Motherhood & Words

I don’t usually post about self-help books. In fact, I’m sure I never have. And that’s because I don’t usually read them. But when I was contacted by a publicist at New World Library about Renée Peterson Trudeau’s new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family, I said yes, send me a copy.

In some ways I feel like I’m in a new stage of life – both professionally and as a mother. Professionally I know what I want to do: lead more workshops and retreats, work more closely with writers, increase my editing load. I’m poised to take that leap, and I’m just trying to be patient and wait things out until I can manage it. I’m keeping myself open to opportunities that will help me move in the direction I want.

Similarly in my role as a parent, I finally feel as though I can step back and take stock. The girls are now nine and a half and five. They are largely self-sufficient. Of course they still need me, but it’s different than that desperate, clinging kind of neediness of very small children. They are people. I like them. And I want to make the most of our relationship. I want to enjoy the time we have together instead of hurriedly dragging them from one thing to the next. That’s why I said yes to Trudeau’s book.

The book is made up of five sections that will help readers to honor themselves and their families through reconnecting with what’s really important in their lives. The chapter that resonated with me most was the one on self-care. I know how challenging it can be to take time to renew when you have kids and are working and juggling a hundred things. But as I always tell my students, taking that time to sit by yourself with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and write your truth can make such a huge impact on your life.

A couple of weekends ago, I was in Boston for the AWP Conference. As always, it was a weekend filled with interesting panels and wonderful conversations with writer friends I don’t see often enough. It’s exhausting, of course—how could it not be with 11,000 people milling about?—but it always energizes me and gets me excited to dive back into my own work. Usually, I leave the conference a little early in order to get back home. This year, I arrived late instead, so I had all day Sunday to myself: no conference obligations at all.

I got up early that day and went for a run along the Charles River, which was lovely. I didn’t have a timeline or any plan, so I just ran and breathed and let my thoughts unfurl the way they do when I run far enough. (I was determined not to give myself away as a Midwesterner so I refrained from greeting passing runners with my typical, smiling “morning!” and head nod. I think it worked.)

After my run, I packed up my things and then wound my way through Boston streets to The Museum of Fine Arts, where Cézanne’s The Large Bathers was on display. I happened to get there just as an art historian was talking about the painting, which was fascinating.



Then one of my lovely students (whom I’d never met in person) picked me up, and we spent the afternoon together, walking through the Cambridge Cemetery, talking, enjoying a late lunch together before she took me to the airport, where I sipped a glass of wine and read my friend Amy Shearn’s wonderful new novel, The Mermaid of Brooklyn. It was a perfect day—all about self-care.

And when I got home, I was delighted to spend as much time as possible with my girls and D. I felt renewed, and because I had taken care of myself, I was ready to take care of my family. This is one of the points that Trudeau makes so well in her book. When you really begin to take care of yourself and give yourself the space to think and be, you are, she writes, “wiser and more effective in all areas of your life…”

Each chapter of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ends with exercises for readers to try. While I didn’t feel I needed to work through the book in that way, I know these prompts will be helpful to many readers.

I’d love to hear how you create space in your life to nurture yourself. Is it writing? Exercising? Please leave a comment below by April 3rd for your chance to win a copy of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. 

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Sara on March 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I’m still disappointed that I wasn’t that student you had never met hanging out with you on Sunday.

    I’ve been alternating and overlapping running and writing as my self-care. Although I sometimes want more time for both, I find that I get a lot of payback for a little input. Running energizes me, clears my head, and often fixes a bad mood. Writing is how I process things. It also helps me remember moments with my kids, but mostly giving myself that time to think and put words together feels like a gift. It’s not perfect, but I’ve been working on the self-care of recognizing that I’m trying and sometimes I just have to admit I can’t do something.

    My other self-care, which doesn’t happen every day or every meal, is eating good food. Some nights I sit with the kids but don’t eat so that I can savor and enjoy.

    • Kate on March 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Oh Sara, I know! I was hoping to hang out with TWO fabulous women writers in one day. But next time I’m out there, I’ll track you down. Or convince you to come to one of my retreats? 🙂

  2. jenn on March 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    A lovely review of what looks to be a lovely book. And as with all you’re writing, you so connected with me (glass of wine, nodding at runners). Thank you for being you.

    • Kate on March 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      Oh Jenn, thank YOU!! We need to go out for a glass of wine (as soon as it’s really spring?)

  3. Sue on March 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I adore self care, or at least the concept of it. It can be difficult as a mom to allow yourself permission, but when you do, everyone benefits. Exercising, yoga and writing fill me back up and I have recently started doing less housework and that has a truly opening experience.
    I will be a student who finally meets you in June. I am so excited- that is a self care trip.

    • Kate on March 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      Yes! I totally agree, Sue! And I CANNOT wait to spend FIVE days with you!!

  4. Julia Fierro on March 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Lovely post. I wish we had the chance to meet at AWP. I was one of those thousands of writers. Maybe next year.


