Evolution of a Writer

Twelve years ago this spring I graduated from university with a Bachelor's degree in Education. One month later Celine was born.

Damien and I decided to marry young (once you meet your mate why wait?), finish my schooling, and then start a family. While I was still a student we cut back my course load - increasing the number of years it took to complete my degree - so I could spend more time in the home being what I wanted to be most of all - a homemaker.

We knew managing finances, eating well and other domestic domains (remember this was before children were a part of our home) was not something you did just on your weekends off of work. It is work.

Homemaking is a job in and of itself. And we valued that as a couple and I was more than happy to be the homemaker in our relationship.

When Celine was born I had been menu planning, budgeting, and making our rental apartments "home" for three years already, which means I've been a homemaker now for fifteen years.

The birth of our first child brought me home (from school) full time and I poured all my energies into figuring out how to be a mother and how to raise our children. Motherhood was my profession from the moment I found out I was pregnant with Celine and I have been a full time stay-at-home mom from the start.

At my heart I am homemaker and a mother. My mission, which I plan to share soon, is very much wrapped up in these two parts of my identity and calling.

I also am a home educator, not just a "let's take the kids out of school this year and see how it goes" homeschooler. Before our babes were even born we made the decision to homeschool our future children. We planned this for years and I am philosophically opposed to mandatory, conveyor belt mentality, standardized achievement, institutional "learning".

Homemaker, mother, homeschooler. This is the world I have created for myself my whole adult life.

Since Celine's birth I have never wanted to work outside the home. I am too independant to fit into a typical work environment anyway. I like to be "in charge" and love the daily rhythm of home life and the natural seasons. I love nourishing my family and creating beauty.

But just because I don't want to work outside my home doesn't mean I'm opposed to earning money. I just don't want to venture from my home or be "employed" by someone to do so.

Traditionally, work-at-home based options for women like myself were pretty slim, at least the models I observed during those formative years in my homemaking career. There was running a day care (over my dead body) or selling pyramid marketing scheme type products (over my dead body times two).

Plus, I really did have a FULL time job raising three children born in 3.5 years (have 'em young, have 'em quick). I was content being an at-home mommy. I also volunteered together with my children in our community, was active in our church, and gradually went more "green" in my homemaking. 

And then Brienne hit five years old and I had noticeably more time for myself. Time for hobbies, interests and intellectual growth. Not hours and hours a day mind you. I still had these kiddos home with me all day but bits of time would pop up here and there. Sometimes a whole hour to myself in the middle of the morning as the kids were all engaged in play.

I felt myself starting to blossom as someone other than "mommy".

I realized I was actually creative. I started gardening fairly seriously, learned how to make soap, and fell in love with photography. And I discovered blogging.

That's when I realized something. Here on the internet were mothers, homemakers and homeschoolers (like me) who were sharing their lives, their ideas, their selves - from home and making money doing so.

I started to wonder if maybe I could do that too.

- - -  Screech  - - -
(imagine a soundtrack grinding to a stop)

Hold it right there. I couldn't do that! I was legally unable to work for pay, from home or anywhere else because of our restrictive resident visa.

"No fair!", I inwardly railed. But I bided my time and waited. And waited some more. And when finally our family could wait no longer we decided to move. Damien had no freedom either, it wasn't me steering the ship on this move but my desires for professional freedom were a big part of the decision making.

And now, in one month I too will join the ranks of at-home momprenuers (In actuality, I've already started but "not officially").

Mothers who create livelihoods and help support their families with their passion for homemaking, child raising, family life, homeschooling, creativity, (fill in the blank). Many of them doing so with words, as writers.

With blogs, books, services and products. Mothers sharing who they are and what they have to offer through writing.

This is the internet age. You can do that. I want to do that.

So please be gentle because I'm testing out how this sounds, "Hello world. My name is Renee Tougas and I'm a writer."

Ack! Did I just say that? Yes I did. Am I scared as heck about what I mean when I say that? Yes I am.

But writing is a part of me. Just like being a mother, a homemaker and homeschooler. I want to do something with that part of who I am and I want to be financially compensated for that work.

Not only do I want to earn money from writing I want to earn money from writing about my passions - family life, homeschooling, homemaking, nature, adventuring, and creative living.

