Monday, January 02, 2006

Mother + Small Children = No Time to Write

I've done the math. The numbers are pretty depressing.

Today I have finally admitted to myself that there is just no quality time to write. I'm about halfway through my mystery manuscript, but chances of finishing within the next six months are bleak.

At this point I'm getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, with at least one--sometimes two--wake-ups to nurse A during that stretch. I simply can't cut back there, or I will be worth less than I already am during the day. I'm on kid duty from about 8am to about 11pm when A finally goes down to sleep for a reasonable stretch.

Save your shouts about having my husband help more. D already gets N up in the morning, dresses him, and feeds him breakfast. When he manages to get home before 8pm, he either holds A or puts N to bed. But then he must eat his dinner and do the dishes (bless him), and he isn't done with that till about 10pm. He doesn't watch TV, he doesn't play video games, and he doesn't do chat, so there's no fat in his schedule. He is a wonderful partner and father, but he just works a lot.

I can catch ten minutes here and twenty minutes there throughout my days, but that's not even enough time to open my chapter-in-progress and remind myself of where I left off.

My writer friends who are also mothers of small children bemoan similar situations. However, I'd pretty successfully steered clear of facing it by adopting a once-a-week writing schedule in 2005. Generally, every Thursday that D could swing it, he would come home by 6:30, and I'd head out to the coffee shop with my laptop and stay until closing at 9pm. Occasionally, I'd also get two hours on a Saturday or Sunday.

I was okay with that schedule, thinking that somehow in 2006 I could get my butt in gear and carve out more time. But for the past three days I've looked at the daily schedule a million different ways, and working on the book more than once or twice a week just ain't gonna happen.

(And I do let the housework go. And N goes to daycare on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)

I am amenable to any and all suggestions that don't involve spending money. I predict, though, that the solution for now is for me to practice acceptance, and just write as well as I can, as often as I can.


Christa M. Miller said...

Oh gosh, hon. (((HUGS))) My best advice is to keep an open mind. Don't equate acceptance with inertia. Learn to recognize the time when you get it. I've found time just when I was at my wits' end thinking I had none left. Your best bet is to be flexible from day to day. It's incredibly hard because your kids lock you into a schedule and you just start thinking that way, but it's truly the only way you will find the time. Just don't give up, whatever you do!

jason evans said...

It sounds like you're doing amazing already given the situation. Things are tough with small children, no doubt about it. But you're also living it, experiencing it, and you will more material to write about because of it. Keep to your schedule and don't chastise yourself!

anne frasier said...

wow, mary louisa. i can't imagine writing with a baby. especially writing a mystery which involves all that connecting and tying and linking of threads. i think my youngest was about 2 when i started writing. i usually wrote at nap time, an hour a day. like jason said, don't chastize yourself and don't put more pressure on yourself. write when you can, when you have the creativity and energy. kids don't stay small very long, and your time for writing will come.

Mary Louisa said...

Christa, thank you for reminding me of flexibility. I sometimes get stuck thinking that things are either black or white.

Jason, I am trying to stay in the moment. Surely this will help my writing SOMEHOW! LOL I will try to lighten up on myself.

Anne, you've hit the nail on the head. Writing this mystery novel is like juggling, and we all know it's impossible to juggle s-l-o-w-l-y. Patience, right? (Hope my word verification didn't insult you again today.)

Jeff said...

Sometimes there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in a day. :(
One thought I had as a suggestion would be to check around and see if you can find another "writer/mom" in your area who may be in the same situation and offer to trade babysitting time for each of you to have a little extra writing time. Who knows? There might be someone living close to you that you could trust and it would help both of you. It wouldn't hurt to ask around. :)

Carter said...

Patience and priorities, Mary Louisa. Your children come first no matter what. Time will find you, though maybe not when you expect it. Could you start carrying a notebook and a pen? Or maybe find a convenient place to put it so you can jot a sentence or two when you have a minute? That's something you can do when you're cooking or just have a free minute between crises.

Enjoy your children while you can. They grow up way too fast.

Mary Louisa said...

Jeff, I'll be on the lookout for a mom to trade babycare with. One of my problems is that most of my friends have only ONE baby, and I'd be trading unevenly with my two. I'll have to think of a way to balance that out.

Carter, no doubt about it--the family is my top priority. I am happy to report that I got to work on the WIP for about 1.5 hours last night, with a couple of interruptions, of course. ;)

jason evans said...

Mary Louisa, I'm doing a little housekeeping and adding you to my links. If you have a moment sometime (I know how it is), I'd love one in return. Thanks! =D

Mary Louisa said...

Jason, will do. I haven't updated my blog links in many moons. I will put yours up when I get to it. THanks for linking to mine.

Jennifer said...

Hi there.

I can relate to this. I'm a mom of two as well, and I do freelance/contract writing work. Plus I allegedly have a masters thesis under my bed that I work on for an evening once a year or so, I'm horribly behind.

When I just had one child, I had some childcare come in so I could work from time to time, but with the second it just wasn't going to work. Plus all of my babysitters moved or got fulltime jobs.