Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Only Constant Is Change-- Writer Mama & Papa Blog Hop

Today I'm writing as part of Sharon Bayliss's Writer Mama & Papa Bloghop! I sped through both books in her December people series, really loving her creative spin on magic!  Sharon is also a mom and asked her writer friends to talk about how they combine parenting with writing. It's certainly a topic close to my heart!  I've got two girls, currently ages 9 and 11 and I've been writing since they were born.

WRITING AS A MOM

My writing routine as a parent has changed constantly as my girls have grown.  From writing only at night, to writing during the day, to mostly at night and back to the day.   Being a parent who writes means working with the needs and stages of your family. 

BABY DAYS

I started writing fiction a year before my first child was born.  I was freelancing articles and stories for standardized testing agencies, and I wrote in the evenings after work.  When I had to go on bedrest during the last month of my pregnancy, I had plenty of time to write.  My husband and I had agreed I would quit my job and stay home with the baby, so I assumed this “lots of time to write” thing would continue.  After all, she was just a baby.   Surely she’d sleep a lot?

Day 55/365-Another Day, Another 365, by Tobi Mattingly, CC license

Well, my first baby was actually a pretty good sleeper, but I hadn’t realized how often babies had to be fed.  Or how exhausting it was to wake up repeatedly during the night for changing and feeding.  The merest whimper of a cry would send me straight up out of bed, heart racing.  That first three months was like a war of attrition.  She may have napped, but my brain was mush and no writing was getting done.

After her nights stretched to WHOLE FOUR HOURS IN A ROW of sleep, I began to pick up my freelancing jobs again.  I wrote while she napped.  I wrote in the evening after her early bedtime.  Sometimes when I had a deadline, I wrote while she lay beside me on the floor during tummy time.  And I was exhausted, but I had my little routine.  Being a stay at home mom is hard work.  I’d do it again—I just had to rearrange my expectations.  I have never been so tired in my life—except during the first three months after our second baby was born, when our first was still 22 months old.
Having two children under 3, a baby who never slept and a toddler who was very mobile, made writing during the day much harder.  Synchronizing their naps seemed to be a feat possible only to the Martha Stewarts of the world, so I changed my writing routine.  They both had early bedtimes and there was a two hour window of time, usually, when both stayed asleep.  I wrote then.  It was hard for my husband and I to find time to hang out, but we often spent time together when our second child was still awake until wee hours of the night.  She fussed, bless her heart, and my husband I would take turns soothing her until the colic passed.  I wrote during his soothing shift. That’s tired in a nutshell.  But by this point, I decided I wanted to write a novel.  That meant I needed to be consistent with my writing.  And it was hard.

TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS


Photo from Flickr, Wilson X, “BSP46603” CC license
But things got better.  Change is the only constant, parents.  Just when you get used to one routine, it’s time to change.  I’m here to tell you moms and dads with infants that there come a day when they sleep through the night!  No, really, there will!  They might still crawl into your bed sometimes, but they’ll do so quietly, hardly disturbing you at all.  And then as they get older, will come the amazing day when no one bothers you at night for a week.  You’ll marvel.  You’ll ooh and aah.  And even more amazing—they can entertain themselves very well without you worrying they will immediately choke on Legos or somehow manage to stick their finger in a socket even though you’ve carefully placed child safety covers on them all. 

They will even reach an age where they will play outside, with each other or with friends for whole chunks of time without you needing to be right there beside them, even though you are still keeping an eye on them.  In fact, it’s better if you hang further back, because kids need space, too.  During this stage, I jotted story notes while I watched from the kitchen window as I cooked dinner, or mulled over plot lines while watching them on the swing, or pondered while folding clothes.  When I did have time to write, I was able to use my time to the max, because I had been thinking about my story all day.  My husband became the bedtime storytime guy in our family, because he reads aloud so wonderfully.  He also wanted a special bonding time with the girls. So every night, I knew there was almost a full hour of time when he’ll be with the girls and I could write then.  That tradition remains to this day.

SCHOOL AGE, Elementary years


Our girls, photo by me, CC with attribution
Then comes school days.  Some of you may homeschool and that is a different issue—one we’ll be facing next year when we homeschool again for the first time since our oldest was in kindergarten. But with both girls in school and me working as a freelance writer, it meant I had entire chunks of time to myself.  I went back to graduate school and earned my Masters of Library Science during the last two years, so I was busy, but tried to devote two hours each day to writing while the girls were at school.  As an introvert, this was my most productive time. If I wasn’t actively writing, I was reading a book on writing or connecting on social media with other writers.  Evenings I used to connect to my family and read. 

