Friday, February 22, 2008

On the Mommy Track

Question of the day: A personal question, if you don't mind: everyone says that when you have a baby you can pretty much forget about writing for the first year or two, but it looks like you're handling it fine. How do you do it?

Wow, I had no idea that everyone says this, and if everyone does say that, I think it's a big old bag of hooey that might give women a reason to toss out their figurative pens when a baby comes along.

For me, a funny thing happened on the way to motherhood: I became more productive than I was pre-kids. Frankly, I can't even remember what I did with my time pre-kids. Seriously. I sometimes say to my husband, "What did we do? I mean, really, how did we fill our time??" I'm sure we found some way to fill it, but the sense of urgency wasn't there. For example, I'm writing this blog post right now because I'm eyeing the clock and see that I have exactly one hour before my nanny leaves, and I sure as hell better get every last thing done that I need to get done before dinner/bath/bedtime happens. Which is a long-winded way of saying that because I have fewer hours for my work during the day, I tend to make more of them than when I had as many hours as I wanted.

So I don't buy this theory that you can't write once you have kids. In fact, I just interviewed a TV actress who said that having kids has made her all the more creative because it's opened her heart and mind in so many ways, illuminating all sorts of things that she previously missed in the world. And I concur completely.

Look, there's no doubt that kids can take over all aspects of your life if you let them (or if you want them too). I'm not one of those moms who wants them too. I love my kids more than ANYTHING on the planet, but I still need to feed other parts of myself, so...I have help when I need it (a la, my sitter), and I pour every last thing into those hours that I can. Whether or not you can afford help, there are often ways to get a repreive during the day: organize a neighborhood sitting system with four other moms, in which each of you watches the others' kids one day a week, freeing up three days for your work. Ask a family member to drop in several times a week. Hire a high schooler on the cheap.

To buy into the theory that you can't devote time to the inner-writer in you just because you're a mom (or dad) really sells everyone (and everything) short: you, your kids, and finally, your work.

So all you moms (or dads!) out there, tell me, has motherhood made you more or less productive?


Keetha said...

I have a chatty and curious six year old. After whining and pouting and feeling sorry for myself because I didn't "have time" to write, I read a great story called "The Woman Who Slept With One Eye Open." I began getting up early in the morning to write and amazingly, pockets of time began to open during evenings after that. Anything you want bad enough you can do.

Kristi Holl said...

When I started writing 28 years ago, I had a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a newborn baby ten days old. I wrote in snippets of time throughout the day, doing my thinking while nursing or folding diapers (no disposables then), then made a mad dash to the typewriter for ten minutes to write a page. You can make it work if you want it badly enough--and without babysitters. But boy, you get organized! And 35 books later, I'm really glad I didn't wait till the kids were grown to start.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Keetha and Kristi-
Thanks for the comments. Yes, you can absolutely do it without a sitter...I just didn't want to go ahead and say that, and make writer-moms feel like they had to carve out "work time" from their precious "me time" at night and such.

Amie Stuart said...

UGH I think my comment got ATE! Okay....I totally agree with the lady you interviewed and in that vein I think having kids makes you more focused and driven. I wonder if I would have tried so hard to get published if I HADN'T had kids.

That said it was much easier to write when they were 5 and 7 vs now when they're 14 and 12. You learn to make the most of the small pockets of time you have.

And going to what Kristi and Keetha said, I'm not just a mom but a single working mom with very little outside help. To quote a good friend of mine, "How bad do you want it and what are you willing to give up to have it?" I think this is an important question especially for women who (me included) tend to put themselves last.

Jenny said...

I love that quote by the actress you interviewed. What a great insight.

Anonymous said...

MORE productive, by far. As a single, work-outside-the-house mom of a 3 year old daughter, I have to do it all, and well, and also right now. I've gotten WAY more organized and forward-thinking, because if I don't plan ahead things like meals and shopping trips and laundry, I'm hosed. I write after she goes to bed, during naptimes on the weekends, and any other time I can shoehorn in.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to read your response, and all of the comments that everyone had. Yes, this issue *has* had me worried. I've had several people lately tell me to give up everything when I have kids, and it seems so ridiculous. Instead, I'm trying to train myself to be more flexible--to work in smaller snatches of time, or to write in a notebook and then transcribe if a laptop isn't handy, and to write with more distractions. It is still nothing like having a kid--I know that--but I hope that it will help.

kate hopper said...

I agree with all of these comments! Before I had a child I was a writer who never wrote. But by the time my daughter turned three I had started and finished a whole draft of my book. I procrastinate less and really value the hours I have to write. We'll see how I do next week when I add child number 2 to the mix.

Sue said...

I'm going to say something that might have moms throwing shoes at me.

It is easier to write when your kids are younger than when they get older. This is a direct corollary with the theory that the younger the child, the easier parenting is. (Trust me, you'll agree in about 10 years.)

When the kids were small, I could write around naps, early bedtimes, hire someone to watch them for a little while. As the kids got older, they stayed up later, needed more help with homework and projects, driven to activities, etc.

I started full time freelancing when my "baby" was 15 and it was impossible to work while he was in the house. He moved out, I'm empty nesting, and my productivity has tripled.

Unknown said...

I find I've been more productive in some ways (and it definitely shines a light on new experiences to write about!). But there are also days when I'm just too tired--and a lot of that has to do with the fact that taking care of a toddler wears me in that sense, I'm sometimes a lot LESS productive. I also don't know how moms are able to write at home, with nannies or babysitters. I had to start my son in daycare when he was five months old because of a book deal, and I upped it to three days/week when I started getting more work. I just don't think I could write if he were anywhere near my desk--even if someone else were here to take care of him.