a book of mine, laughing along as a parent read it to them and shouted "more! more!" at the end, then I'd consider my vision fulfilled.

Writing while raising children, just as any profession, is no mean feat. Taking time away from my family to pursue something that didn't actually help feed them could be seen as a self-centred decision. But I decided that pursuing dreams is about so much more than the final goal.

Following your passion takes hard work, stamina, resilience and resolve. These skills are something we try to remind our kids of daily, as they learn to tie their shoes and sound out words, to master algebra or hit a tennis ball, to make a new friend or overcome their fear of heights.

By modelling my yearning to one day write a book, to live the process every day – from being slumped over that keyboard deflated as another rejection came into my inbox, to the day when I signed a contract that validated my unfeasible goal to one day be an author -  taught my children a rainbow of lessons. Dreams don't come easy. They don't always pay the bills. They don't necessarily complete you but damn, they make you work hard, they force you to be strong and dedicated and they teach you to be grateful when you finally taste the sweet nectar of success (however you may define it).

My children's board books Whose Pants? Whose Shoes? Whose Hat? Whose Bag? are aimed at birth to beginner readers. They are fun out-loud reads full of all the good stuff to introduce children to language – rhyming, alliteration and humour! They also feature children's names and illustrations that represent our multi-cultural society.