You can be a mom (or parent) and write too. There, I said it.
I remember the rush I felt when I saw the plus sign on my pregnancy test and how I ran out into the night and snow to tell my husband we were having a baby—and then I remember the morning sickness (please, we all know it’s every minute of every day sickness) and crying on the couch for days because I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think, and I couldn’t move. I sobbed, believing I’d never write again.
Thanks to the changes in my body, I couldn’t write for the majority of my first trimester and it fueled a deep and very real fear: that I wouldn’t be able to write for years, at least the baby and toddler years, anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I searched for articles reassuring me that I could be an author and a good mom, and I didn’t find many.
I recall reading one article where a mother wrote that she’d eaten cold pizza and breastfed her youngest child at her computer in the middle of the night to meet a deadline. At the time I read it, I was horrified, but now, so much respect.
As I read that article, I was terrified I wouldn’t be as strong as her and that I would lose my career as an author and illustrator because I was going to be a mother. If this is you, I am here to tell you, I had my son eleven months ago and I’m still here and still writing.
My methods won’t work for everyone, we’re all different, with different needs, but I’d like to share how I’ve managed my time, the methods I’ve used, and I how I keep writing. My hope is that there is something here to help every mom.
First Time Moms, Forget the First Three Months
I know, I’m sorry. I said you wouldn’t have to give up writing and then I took three months away.
The reasons I say this are:
- You will likely need time to recover
- You will need time to sleep (sleep when the baby sleeps)
- Spend time with your newborn (because things change so fast)
- Give yourself time to adjust to your new life 🙂
I am sure there are moms out there who wrote during labor and half asleep between feedings the night they got home, and you’re amazing, but for me, I needed to give myself permission to heal, figure things out, and be with my little guy.
It’s up to you whether you want to try, but I knew a newborn was going to be a lot of work going in and I was so excited to meet my son. The morning I went into the hospital to deliver him, I thought only of him. My mind and I had come to terms knowing that it would be 2-3 months before I would write again and I didn’t regret that peace.
I went on to publish two novels after he was born.
Around 3 months after my son was born, I fell into more of a routine and less chaos. It’s usually around this time that babies (hopefully) start to sleep longer at night and they move into a different nap routine as well. So instead of feeling like a ghoul all day, every day, I was having moments of clarity and was ready to write through at least one of his naps.
Prior to having a baby, I had a schedule laid out, days I would write, days that I would work on art, and even a day for social media and my mailing list. I still have this schedule, but now I allow flexibility. There will be days that you can’t get ahead, no matter what you do, and days that you’re simply too tired. Remember to sleep when you need to and be kind to yourself.
My Flexible Schedule
- Sunday/Monday: Cook meals and do food prep for the week. I cook up a couple of meals and put them in the fridge to start the week. I also chop up veggies or make veggie broth for any recipes later in the week. I do an evening writing session with a discord group on Sundays as well.
- Tuesday/Wednesday: Write. If I don’t write Tuesday, I’ll get to it Wednesday. If I write on both days, even better.
- Thursday/Friday: Art. Similar to writing, I try to have time to do it both days, but if I just get in one day, that’s better than nothing.
- Saturday: Day off, or if I feel like working, I do. On the weekends, my husband is home to help with the baby.
My son is teething right now, which means some days he is in a lot of pain and discomfort and that means he’s sucking on cold silicone toys and sitting on mama’s lap while we watch Deep Space 9 or Luca for the 5th time that week. Sometimes you just need to be there for your baby, so giving yourself a two day window means that you’ll still have a sense of accomplishment each week if you get at least one day to get some work in.
*Items like social media and my mailing list have become monthly or bi-monthly tasks instead of weekly. I pencil them in and try to hammer out as much as I can in one week and then schedule everything to slow-release the rest of the month.
