Frequently Asked Questions: How do you Balance Motherhood and Writing?

pexels-photo-356079So, here’s the thing. I think people ask this question a lot because I have SO MANY CHILDREN. There are six of them. Most of the time, taking care of six kids feels like enough to fill my day four times without spare time to pee, let alone write a book. So I’m never actually sure how to answer. Some days, I don’t balance it. I do the very best I can, and go easy on myself when it just doesn’t work out.

For many writers, the key to success is writing every single day. And I get it. When you’re immersed in your characters and you’re feeling your story, and everything is working and coming together, it’s critical to keep the pace going. I absolutely believe there will be a time and season of my life that will allow me to write every single day. Right now? I’m just not in it.

And that’s okay.

The reality of my day-to-day life is still diapers and cartoons and home school and music lessons. It is late night conversations with an almost teenager and games of Yahtzee with the twins and dinner on the table and laundry for 8 people. (That word. It deserves to be all caps. LAUNDRY. If I could make it a mountain shaped word, I would. Because that’s what is sitting behind me as I type. A giant, leaning mountain of laundry.)

So I don’t write everyday and I don’t stress about it. Though, when I am deeply involved in a project, I will write more days than I don’t. I tend to work in spurts; for three or four weeks I’ll write three or four days a week, and then I’ll take a step back and breathe for a week or two. I’ve found this helps me maintain focus and keeps me from getting  lost in the worlds that I write, rather than the world I actually, uh, live in myself. I also made a commitment when I started this whole writing gig (back when there were only 4 babies instead of 6) that I wouldn’t write during the day, when little ones were awake. I have this fear of my children discussing their childhood as grown ups…

“What was life like for you as a kid?”

“Well we learned to take care of ourselves cause Mom was behind her laptop all the time…”

I can’t see my kids’ faces when I’m staring at a screen. And also, if I’m writing and I am interrupted, I’m kind of a monster. Mean. Snappy. Totally irrational. Because the thoughts… I don’t want to lose them and if I have to answer a question or fix a glass of milk or tie a shoe or read a story I. WILL. BE. SO. MAD. Which, you know, is entirely unfair to the two year old who can’t exactly fix his own milk. So I write very late at night or very early in the morning when I am alone and the house is quiet. And I exist on very few hours of sleep. Which is something I’m good at because, hello, we already discussed this. SIX KIDS.

The truth is, it’s still very much a work in progress. I wish I could say I always feel perfectly content with the way things roll, but that wouldn’t be the honest to goodness truth. Some days I long for more time to write, and some days I think I’m too distracted by it all and hope the family isn’t suffering for it.

I’ve written about it before–this desire I have to keep all in proper perspective. I’ll link to a few of the posts below.

Just Write? Or maybe just Sleep.


6 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions: How do you Balance Motherhood and Writing?

  1. Cindy Baldwin says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have only one-sixth as many kids, but there are many moments where I find myself wondering if trying to write while juggling motherhood and my own health is just crazy – especially when I hear other people talk about working hours every day! It’s always nice to know that someone else is making it work in an unconventional way.

  2. Erin says:

    Interesting perspective. I homeschool five kids (3-12), and I write to stay sane. I’m LDS, so there’s no coffee in the morning, no glass of wine at the end of the day, but I haven’t figured out how to do this intense life without drugs, and writing is mine. But I think it’s important that my children (and especially my daughters) see me writing. My first job is mom, so I spend the first and larger part of the day cleaning and teaching and feeding them. But a couple of hours in the afternoon are mine, and unless the house is burning down they know not to bother me. (Well, they’re learning not to bother me. Some more slowly than others.) My earbuds are in, simply rain (fabulous online rain sound generator) is on, and I’m away in the world of my novel.

    I don’t want them to look back and find me neglecting them, either, so I work dog hard to make sure they don’t feel that way, but I want them to look back and have as much permission as I can give them to feed themselves as well. And an interesting thing has happened. They realize that I’m going to be less than pleased to be yanked out of my isolation booth and made to get a glass of milk, so they’ve started to get it themselves if they can or help the little ones if they can’t. It’s actually made them more self-sufficient during those couple of hours. I’d think anybody who said that about my kids was lying unless I’d seen it myself.

    But then, I fight for 8 hours of sleep, too, so that makes a difference, I’m sure. If I could cut down those hours I could get a lot more done! Thanks for the opportunity to think about this.

    • jennyproctor says:

      Erin, I’m so appreciative of your comment. You bring up some really great points. I think it is absolutely important for kids to know that their Moms are people outside of just being a Mom. I think it sounds like you’re working really hard to keep things in balance which is no easy feat.

      My kids see me doing the business side of writing often. Book promotion, signings, emails from my editor, even deadlines (look over these galley proofs in the next two weeks)… that sort of thing. I’ll take care of that sort of thing during the day and don’t hesitate to do it. I remember I did an interview for a podcast back in October and I told my children, “If you’re bleeding, or have a broken bone, you may interrupt. Otherwise, IT CAN WAIT.

      For me, it’s a focus thing. I can handle the business side because if something does come up, I can stop and take care of it without feeling annoyed. But the writing? I need peace and quiet and no threat of interruption. I imagine when the youngest is older and I can seclude myself a little more, I’ll find a new system that works.

      We just have to keep asking ourselves those hard questions. Is my life in balance? Have I spent the entire day and not really looked at my kids? (I know from experience I can be around them all day without actually “seeing” them.) Am I focusing on what’s important at the right time? The answers for all of us will be different, and will come about in different ways.

      It helps me so much to know that there are others out there trying to work through similar challenges, and find balance doing similar things. Thanks again for your comment, and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  3. Eve says:

    It’s greatly encouraging to “meet” another homeschooling mama of 6 who is LDS and is finding a way to follow her passion! I found your book recommendations on your site, many titles which our boys are already fans of. Some of those were new to us and have been added to our amazon cart!! I am sure my big kids will enjoy them. Thanks for shining your light! I look forward to reading your books!

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