I want to grow to the point I can say "I'm a writer", without apology or blushing while mumbling about "not being published" (yet).

My cup overfloweth with insecurities when I think about offering this part of myself to the world and asking in exchange to earn something. Much more insecure than I am "selling" myself as a photographer. 

I have been peeling back the many layers of my creative self to understand these fears and hopefully overcome them. I've taken personality tests, written my mission statement, thought long and hard about what makes me tick, and why I love to do the things I do.  All of that will be coming to this space soon. 

For now, I want to leave you with few questions. I'd love to hear your answers in comments but I also welcome private e-mails if you prefer.

  • How have you evolved as a person through your adult life? 
  • If you found the courage to say "Hello world. My name is ________ and I'm a _______", what would you say? 
  • What are your passions? Have you thought about how you could earn money pursuing those? Maybe you already are - do tell.
« A Moving Philosophy
One Day at a Time (Homeschooling and Moving) »
  • Chris Wallace

    Chris Wallace on April 6, 2011, 10:52 a.m.

    I've definitely evolved. I skipped straight over all of the fun times most young adults experience and was (mostly) forced to enter straight in to the "professional" work life. Going on 12 years later, I'm taking time for myself and kissing cube life goodbye. I'm not sure what I would say to the world yet, but I plan to figure that out over the next few months. It'll be something like "Hello world. My names is Chris and I'm a packrafter/Tenkara bum/backpacker/guide/teacher/entrepreneur/writer/photographer." Some of those are my passions now and others I am in the process of exploring. I hope to earn a living doing them, and I'm in the process of developing a model for it. As to whether it works out or not, who knows. Regardless, I'm going to have fun exploring it.


    • renee

      renee on April 6, 2011, 11:06 a.m.

      Awesome! Damien is working on a book review right now, maybe you've read the book Hike Your Own Hike by Francis Tappon?

      It has been so encouraging to us as we figure out how to get the most out of life and live out our passions.

      Damien and I skipped the adventure while young phase also. We started our family and "settled down". Now in our mid thirties and nearing forty we're ready to unsettle and look forward to doing more serious adventuring with our family. 


      • Chris Wallace

        Chris Wallace on April 6, 2011, 11:10 a.m.

        Actually, I haven't read it yet. There are several books I need to order and I should have a lot more time to read soon. :-) I've been amazed by the amount of encouragement I've received in regards to dumping a high-paying reliable job for the opportunity to explore my passions. It would seem that there are a lot of us out there right now tired of the status quo and determined to buck the trend.


  • tara

    tara on April 6, 2011, 11:21 a.m.

    Wow, Renee. It takes such courage to stand up and declare yourself. Good for you. I have found myself moving along a similar path this past year or so. As the boys get older, I find myself expanding my idea of myself in a way that is freeing. I have given myself permission to explore different avenues. I don't know what I would declare at this moment but I do know that I am happy where I find myself at this moment. I look forward to watching you go down your path and am excited that your upcoming move is going to allow you to follow it fully. Reading your words confirms that yes, you are a writer.


  • Shannon

    Shannon on April 6, 2011, 12:24 p.m.

    Seriously, Renee, are you inside of my head? Just last night I drafted a book proposal query. I remember when I hit publish on announcing my winter cookbook. Terrified. I, too, am a writer. I don't claim to be good at it or that I will ever be published, but ever since I can remember writing was how I expressed thoughts, feelings, and just about everything else.


  • Emily

    Emily on April 6, 2011, 12:30 p.m.

    Renee. I see so much of myself in you. You've expressed so much of what I've experienced and feel. I started out young, too, with marriage and family. Then the homeschool path, and now more and more time emerging for self discovery and enrichment. I've loved this journey.

    I've been thinking a lot about what's going to be on the horizon in my life. Questions of "What are my talents, my passions, my ambitions? Does completing my college education fit in? Do I need that for financial security if I needed to be the provider in my family? Do I need that to feel like an educated person? Do I need a career to feel fulfilled?"

