Last week, I sent out the following tweet:
“Writers with infants: how do you do it????? And by ‘it’ I mean write anything worth a damn. My brain feels scratchy and broken-like.”
Unfortunately, I only got one response. He wrote,
“Ha. It can be done simply b/c it has to be done. (This is the most significant thing I’ve written in two months.)”
I don’t expect much sympathy from other working moms out there because, on the surface at least, I have it easy. I work from home, I set my own schedule, and I have the luxury of working in my gym shorts with unwashed hair and no makeup. Some nights, as I’m feeding my little munchkin before putting him down and can barely keep my eyes open, I think, “Wow. Imagine if I had to put on nice clothes every morning and head to an office and work a full day dealing with jerks and THEN come home and do all of the things.” I bow down to all of the women for whom that is their normal. There are many of them. They are amazing.
But as “easy” as a writer’s life may seem to outsiders, on the inside, I promise you, it isn’t easy. Even before I had a baby, a lot of people would say, “It’s easy for you since you don’t work.” To which I’d reply, “Yes I do — I’m a writer.” And they’d say, “Well, I mean, that isn’t really working.” It’s hard to convince people on the outside that sitting in front of a laptop in sweatpants is a job. But it is. And if I didn’t treat it as such, I wouldn’t be a Deb telling you about THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS or my future books.
I will admit, even I underestimated how much having a baby would impact my ability to write. In some sort of deluded fantasyland, I envisioned myself typing away on my laptop while my precious babe napped beside me, his lips pursed together like a little rosebud. That has happened precisely…never. When he naps, I have an hour — max — to do anything at all, and even when I attempt to write, I never get very far before he awakes, at which point, forget writing.
Here’s the thing most non-writers don’t realize: a huge part of the writing process doesn’t involve writing at all. It involves imagining and dreaming and thinking, sometimes while staring at a wall or out the window. It involves letting your brain roam freely, unencumbered by other thoughts. That’s really, really hard to do when you have a 15 1/2-pound doughball screaming in your ear.
I’ve hired a babysitter for a few hours a week, which helps. I can lock myself away in my office for a few hours and buckle down, without worrying about feeding or changing diapers or playing peek-a-boo. But I’m not gonna lie: it’s hard. It’s hard to imagine on demand, to think through plot holes, to be creative when I’m overtired and still have to do 10,000 pounds of laundry.
I know this stage of parenting isn’t forever. But what you lose in diapers and nursing you gain in soccer matches and math homework and birthday parties. The days of writing with a very limited set of distractions are behind me. I’m not complaining. I adore my little love bug and can’t imagine my life without him. But he has definitely made writing a little harder.
Some days I think we’ve hit our stride. Other days everything seems to spin out of control. I think it will always be that way, to some extent. I’m just hoping for more of the former days than the latter.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Any working moms out there with tips on keeping it all together? How do you DO ALL THE THINGS???