Then we moved to Germany and I spent months adapting to our new location and being homesick.  We will be here 2 more years and finding employment outside the home is unlikely, so my plans of becoming a children’s librarian have been put on hold and I’m working much more on my writing these days, because of the strange situation I find myself in now.  Things are always changing.  But for us, parenthood has gotten better every year, and so has my experience writing as parent.


TAKE HEART AND PREPARE FOR CHANGE

“Change” by Send Me Adrift, Flickr, CC license

Our children are now 9 and 11 and I am here to tell you that it is so much easier now than when they were little.  I hear a lot of warnings about how hard they’ll be as teenagers, but right now I feel like I’m living in a golden era.  Upper elementary age kids can handle a great deal of independence and when I tell them I need to work on my book right now, they get it.  They respect that.  And they can entertain themselves for a solid two hours without my supervision at all.   If you stick your behind in a chair and concentrate, you can get a lot of work done on a Sunday afternoon that way. Sometimes they are watching TV (the safest bet for keeping them fully occupied) but I've been amazed at how well they get along now just playing outside together.

Furthermore, I don’t feel guilt about taking the time away from my family to write, even though I have many hours away from them when they are in school. I used to feel bad about it, but now I think the children seeing me go to my office to write is a great example for them, too, especially as girls who may one day be mothers themselves.  They see me doing something I love, carving out time because I am important in this family, too.  I’m a mother, not a servant.  A wife, not a cook (which is a good thing, given my skills in that department!)  We all matter in this family, and our whole family helps each other reach their goals.  Mine happens to be writing.  And to make it work, I’ve had to be flexible.  The only constant has been change.


THE FUTURE


“Question Mark” by Leo Reynolds, Flickr, CC licence
Next year, we’ll be homeschooling.  At least that’s the plan.  (As I know now, plans often change.) Homeschooling  means my big chunks of solitude will be gone and I confess that I’m anxious about how I’ll fit in writing then.  But this is a decision that makes the most sense for all of the family combined, with the needs of everyone best balanced.  My plan is to do schoolwork with them in the morning, but have a two hour block of time after lunch when they can play or have quiet time, but I’ll be writing.  I’ll probably write more in the evenings again, too, when my husband is home, like in preschool days.


Will it work?  I don’t know, but I know if it doesn't, I’ll just find another way.  There’s always a way if you want it bad enough.  As long as you are willing to change things up when necessary.


Read how other parents deal with writing!  Blog Hop linky:

8 comments:

  1. Wonderful post. It is absolutely about change. I never knew how much a baby could take from you too! My son will be starting kindergarten this coming August, and I'll get whole days to myself to write. I can't wait!

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    1. Thanks, Christine! I'm excited for you to have all that time to write-- I hope you get tons and tons accomplished!

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  2. The pre-teen ages are the best. The kids are old enough to have real thoughts, but still young enough to be nice because they haven't reached puberty. Brace yourself for the teen years for sure.

    It's tough to juggle everything. I had to try and manage a full-time job, my writing, homeschooling and a difficult kid. It's possible, though. It's all about priorities.

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  3. Enjoyed reading this. I feel like blog posts like this are the best way to get a private glimpse into another author. (Also, thanks for reminding me to post the blog hop link on my post -- I TOTALLY forgot!) (gasp) Cheers!

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  4. Thanks, y'all. Alex, I am bracing myself indeed. Ann, I've been enjoying reading everyone's posts, too. :) Thank you both for your own blog posts!

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  5. Thanks for this blog post. It was SO encouraging to me to read something from someone with two older children - gave me hope that it will be even better (and easier) as time goes on. I've been discouraged/scared about how having my second child (sometime this month) will affect my writing, but it is good to hear how someone else is dealing with it - and to know things will be better when my kids are 5 and 10 rather than 0 and 5. :)

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  6. I remember also thinking I would get "so much done" during my three month maternity leave. Yeah...not so much. lol I loved getting to see how it changes as the kids get older. It's already easier that I don't have a baby. My youngest can play on his own and doesn't need constant attention. Thanks for participating!

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  7. I'm *always* overestimating how much I can get done. But you're so right about the stage of the child's life making a difference. Now, I have a 15 and and 8 year old, and sometimes the 15 year old will take care of the 8 year old for me so I can steal a little extra time when I need it.

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