    Lots of questioning and soul searching. There's so many things that attract. I'm a teacher. I love teaching. But I don't think I'd be happy in a traditional setting. I love history. I love literature. Health and nutrition. I'm seeing that I'm enjoying the writing process. (A miracle: Blogging has taught me that.) Most of all, it all boils down to where I see passion through it all, and that is homemaking. Making a home. I love, love, love everything about it. That has brought and I know will continue to bring, so much happiness and contentment in my life. Self education, study, and growing talents is really all I need for peace. I'm seeing that more and more. My biggest fear, though, is that insecurity I feel if I should have to support my children, if something happened to my husband. I just don't have that piece of paper to prove myself in this society, or have a real "workplace" experienced. Yes, even though I have an abundance of life experience. (Which I think is of more value.)

    I do love my life, but these questions are always on my mind. I've decided to take it slow. I want my time to be focused on my home and family, especially this fleeting time when they are all at home. There will be more "me" time in 15 years. We'll see what enfolds. The changes and discovery during these last few years about me have amazed me. Sometimes you just never know how you can metamorphosize. I'm excited to see how I'll evolve and where my life's journey will take me.


  • Emily

    Emily on April 6, 2011, 12:48 p.m.

    Oh, and one more important thing I forgot. (As if I didn't write enough. Sorry.) You are a WRITER, Renee. A gifted writer and photographer. You have such talent. Go for your dreams. You have it in you. You were born for this.


  • Beetnik Mama

    Beetnik Mama on April 6, 2011, 12:57 p.m.

    You know, I've given some thought to these issues, but not a lot. I'm still very much in the early years of parenting, and my time mostly isn't my time. What I appreciate most in your post is the mention that only when your youngest was FIVE (Brienne is your youngest, right?) that you noticed an extra hour or two on your hands.

    I get bogged down a lot by all the "shoulds." I read about so many other mothers who are managing their homes, their kids, AND sideline businesses or money-making hobbies, and I "should" all over myself about what I'm not accomplishing. It's so refreshing, and I think I've read your writing about this before -- remind me of the link, maybe? -- to see someone acknowledge that the extras are not always possible at every phase of our lives. Not for all of us, anyway.


    • renee

      renee on April 6, 2011, 2:27 p.m.

      In Learning with Littles I laid out what my days as a mother of young children looked liked.

      You bring up a very good point that the extras are not always possible at every phase of our lives and I am a firm believer in that. Each individual and family determines for themselves what are the extras and for me paid employment/work while at home with young children was definitely an extra.

      I am speaking from my own experience and my own personality type but I believe our children's preschool years were the foundational years of our family life. When you build a foundation you take your time to do it right. I am not a perfect mother and my choices may not be for everyone, indeed they shouldn't as each person has their own life to live but I am happy about having devoted the last 12 years to making a home and raising children.  

      I am not a high energy person in terms of doing many things well at one time. I have high expecations for myself and want to give my very best to what I do.

      I also need 8-9 hrs of sleep and believe in taking good care of my body (and take nighttime baths and day time naps when necessary). I simply would not have had the energy to do what I see many mothers doing online when my children were younger.  Unless Damien had been home to help.

      Like I mentioned we had three children in 3.5 years (Celine was 3.5 when Brienne was born - yes, she's the youngest). I nursed all my children - day and night and didn't wean Brienne till she was 2.5. For five years of my life I was in a sleep deprived state as my children were not good night time sleepers. I napped almost everyday for several years. 

      During that time, when I was pregnant with Laurent we changed our diet. This took a lot of work. I had to learn a whole different way of cooking and we tweaked it again during the past four years and that again was another learning curve. Learning takes time.

      Laurent was colicky and Brienne was a challenging preschooler. And like I said, it wasn't till she was 5 that we finally came out of that intense period of parenting preschoolers.

      Our family also likes to practice hospitality and we have welcomed people into our home for meals and overnight stays (friends, family and strangers alike) since we were first married. This also takes time. Cooking, planning and cleaning. For a couple years we also taught a health course in our home through our church. This was not to earn money but to serve the body of Christ and our community at large. 

      I wanted to give my young children a slow childhood. I wanted to take them for nature walks, go to the park with friends, read to them everyday and cook them healthy food. I wanted to give them the best of me to train, love and teach them. To set the foundation for the rest of their lives. This takes time. Hours - day in and day out. 