Being Even More Flexible with a Flexible Schedule
I set days to write and do art, but I don’t set times. There are days where my son wakes up at 5:30am after I’ve stayed up till 11pm or midnight, squeezing some extra work in, and you bet I nap with him during his first nap. There are also days where he wakes up later and I will decide to write or work through his first nap and his second, if I can.
Work with Your Baby’s Schedule
I know that I am more productive in the morning and that my son is excited for a new day and will focus on playing at this time. As the day gets later, he wants more of my attention, so I make work a priority in the morning.
On the other side of that, if I’m struggling to get things done because he’s teething or I’m too tired, I’ll nap with him during the day and stay up later in the evening to write. The napping keeps me fresh for a couple of hours of writing.
We’re all different and all babies and children will be different, but consider these things when planning your day:
- What time of day are you the most productive?
- What time of day is your baby/toddler the most content to do their own thing?
- Which nap is usually longer?
- Can you work while your baby/toddler is up or should you wait till they’re sleeping?
- Are you tired? Maybe nap when your baby naps and wait till the evening to get writing.
There are days I’ve got to nap and days I can push through. Make sure to listen to your body and work with it, instead of against it.
You Can Write Anywhere
Everyone is different and some people need quiet and a decent chunk of time to get their head in the writing space. If this is you, I suggest setting up a space for writing, where you can work uninterrupted, and perhaps leaving writing till the evenings or when someone can help with the baby/kids.
For me, I’ve found that I’ve needed to become adaptable with my writing to be able to get as much as I want done.
- On my computer while my son naps, is spending time with his dad, or when he sleeps at night.
- On my tablet with a keyboard on the couch when my son is playing in his play pen or at his standing table.
- On my phone when I’m in bed before I fall asleep. Sometimes it’s just nice to get a couple of paragraphs in.
Writing Programs You can Download and Sync to Your Devices
Below I’ve listed writing apps and programs that will work on your phones, tablets, and computers and sync across them to keep your manuscript updated. That way, if you have to leave you computer, but have time to write on your phone later, you can open your document in the same program on your phone and pick up where you left off.
- Scrivener– My favorite program to write in. I love the night mode, the ability to view my sections as notecards that I can drag and drop, and writing in small sections at a time. Each time I get a section of a chapter done, I feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than staring at white, endless document that I need to fill.
- Google Docs – Free. Create a gmail account and you’ve got documents you can write on anywhere you go and a place to store images and even file share. With Google Docs, you can write with collaborators, share you document directly with an editor, and enable comments for beta readers.
- WordPress App – WordPress.org is great because they host free blogs with a lot of great features, plus there’s a blogging community. Additionally, they have an app—which I’m writing on right now with my tablet 🙂 If you’re a blogger, WordPress might be a good option.
- Wattpad – Wattpad syncs across devices and allows you to create drafts. You can also publish your sections or chapters later, however, if you’re not ready and just looking for a free program to write in, you can save drafts to come back and edit later.
- Office 365 with Word- This is my last recommendation because of how I feel about subscription-based services. As a small business owner, subscription-based services take money away from other things. However, if you’ve got it or can afford it, it’s another option for being able to write across all of your devices.
There are more programs out there and more in development as we speak, but those are four ideas to get you started 🙂
Some Helpful Tools
Go as simple or as high tech as you’d like. Whatever works within your budget and makes your comfortable.
Check it out Here.
Bullet Journal or Day Planner. I use a bullet journal because I like to customize my planner to create a set up that works for me, plus it has extra pages for me to write lists, brainstorm, and even journal if I need to, but whatever works for you. For some people, having something already set up and ready to jump into is best.
Check it out Here.
I didn’t “get” slow cookers when I was single or even at the start of my marriage, but now that I’m getting up at 5am some mornings, it’s nice to just toss ingredients in the morning and come back to lunch being ready. I love you, slow cooker. I really do.
Check it out Here.
As my son grows our schedule and my methods of getting writing done change, but he’ll be a year soon. In his first year, I published two novels and I kept writing. You can too. You can be a mom and a writer. All the best.