The Struggle of Being a Full-Time Writer and Stay-at-Home Mom

I’m a novelist, but my real job is being a stay-at-home mother to my now-eight-month-old daughter. It’s not easy taking care of a baby while trying to revise the umpteenth draft of a novel, juggling nursing sessions and diaper changes with writing a hundred words here, a hundred more there. Add freelance editing to the mix, and I’m a busy girl from the time I get out of bed in the morning to the time my husband gets home from work.

Every day is unknown. Maybe I’ll get to write. Maybe I’ll get to work on that revision outline. Maybe I’ll get to edit for a client. Maybe. The only surety is that I’ll be looking after my daughter—changing her diapers, feeding her every three or so hours, rocking her to sleep in the hopes that she’ll nap for more than thirty minutes for once, and entertaining her with toys, jumpers, play seats, mobiles, swings, and mirrors, whatever she’ll play with and enjoy for fifteen minutes here or there.

Before I got pregnant and had a baby, I maybe spent four to six hours writing or revising every day, Monday through Friday. I almost consistently wrote 2000+ words per day while drafting. I could revise an entire novel in a month. Now… I’m lucky to get two hours to write per day. Maybe. Realistically, I might get one good hour of writing time. I might draft 500 words a day. I might be able to revise a chapter or two. There’s no guarantee. Even since sitting down to write this blog post, I’ve had to stop three times to deal with the baby.

For someone who was used to four or more hours of uninterrupted writing pre-baby, it’s a very different work style. There’s no time for me to sit down and ponder or warm up for thirty minutes to an hour before I really get going. There’s no time for me to find my writing groove anymore. I have to sit down and churn out as much as I can in as little time as possible. And it’s hard. I’m one of those people who likes to immerse themselves in their work, whether it’s writing or editing or whatever. When I can really get into the characters’ heads, become a part of the world, see and feel everything as the characters do… that’s when I do my best writing. But unfortunately, I can’t write like that anymore, and every day, I worry that my writing suffers, that my stories are suffering, because I just can’t write like I used to.

I’m having to learn to write in a completely new way. But I’m doing it. I’m learning. And yes, maybe my stories are suffering for now, maybe I’ll have to spend that much more time revising my books to get them right, to really bring out the world and characters in the way that I used to be able to do in the first draft, but I’m determined to do what I have to in order to make a career out of this.

It’s a juggling act, being a full-time writer and mother. Priority Number One is always going to be my daughter, but I’m fighting to make writing a close second. Every moment I can spare, I’m writing, revising, brainstorming, outlining… whatever it takes to be a little bit closer to completion than I was the day before. And eventually, I’ll finish drafting, finish editing and proofing and formatting, and all the other fun stuff that comes with being a writer/publisher. It just takes a bit more time now.

Jul 8, 2014 12-23-57 PM

 

 

Brooke Johnson

Brooke Johnson

Brooke is a stay-at-home mom, amateur seamstress, RPG enthusiast, and art hobbyist, in addition to all that book writing. She's the author of The Brass Giant, a YA steampunk novel from Harper Voyager Impulse, and Dark Lord in Training, a middle-grade fantasy, as well as several other projects in the works.
Brooke Johnson

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8 Comments

  1. One thing to remember (and you’re pretty level-headed when it comes to life stuff, so I’m sure you’ll be fine…) is not to let the unrealistic folks out there get to you. There are still many people who bang on about how much you “should” be writing every day, and what you “should” be doing to be a “real” writer and so on. You’ve already done more than 95% of people who call themselves writers, and you made an entire new human being, so it’s good to see that you’re not beating yourself up about daily word counts or whatever.

    Reply
    • I’ve never listened to those people anyway, so no worries there! I’m a firm believer in doing what is right for you. What might work (or be regarded as a success) for one person, might not be the same for someone else.

      Reply
  2. With children of 3 and 5 I’m just starting to leave the land of teeny tiny people, and enter the world of slightly bigger tiny people, where they become proper people who’ll play together, allowing me to write etc.
    In the short term the juggling doesn’t become any easier, although you’ll become better at it. In the long term enjoy the ride and prepare for writing after bedtime and before breakfast. That’s when I’m allowed to do writing, that and when the kids are in nursery, especially with the older one at school.
    I’m afraid that having the days of four writing blocks are now a distant dream. But I’m guessing you already knew that.

    Reply
    • I think that’s the biggest obstacle right now: just getting used to the newness of being a mom and trying to work at the same time. Of course, as soon as I pin down somewhat of a routine, she changes things up again! It’s a bit of a challenge trying to figure out how to make the most of the time I get, but I’ll figure it out eventually.

      Reply
  3. I know where you’re coming from. I have a dayjob, and am often expected to take care of the grandkid (now 4) from the end of supper until his bedtime. That gives me maybe 2 hours to write during weekdays, and I have to snatch writing time on weekends.

    But somehow, I get stories written. If I can, you definitely can. Just a new process to get used to!

    Reply
    • Once I’m back into drafting, and not just editing, I expect there will be lots of weeknight and weekend writing sessions, with my husband caring for the baby.

      Reply
  4. Mummy to a 6 year old and a 4 year old here, and your post had me nodding a lot in agreement. It is a juggling act for sure, and there is no way of knowing with any degree of certainty how a day is going to pan out. That is part of the magic of being a mum, but it doesn’t help when trying to write novels!

    Evenings are when I write; during the day when the kids are awake I can’t lose myself in the world of my story like I need to, and naps are a thing of the past. I use the snippets of time that are available to blog, network, outline chapters, research anything that needs researching… and then come evening I get on with actually creating the novel that I *will* finish. One day. If the kids weren’t at home, I could have finished this book by now. I know that. But I’ll get there in the end, and this way I kinda get to have my cake and eat it.

    (Must point out, I’m not advocating eating kids. Or books.)

    Reply
    • I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s no longer napping! I know people who have several kids and a full-time job, and they still get writing done. So I know I can do it to, just differently than I did before

      Reply

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