    • Kate on March 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Oh Julia, yes, next year! I would love that!!

  5. Andria on March 21, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    This post was a good reminder. I am still in the up-to-your-eyeballs-with-kids stage and getting a little antsy for the next one. It will come. There’s time for everything. Thanks, Kate……

  6. Andria on March 21, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    p.s. the next STAGE not the next KID!!!!!!! 🙂

    • Kate on March 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Oh, so glad you clarified!! Though your kiddos are adorable! I hope I’ll get to see you before too long again. Maybe I’ll be out in SF in October for LitQuake and book promotion.

  7. Andrea on March 22, 2013 at 8:17 am

    A hot bath with a book (preferably one NOT related to my MFA program) after the kids go to bed. Sneaking out for dinner with a friend (when my family thinks I’m at the library working…gulp). A walk in the woods with my camera and journal. A morning swim.

    • Kate on March 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Ooo, Andrea, all of those sound lovely.

  8. Angie Mizzell on March 22, 2013 at 9:21 am

    As a matter of fact, I just wrote a post about my perfect day. 🙂 As I was writing it, I acknowledged that some of it was fantasy world kind of stuff, but much of what I want is attainable. And I noticed that in my “real day” -today- I’ve already written a little bit and gone to the gym. Tonight, I’ll watch a movie with my family. I suppose it’s just deciding what we want, and then making decisions around it.

    • Kate on March 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      I LOVE your perfect day, Angie, and I love that it involved lots of self-care. And I think you’re right–it’s just being clear about priorities and then noticing how you feel when you do or don’t meet your own needs.

  9. Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) on March 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Every day at 1:00 I stop what I’m doing and go to the gym. It’s a great break after a morning of writing and it gives me chance to recharge before I pick up kids from school. I also read at night before I go to bed. It calms me and puts me in a happy place. 🙂

    I’m going to Boston for Muse and the Marketplace in May and I’m staying for 4 nights! I can hardly wait! It’s a delayed 40th bday present to myself. Maybe next year it will be writing retreat in Minneapolis! 😉 I’m so impressed by what you’ve created for yourself and what you are doing for other writing moms. You are such an inspiration.

    Thanks for sharing this book–I will definitely be checking it out.

    • Kate on March 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Oh Hallie, thank you!! And your 1 pm workout sounds perfect to me. That’s my favorite time of day to exercise, as well. It helps me work out the kinks from my morning writing (if I’ve actually had time to do that).

      And yes, retreat next year!! I’m going to pester you about that!

  10. Sarah on March 25, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I’m so thankful I got to meet you in person, Kate! A lovely day with a cherished person is the best self-care I can think of. Now, I’m making it a goal to join you for a workshop some day!

    • Kate on March 25, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Oh Sarah, thank you. I so appreciated you taking so much time away from your family on a Sunday to spend the day with me! And yes, I’m going to drag you to one of my workshops at some point!!

  11. kara thom on March 25, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Greetings from Lago Vista, Texas, where I get to indulge in self-care all week! Starting with catching up on my friends’ blogs! I have promised myself daily writing, reading, moving, and one-on-one time with each kid. Come to think of it, I strive for this even when not on vacation. (And I love that my fellow commenters also use exercise as a way of self-care.) Since reading The Artists Way I’ve also become attached to the weekly Artists Dates. Usually it’s something I might go do anyway — snowshoe! — but calling it an Artist Date puts me in a different frame of mind. I love the idea of my family having a soul. And drinking a glass of wine with you. Soon.

    • Kate on March 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Yes, Kara! And have a wonderful week full of lots of self-care and warm weather.

  12. Kat on March 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your fresh and inspiring perspective of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family with your readers. Families are really seeking fresh perspectives and tools right now. So many of us are ready to drop old habits and patterns that no longer work and explore new ways of being. It’s good to know we’re not alone and are all in this journey together! P.S. Every week we’re sharing excerpts, giveaways and articles from the book at if you’d like to check that out.

    • Kate on April 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks, Kat!!

  13. Kate on April 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    If you wish to participate and spread the love to share “undiscovered” blogs, I left you a little award and reward on my blog, Daily discovery.

    • Kate on April 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Oh thank you, Kate! I’m honored. And I’m happy to know about your wonderful blog now, as well!

  14. Kim Kalicky on April 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Katrina Kenison’s website brought me to you and I have just read your post about Ms. Trudeau’s self-help book, a genre you say you don’t typically read but where you read something valuable about self-care. I had to write. Sheryl Sandberg just emailed me (!) after I sent her my latest book, Mothers Fulfilled. You can read a few pages on Amazon. I write because my book’s tagline is “mothers fulfilled are more devoted givers.” I am totally in agreement with you and Ms Trudeau. I would love for you to take a peek and perhaps have a conversation one day. Warmly, Kim Kalicky

    • Kate on April 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kim. I look forward to being in touch and learning more about your project.


  15. Kate on May 16, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Julia, you are the winner! Congrats!