Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm Unboxed! And Working Moms

I did a long Q/A with the lovely folks at Writer Unboxed, and it's live today. Check it out. They asked insightful, fab questions, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the site, not just for this Q/A, but as a contributor as well.

Also, if anyone in NYC is participating in the Revlon Run/Walk tomorrow (I am!...I hope I can drag myself out of bed early enough to see my girlcrush, Mandy Moore, perform), they're giving away 100 copies or so of TDLF at the finish run that baby superfast, and you can grab yourself a free copy!

And because I know that you come here for more than just Q/As with me (ha!), here's the question of the day:

Here's my deal, I'm a former lawyer, current stay-at-home-mom. I just started writing and got my first 2 clips last month in a downtown NY paper. The editor called me last week regarding a last minute assignment. As I'm just starting out, I was not going to turn him down and was quite pleased he thought of me to do the piece. The problem is, I have a regular sitter twice a week and obviously assignments/deadlines don't always coincide, of course, with when I have my sitter. I would love to devote tomorrow to writing but I am with my toddler all day on Mondays. Anyway, just wondering how stay-at-home-moms manage these issues. I can't really continue just writing late nights - I end up wiped for weeks on end!

Well, for me, I think it really comes down to time management. You mentioned that you do have a regular sitter, so that's wonderful. But when you say that the deadlines don't always coincide, I think it's up to you to make them do so. Here's what I mean by that: it sounds like this piece was a last-minute assignment, so let's put that aside and address that later. But part of the reason that I can juggle so many balls, I think, is that I'm incredibly organized. I sat down at my office today, knowing that I had A TON of things that I wanted to do OUTSIDE of work this afternoon, and immediately tackled my to-do list...which I'd written out for myself last night before I closed down. I recognize that between my dog, my kids, my need to get the gym, my errands, and today - a necessary mini-massage thanks to sleeping wrong and an incredible pain in my neck, that if I'm not efficient, it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

This is where I'm going with this: if you have a limited time to get your work done, you need to work really far ahead of yourself. It's really easy to put aside assignments that aren't due for a few weeks because, well, they aren't due for a few weeks. But as you said, who knows what else is going to pop up, and when you'll find the time to get to them. So, what I would recommend, is that as soon as you get an assignment, to start on it immediately. If you complete it early, all the better. Send it in early, and not only will you earn your editor's gratitude, you'll also feel a lot less stressed. Second of all, keep a list or take whatever organizational steps necessary to streamline your day. I've gotten a little lazy with my list-making as of late, and I've been far less productive. I mean, I can literally see the minutes ticking by when I should be doing something, and I'm not, simply because I don't have that list in front of me, and thus, I'm not as motivated.

And when it comes to last-minute assignments like the one you mentioned above, don't be afraid to ask for a day or so extension. You don't have to say that you hang with your daughter on Mondays: just say you already have a previous commitment, can you get it to him on Tuesday? I spend a couple of hours with my own daughter on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when she can't attend a pre-nursery class with my son, and when people ask if I can do a call or whatever at that time, I simply say that I already have a commitment. Period. Which is true. Just to my daughter, not to work. And if the deadline won't budge, ask your husband or whomever else is around to help you pick up the slack. Any juggling mom will tell you that it's not easy, but it is made easy by having a really, really good support team in place. It sounds like you already know that and are well on your way.

So working moms, any advice?


Mia King said...

I think my biggest challenge is over-promising, especially when it comes to work and deadlines. I think I do it in part to put a little pressure on myself, otherwise I put it off indefinitely, but it adds so much stress it's not worth it.

Now I try not to over-promise but I still cut it close. I get started immediately hoping I have a shot at finishing early. With kids, a business, and life, that rarely happens but at least it helps keep things manageable. For me, being able to write and stay home with my kids (I did the corporate thing and, quite frankly, don't evey want to go back!) is really a blessing, so I don't take it lightly - I treat it as a job. I figure if my kids have to sit in my home office with me, my 6 year old on the computer (we homeschool - I know, crazy! But my husband and I love it) and my 15 month with a mililon toys so I can work for a couple of hours (interrupted by snack, diaper changes, nursings, and all that fun stuff), so be it. They can deal. They're still with me and they're safe, and I love them like crazy, but I have to get this work done!!

I think when our kids are young we just have to do the best we can. And sometimes it's not so pretty, but cut yourself some slack and build a schedule that lets you get a couple of hours a day, and then work like crazy during those hours. You can do it - good luck!

Allison Winn Scotch said...


Good point, and one I meant to make: you absolutely have to treat it like a business, even if you're home, unshowered in your sweats. If you don't, you're dead in the water to begin with.


MDiskin said...

I have in-home childcare for my toddler 3 days a week, 6 hrs per day. But usually I have to use that time for errands, interviews, my part-time IT consulting job, etc. So I tend to do all my long-form writing in the early a.m. or late at night. Small pieces, travel roundups, and assignments like "Ten ways to..." can be parceled out in bits and pieces throughout on those days when I'm home with my little one. And I've found especially that if I don't exercise first thing (6am or so), the rest of my day feels frustrating and as if it's slipping, no matter what kind of sleep I had the night before. I bumped up my treadmilling from a half-hour to a full hour and it is making a huge difference in my energy level and ability to concentrate -- probably because I can work out my physical kinks as well as mull over my writing subconsciously.