      Even if I had the possibiltity to earn money I don't know that I would have had the time to pursue it. Maybe but who knows.

      This is just my experience based on my own temperament, unique family dynamics, and personal interests.

      I encourage you to follow your heart Beetnik Mama. There are not many truly important "shoulds" in life. Make sure you invest your time in those that are most important to you. 


  • Shawna

    Shawna on April 6, 2011, 4:11 p.m.

    I am so excited for you!! You have created such a wonderful space here for yourself and others to gather and it has been an amazing journey to watch you make.


  • Jennifer @ kidoing!

    Jennifer @ kidoing! on April 6, 2011, 4:33 p.m.

    Renee, this is such a fascinating topic. Thank you for the look into your life and opening up this dialogue. I agree with others that you are a talented writer and photographer. I really enjoy reading your posts and like your style of writing. You write in a way that is similar to how I think (concise, organized). I am really excited to see where this new path of yours will lead.

    My life after college has taken twists and turns. I am the eldest of four and when I went to college I didn't think I wanted to have any children; I was tired of taking care of my younger siblings and wanted to pursue my own interests. I met my future husband at college. We dated for seven years while we both finished school and pursued careers, then we got married. We continued to work on our careers and it wasn't until my late 20s that I had the calling to be a mom. At that point we were married for five years and I just turned 30 when I had my first child. I had no idea my life that my life would change drastically. I resigned from my full time job and found a flexible part time job (still in my field). As we contemplated having a second child, it became clearer to me what was important to our family and how we were going to need to change to accomplish our goals. When my second child was born, I stopped working outside the home.

    Since I had my first child, I knew that there was another calling for me that was completely unrelated to what I had been doing. However, I didn't know what it was. As time went on, I began to realize that I am meant to be a healthy food advocate for children. Without the birth of my children, I would have never known what my calling was. Now, that may sound like I have things figured out. I don't. But, I do know that my blog is making me happy right now and I would love for that to turn into more some day (of course as my time allows as family is my priority).

    We will be homeschooling my daughter starting this fall (something I never thought I would do), so we'll see where this takes us. I am open because I know now that I cannot chase my dreams anymore. I have found that they will find me.

    Good luck to you and your family. Big changes are ahead!


  • steadymom

    steadymom on April 6, 2011, 7:27 p.m.

    You most certainly are a writer, Renee!

    I still have trouble with the "I am a writer" thing, too. Because, as your post shows, we are so much more than just one thing! And often people bring preconceived ideas and stereotypes along with those words.

    I love this post, I love how transparent you always are on your blog--you let us into your world so vulnerably and beautifully. You are helping and changing lives, and your sweet family is as well.



  • Rana

    Rana on April 7, 2011, 12:37 a.m.

    First of all you were a beautiful bride. I love your wedding photo.
    Second of all I am in awe at all that you have accomplished and I'm excited about what is to come. You have really put your self out there and it's exciting to see your goals come to fruition. Third the questions you ask have been on my mind for a while and I'm still rolling them around in my head. I would like to say Hello my name is Rana and I'm a photographer or maybe writer. Heck why not both? I've been doing a lot of photography for family and friends lately and that has got me wondering. Could I do this for a job? Am I good enough? I just need that push and watching you take the plunge is encouraging me to just do it. Like I said before your blog and your family has always been such a great encouragement to me. I wish you well with all that you are doing.


  • Hillary

    Hillary on April 7, 2011, 12:45 a.m.

    Oh, I love seeing the old pictures!

    First, I want to say that I'm a little jealous of how comfortable you are being a home manager. It's been something I've had to make peace with and definitely been a learning curve for me.

    Secondly, WOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOO! You are amazing and I am so excited to see how your journey unfolds. I can relate to everything you wrote and as you know I'm on a similar journey.

    Hello, my name is hillary and I'm a digital strategist ;-D


  • Cheryl

    Cheryl on April 7, 2011, 12:56 a.m.

    Renee, you are very good writer, and obviously, an amazing wife and mom.

