How to Write as a SAHM?
Updated: Sep 29, 2019
Writing requires a lot of dedication. You have to not just know but love the craft and be willing to deal with all the frustrations that come with it. There's outlining, character sheets, notes, actually writing, editing, revising, editing, revising, adjusting the outline, cutting characters, editing, revising, beta feedback, revising... it's a loop that truly never ends.
Circumstances out of my control led me to become a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) in February. I have two toddlers, 20 months and 4 years old. And it's way harder to write even though my computer is right there 24/7.
When I had a job, my day was simple. Get up at 5. Get the kids up at 6. Drop them off at the sitter's. Go to work, where I get 2+ breaks and almost an hour-long lunch. (That's when the writing/editing gets done on paper.) Leave work. Get kids. Come home. Make dinner. Spend time with kids. Put kids to bed. Transfer edits and write. Go to bed. Rinse and repeat.
Now I'm lucky if I get five minutes to myself. Babies are clingy by nature. Young toddlers are clingwrap. Older toddlers try to be your second skin.
So when can I write? I can work around noise, but the problem is having enough time to focus. Not an easy feat with one child or the other screaming/asking/needing your attention. My youngest in particular is very moody, so it's rare to go an entire hour without hearing 3 forms of whining or crying. My oldest doesn't nap anymore. Kids can't play outside alone anymore, even with older kids around.
So... when can I write?
My fiance is tired when he gets home. And he has other things to take care of. Lawn work, laundry, whatever duties I don't have time to get to while my focus is on the kids.
For example, this blog post took three days to write.
So how do I fit in writing books?
It's a lot harder. My attention is divided, so I'm also finding it more difficult to focus on a single project like I used to. But I still try to work in time.
Sometimes, if I can, I set my alarm to wake up early. I've never been a morning person, but if I'm able to get out of bed, I can occasionally manage to work in an hour or two of silence. Since there's a baby monitor at my side, it's not perfect - I can hear every whimper and turn, and after four years of it, my attention snaps to it. (My youngest has a penchant for getting her leg stuck between the crib bars, no matter how high I wrap the "crib fabric." It seems the monitor is here to stay.)
Occasionally, if my neighbor is feeling up to it, my oldest will play with her kids under her supervision and I can get something done during my youngest's nap. It's also not perfect - have you ever been called to a neighbor's house to clean their bathroom because your kid "missed"? I don't recommend the embarrassment - but I can get something done.
Maybe I have a perfect storm where both toddlers are happy watching something for half an hour, or a stroke of luck where one is playing with toys and the other is watching Nightwish music videos. Again, hardly perfect. Usually "I'm hungry!" is wailed just as I get two sentences into a paragraph. And then I'm off to make fruit flowers.
How do I fit writing time in?
I don't, not really. Not like I used to. I don't have blocks of time anymore. No reliable periods where I know I can work unbothered. I'm scrabbling for scraps when I can. There are days in a row where it's just not feasible.
To be honest, I've only read two books since February. I don't have a ferry ride to read them on anymore, so finding that time is almost more sacred than finding time to write. But even then, they're exceptional circumstances. I finished RESTORE ME by Tahereh Mafi while my youngest was hospitalized and being monitored for seizure issues. On July 4th, I seized an opportunity, avoided the festivities (it hasn't felt like a year for celebrating freedoms anyway), waited for my fiance and oldest to go see fireworks, put my youngest to bed, and read Rin Chupeco's THE HEART FORGER. I couldn't finish it in one night, but fortunately my fiance is sympathetic and kept the kids (mostly) at bay the next morning so I could get to the end.
It's hard finding the time when the kids are the primary focus.
Of course, I love my children. I wouldn't trade them for anything, even if I do sometimes get depressed when I can't write for so long.
But it's still hard.
Hopefully this situation is temporary either way. I'm still doing what I can. Everyone in a creative industry gets how it works.
Sometimes piecing minutes together at a time is all you can do.