I love it when people ask me how I write as a stay-at-home mom to four kids. Especially since we homeschool.
Usually, I laugh and say “I don’t know”, because some days that’s the absolute truth. I don’t know how I do it, I just do. I guess when you really want to do something you find a way. So here’s what a typical day looks like for me. This is when I’m actually writing a book, because the truth is I’m not always in the writing phase. Sometimes I’m just brainstorming, other days I’m editing, and there’s lots of time that I’m between projects and not writing at all. But on days where I really need to get words in, this is how it goes.
Morning: My kids have always been early risers. I have never been a morning person. This has taken a lot of adjustment and figuring out, but ultimately I decided that I had to get up. So I could either get up before them and have a tiny bit of time to myself, or I could drag myself out of bed when they come in my room and feel behind and frustrated the rest of the day. Guess which one I chose?
My alarm goes off at 5:30 every morning. Then I turn it off and sleep for fifteen to twenty more minutes. Ha! Usually, I’m up and going by 6:00, and by “up and going” I mean I throw on my robe and drag myself down the stairs to fix my coffee.
The goal for the morning is to drink the coffee, do my Bible and prayer time, and get in SOME amount of words. It doesn’t really matter how many. Ideally, I would like this to be 1000 words, but it usually ends up being more like 500-700. That’s ok! For me, this works really well, because it tells my brain “Hey this is what we’re doing today. This is where we are in the story and you need to think about what’s coming next.”
So that’s why I do. My kids come out of their rooms and I’m giving them instructions like “get dressed, make your bed, put away your laundry,” while I get myself ready for the day. But my brain? It’s still thinking about my characters in the background.
Now it’s time to focus on my kids. We have breakfast, do some morning chores, and generally get ready for the day. If it’s during the school year we will settle in on the couch and I take turns helping each kid with their work. I don’t do any writing during this time.
Mid-Morning: Once our “Work” is done (housework and school) it’s playtime! Sometimes we’re outside, sometimes we meet friends somewhere or go run errands. If the kids are playing well and I can supervise, I will grab my phone and write. Yep, that’s right. All those beautiful images in my head of sitting in a quiet room, typing away on a computer, that rarely happens. BUT I can get a lot of words written on my phone while my kids play. Yes, they will interrupt or need my help, or want to show me something, but that’s totally fine. I’m happy to be in the midst of it with them and get a little work done too.
After lunch, we typically have nap time or quiet time (more quiet time than naps since most of my kids don’t regularly nap anymore…cue the tears.). I don’t always write during this time. I know, I wish I did. I wish I could just turn it on like clockwork and get the words down. But to be honest, by now I’m tired, and sometimes I haven’t eaten lunch or started a load of laundry. Sometimes I just need to sit in the quiet and not have to think. So sometimes I do that. But if I’m up against a deadline, or feeling really productive I sit down and write. The biggest tool I use is a timer. If I don’t feel like writing, but I know I need to, I will set a timer for 12 minutes and write. If that’s all I do, I’m still moving forward. If I get in two to three 12 minute sprints in the afternoon, I’m very happy.
The rest of the day is playing, getting diner ready, cleaning up from the day, and hanging out with my husband after the kids are in bed.
I only write at night if I really have to. If I have a word count goal and I haven’t reached it yet, I will tell my husband I need thirty minutes or an hour and I set my timer for 12 minutes and get started. My typical goal for a day is 2000 words, so even if I’m starting with zero, I can usually get that done in an hour. At night I REALLY like to be done so I can sit on the couch and watch a show (sometimes with a snack, and sometimes with a pile of laundry.).
So the answer to the question, how do I write as a stay-at-home mom is this: I just do. I don’t have large chunks of time where I sit down to write. I take little pieces of time and do what I can. Over the course of the days and weeks, those little pieces add up.
It’s funny, after I graduated from college, I was single, living with my parents, and actually took some time to try to make a living as a writer – a combination of freelance writing, blogging, and working on my fiction projects. Can you guess how many books I wrote during that time when I had hours during the day? ZERO.
Yes, I totally regret that, but the point is, I didn’t need hours of time at my disposal, I needed to decide I was going to do it and just do the work.
Being a writer AND a mom is my dream job. They won’t be little forever, and I know spending time with my kids is important. I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t do it perfectly, but I do what works for me and my family in this season.
I’m thankful every day that I’m here with my tiny humans, and I’m thrilled that The Lord gives me the time and ability to write stories too.