For the past eight months, since giving birth to my son Charlie, I’ve asked myself this question several times a day. In those first few months, the answer was a definite NO. No, it was not possible to nurse every hour and a half, change diapers, feed myself, keep my house decent, deal with the strange things that were happening to my own body and be a writer too. The exhaustion alone was reason enough not to write. Unable to think straight, unable to form a sentence verbally, let alone write down a fictional sentence was truly impossible. At that point, I couldn’t have cared less about Owen Vandenkirk, the protagonist in my novel. I was ready to give him up completely for the other little boy in my life. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t like ignoring my novel. I thought about it daily with much regret and guilt.
Thankfully, I have a writing group that is open-minded and flexible and after a few months, when the number of night feedings decreased and I re-entered the world of the living, I did return to my novel. It is not easy to find the time and the motivation to write when there’s a little one usurping your life. And I’ve had to accept that while Stephen King may think it should take no longer than three months to churn out a first draft (as he states in On Writing), those of us in the real world know that this is nearly impossible.
In my struggle, I have found there are a few things we can do in order to find the time and the motivation to get back to our first babies, our novels.
- Store-Bought Purées: While I get a lot of satisfaction from making my baby’s food from scratch, it can be a time-consuming endeavour. And guess what, you can buy it, in cute little jars, pre-made, no blender needed. While these jarred foods were full of fillers and sugars when they first hit the shelves in the 1950’s, today they are relatively healthy and free from harmful additives. Feeding your baby a mixture of store-bought and homemade purées will provide him with good nutrition and will get you out of the kitchen and into your novel more often.
- Nap Time / Bedtime: Nap time is a parent’s best friend, and if there is a God, I think that sleep was his or her little gift to parents. While it isn’t possible to spend every nap time writing, try to set aside 2-4 naptimes a week that are dedicated to writing. This takes discipline. No matter what needs to get done – laundry, dishes, puréeing sweet potatoes – you must ignore it and spend that precious time writing. Same goes for bedtime. While it may be tempting to veg in front of the telly with a glass of merlot, novels don’t write themselves, so get off your butt and start writing!
- Daddy/Baby Quality Time: When your husband gets home, give him the baby, grab your journal and get the hell out of there! If you stay home and try to work in the office or in your bedroom, it will be much more difficult to write. You’ll hear the baby whining and you’ll want to step in and save him, or you’ll think about how it will only take five minutes to scrub the tub. Get out! Leave them alone. It’s good for your baby to spend quality time with his daddy.
- Grandparents are Good Babysitters: Take your parents or in-laws (or neighbours, friends, strangers from the street) up on their offers to babysit. Grandparents are dying to spend time with their grandbabies. Afraid to leave the baby alone with those crazy old people, well, they brought you up and you’re okay, right? Trust them. Your novel depends on it.
Hopefully these tips can be of some help to the writing moms out there, and if you, dear reader, have any other tips for writing moms, please post them! The more, the better. My final word on the topic is to be kind to yourself. When you fail to reach your monthly goal of thirty pages, or you fall asleep on the couch with that glass of red, don’t be angry at yourself. Be as flexible and gentle with yourself as you are with your little one. Admit that it’s hard, and if you don’t reach a goal, it’s not because you’re lazy or a bad writer, it’s because you are, above all else, a good mom.
Now, to losing the baby weight…
By Leann Leyten
I Love You Mummy
Photographer: Rob Wiltshire