    How have I evolved through my adult life? That's a good question. I'll try to keep it brief. I was raised Catholic here in Maine. After high school, I attended a Catholic college in NH, and started dating the man I would marry. Less than a year after graduating, I moved to Denver. That college beau followed me about eleven months later, got his own job and own apartment. When we decided to get married, we signed up for natural family planning classes with The Couple to Couple League. It changed everything: my views on marriage, my views on babies, raising children, the role God plays in our lives. When, a little more than two years after our wedding, we had our first child, I quit my job as writer for "The Denver Catholic Register" and plunged headlong into being everything my baby needed me to be (largely ignoring the advice of family and friends); turning instead to The Couple to Couple League, advocates of attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, homeschooling, ... . We've been back in Maine for six years, and now have six children. I've breastfed non-stop for more than 14 years, we're all gluten-free, are debt-free (except for the mortgage, which we'll pay off in 13 years or less), and now forego most immunizations; in short, we've fully embraced the children God has blessed us with and work hard to do what's best for them, thumbing our noses at what American-society-at-large tells us we should be doing.

    I've had the courage to say "Hello, world. My name is Cheryl, and I'm a writer," for some time now. I'm developing the courage to also say, "I'm a photographer and an artist."

    My passions are living my Catholic faith (preaching through actions more than words); nurturing my family and learning alongside my husband and children; researching and sharing news on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity; writing; taking photos; drawing and painting.

    I've made little money thus far, but am taking baby steps in that direction, with freelance writing projects here and there, some web design, etc. If I eventually make a living at what I love, it will be wonderful. In the meantime, I'm content to be a giver of gifts. (If you haven't read "Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?" by Seth Godin, I highly recommend it.)

    Thank you, Renee, for being so generous with your gifts and asking the rest of us about ours.


  • Naomi

    Naomi on April 7, 2011, 1:29 a.m.

    Yay! Renee - wife, homemaker, mommy, photographer, writer. Be proud of what you do, you're great at it!

    As you know, I am also very passionate about mommyhood and homeschooling, but I have also gone through transitions in my journey to becoming a midwife. It really is scary admitting that we've achieved some new level of our professions, especially when we don't feet that confident in our new roles. But we have to get there somehow!


  • desilou

    desilou on April 7, 2011, 3:15 a.m.

    You've got me thinking - again! I love this post Renee. It's like being handed a beautiful little wooden puzzle box, turning it over and over in my hands, admiring it, and discovering little secrets. The more I consider this post, the more that comes out of it. Your blog has been an inspiration to consider my own hopes and fears without it seeming quite so . . . intimidating! Thank you for sharing all these hopes, dreams and contemplations. I wish you and your family the best with all your new adventures!


    • renee

      renee on April 7, 2011, 12:45 p.m.

      Thank you Desilou I love that picture of a beautiful little wooden puzzle box. I think we're like that as people - complex, beautiful, multifaceted, full of secrets and nuggets of wisdom and unique experiences we can share with the world. 


  • shelli

    shelli on April 8, 2011, 2:56 a.m.

    Renee, As everyone has said, you are certainly a writer, and you are a fabulous photographer too. I think about these things all the time, and I think so many people do. It's a little intimidating to think about just how many people want to do the same things I want to do - be a writer and a photographer, so I'm often wondering what I need to do to make myself stand out from the crowd. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them! Yet you often inspire and give me many ideas to think about.

    I am at that stage where my children are too young for me to do very much in pursuit of my career dreams. But I do work and plan a little bit every day. I feel like I'm a tortoise slowly making my way -- not necessarily to a finish line but to a place where I can feel a bit of satisfaction that I have accomplished some of these goals. I do think it's all a journey that will never completely end, and that's a good thing.

    The main thing I have committed myself to is writing a weekly column for a local newspaper. They pay me pennies, but it feels good to have those pennies every month. Everything else I do is not a commitment to someone else, so I just do what I can in the few spare minutes I can get. When I think about it, I'm amazed at how much I do get done. I think I accomplish much more now than I did when I had plenty of spare time!

    I think I have evolved a great deal in my adult life, but that would require a whole blog post or column! (Hmmm.) The most important changes have occurred in me -- and are still occurring -- as I became a mother and realize exactly what is most important in my life. I have been able to let go of so much, and in that, it has opened up so much more.

