With mother’s day around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on writing as a new mother. It would be a lie to say that it hasn’t affected my productivity, but I still think I’ve got a few things worth sharing. My baby is only eight months old, so I can only share what I’ve learned based on this limited experience.
Disclaimer: My baby has been a pretty easy baby, all things considered. I have not had to deal with colic, which I understand can be a soul-crushing experience. I also only have one baby, and I imagine a lot of this advice doesn’t work if there’s an older sibling or three running around.
1. Write while the baby sleeps.
The first three months, my baby slept a lot. Some of this time, I napped, but the rest of it? I didn’t need to. I spent a lot of this time googling things, trying to figure out what was normal for babies, but I also used this time to get some writing and publishing done.
I also spent a lot of this time watching Netflix. Yes, it’s important to relax, but if I’m being honest with myself, I could have comfortably managed to do a bit more writing.
2. Make the most of the time you have.
Now that I’m back at work, I wake up early and write. It’s not as focused, and it’s not as long a writing session, but it’s better than nothing. Even if I only get twenty minutes, that’s twenty minutes closer to my goal.
I also plan to try something this month, where I get up extra early (think 5am instead of 6am) to increase my writing time and crank out a few well-outlined scenes. The key to this will be knowing the scene I’m writing pretty well, playing it out in my head the night before, so that I can get into an uninterrupted flow during my morning writing session. This may not work as planned, but I like to experiment.
3. Get out of the house to write.
Even if you bring the baby with you, it can be worth it. Some babies fall asleep in the car, or are calm in their stroller as they take in new places and faces. Going to a coffee shop can give you the chance to write and your baby can experience new things. If the baby’s awake, you may not have a long or productive session, so be prepared in case you’re interrupted.
Better yet, leave the baby with someone. If grandparents are nearby, or if you’ve got a friend who likes babies, this can work nicely. You can arrange for a friend to watch them for an hour or two while you step out to write, then bring back some food and socialize.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes local churches or schools have parents’ night out events that are free or cheap, but those are usually for young children rather than babies.
4. Talk with your partner and carve out time for each of you.
My husband and I each have hobbies that are important to us, and one thing we’ve gotten very good about is making sure that we each have time to work on these things. Right now, my husband has taken over bed time so I can write this blog post.
Without this mutual understanding and appreciation for each other’s passions, I expect I would be struggling a lot more. When I don’t write, I feel frustrated and trapped, and I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to write for at least thirty minutes most days.
5. Work at your own pace.
If taking time off from writing is what you need to do, take that break without feeling guilty. The first six weeks, I didn’t do any writing. In the first few months, I didn’t do much writing. There are some people who can get right back into the swing of things in days, but if that’s not you, that’s okay. With the exception of hard deadlines, like with traditional publishing or a pre-order date, you can push things back a bit. Having a baby is kind of a big deal.
From mid-December to mid-April, my son wouldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours in a row and woke up several times a night. It was hell. For the past few weeks, I’ve had a reprieve. I’ve been sleeping again, and as such, I’m better able to focus during my writing sessions and solve plot problems.
For me, juggling work and writing was a challenge that I mostly figured out. There’s now a baby in the mix, but here I am, figuring out my new balance, which seems to change as quickly as my baby. So if you’ve been feeling inadequate because someone on the internet told you they were writing in the hospital recovery room or they published five books in their baby’s first year of life or that if you would just try harder you could do it, too, ignore them. Your pace is your own. Your path is your own. And if that schedule works for you, awesome. If it doesn’t, find your own, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if you’re the only one who can tell you’re moving forward.
6. Give it your best.
While it’s important to pace yourself, it’s just as important to push yourself. If writing is important to you, you have to make it a priority. A new child is also a priority, and I find myself leaning on my son as an excuse to be lazy with my writing habits. Will he resent the time I spend writing vs. playing with him?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that he probably won’t. He’s not being neglected or ignored by any means, and if I am fulfilled, I will be a happier parent. A better parent. I try to put myself in his shoes. Would I have wanted my mother to give up what was important to her to spend extra time with me? No. She very clearly loved me and made time for me, and I think that as long as I’m doing the same for my son, he would want me to work toward my goals.
It’s not easy being a parent and a writer on top of all the other hats you might have to wear, and sometimes, I feel like I’ll never figure it out. But then I have a great writing day, or I come up with a new productivity idea to try, and I’m back putting one foot in front of the other. Or perhaps stubbornly dragging myself across the floor on my stomach like my son currently does, because I’ve got places to be and I don’t know how to crawl. Yet.