    Thank you for stating that it wasn't until Brienne was five years old that you found extra time -- that is encouraging to me. And thank you also for stating that you are a low energy person who takes naps. We have so very much in common in that regard! I have always worried that I won't accomplish anything because of it, so I can only hope that I can work around it!

    It's late at night, and I'm very tired, so I hope this comment makes sense. Good Luck with all you do, Renee!


  • Francesca

    Francesca on April 8, 2011, 7:33 p.m.

    oh, I don't think it got published ... I wrote something like: I don't know what it takes to say "I'm a writer", and a published author nowadays isn't necessarily a "writer", though the claim to being a writer that comes from earning a living from it is certainly high. I think it's great that you know what you want to become, go for it! Ciao!


  • Karen Blados

    Karen Blados on April 9, 2011, 2:05 a.m.

    Have to say I agree with the general consensus -- you are already a writer. And a very talented photographer, too, I might add. I'm in a similar place in my life, and in fact wrote a similar post today on my blog, although I'm an artist. I look forward to following your journey.


  • Sarah

    Sarah on April 11, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

    Renee, I'm excited for you as you pursue being a writer while maintaining your roles as wife, mother, homemaker, and homeschooler! Since I was a little girl, that exact list has been on my heart. My mother homeschooled all five of her children, and I am determined to do the same whenever I am blessed with the husband and children God will give me. To answer one of your questions, I will say "Hello world. My name is Sarah and I'm an editor." One day I will say that of being a writer, too, I hope.


  • Nicola @ Which Name?

    Nicola @ Which Name? on April 12, 2011, 3:40 a.m.

    Of course you are a writer! You have much to say of great value and you say it beautifully! I truly hope you can earn an income doing it from now on!

    Hugs, Nicola, a mom who wasn't at-home from the start, doesn't homeschool, has thought about "let's test it out this year" homeschooling, has spread out birthing children, and is perfectly alright with all of that!


  • Spalva

    Spalva on April 15, 2011, 11:08 a.m.

    Gee, I appreciate those few words about timing and how we can't all do what we want when we want; those are rare thoughts in the blogosphere.

    My life has been [vastly] different from yours. Yet we seem to share many common points: the need for sleep (low energy), the poor sleepers in our lives, the impossibility of pursuing professional dreams, the fact that neither of us sews, for example.

    I haven't been able to work for eight years now. When my eldest was born I was a freelance translator working on fine art books. The lack of a second income -- besdies the far-flung locations in which I have lived -- has made it impossible for me to return to school where I could work on my dream of pastoring to the elderly/poor.

    As long as we stay where we are -- and own our little home-base -- I won't be able to work. I have volunteered and that has given me much solace. But I took this past school year off to process some things that I had put on hold while caring for others.

    As for blogging, my eldest had very strong feelings about my blog so I made it private and stopped writing it last September while I find the time needed to save the whole thing somehow. I have a love/hate relationship with Flickr (as do you, apparently) and have deleted my account twice (hence, most of my photos have not been put up on my current account).

    So. As for Now?

    I really (really) don't know.

    I've been reading here off and on since you first announced your move. It's interesting to watch you go through this whole process of transformation.


  • Nola

    Nola on May 11, 2011, 3:09 p.m.

    This is very encouraging as a post. Especially as you speak very highly of being a homemaker. That is not highly valued in our culture and its very sad to see it even in the church. I wish it was not so. I have been a homemaker since I was married. Its also refreshing to see someone that is honest about their limits. I do not have a blog because I cannot see how it would, for me, properly balance a blog and my duties as a homemaker and mother. But I do enjoy reading other's blogs especially for the connection to other homemakers and mothers that is unfortunately otherwise lacking. I'd rather get it in real life with real relationships and do with a few but its nice to see that there are yet others who believe in these things as being very important.


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on June 21, 2011, 8:56 p.m.

    This is very exciting! Although, I think there have been options for at-home mothers for a long time. Many people are rediscovering the art of crafts in the home.My grandmother and her mother were seamstresses for many rich families in Philadelphia. There were also artistic endeavors, such as writing and painting. Industrious, creative women are not a new thing. :)


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.