Writers with Toddlers: Creating amid Chaos

Writers with Toddlers boom

Hi, my name is Jocelyn and I am a writer. I also have a toddler.

When I try to sit at my computer to create my next masterpiece or harness the mysterious power of social media, this is my two-year-old son’s cue to:

  1. Climb on my lap to look at photos.
  2. Park himself under my desk then vroom cars up and down my apparently very ramp-like legs.
  3. Ask 14,000 questions with such curiosity and sincerity (and yeah, insistence) that I feel like a jerk if I don’t close my laptop and try to formulate some answers. Besides, I work part-time outside of the home, and I feel like a double-jerk if I don’t focus on him during the hours I am around.

Basically, I am incapable of concentrating on sentence construction or even putting together 140 characters when I’m with him. For me, it has been a matter of writing during nap time, late at night, or tag-teaming with my husband (who is a visual artist). I also hire care in order to catch a few, precious, consecutive hours (in fact, that’s what’s happening right now). Still, I feel like I’m accomplishing only about 17% of what I intend to. I keep wondering how other mommy writers with little kids are managing to make it happen…

SO I ASKED SOME OF MY FAVORITES.

I am THRILLED to present, below, five writers who are brilliant, funny, and profound. Despite having toddlers (and toddlers plus), they are prolific, both on their blogs and on sites all over the internets. Let’s hear it for:

Michelle Back from Mommy Back Talk

Chrissy Howe from Full Metal Mommy

Stephanie Jankowski from When Crazy Meets Exhaustion

Toni Hammer from Is it Bedtime Yet?

Mary Widdicks from Outmanned Mommy

~HERE’S HOW THEY DO IT~

***

MICHELLE BACK from MOMMY BACK TALK

Michelle Back Mommy Back Talk

I have a nearly 3-year-old daughter, blog at Mommy Back Talk, try to break the Internet on my Facebook page (fail miserably), and work part time as an editor. I’m also about a minute from giving birth to a baby boy. So, how do I write with a toddler who can best be described as an independent human tornado with the ability to articulate exactly what she wants at a volume entirely unacceptable for any place on earth? That’s a fantastic question. The main answer is: sweet, glorious naptime. My girl is a sleeper. Not too long ago she was taking 3-hour naps. A lot can get done in 3 hours (but not folding laundry, that’s for certain. How long have these laundry baskets, pictured above, been sitting here? It’s hard to quantify such things.)

She’s back to 2-hour naps, so sometimes I sit on the couch with my husband in the evening, ignore him, and edit posts and try to schedule Internet-breaking Facebook posts. I would like to say, “I get up before the sun and write my heart out while watching the beautiful sunrise.” However, being pregnant, I’m barely awake anytime of day and I’m certainly not getting up early. That said, I’m a night owl. I will make the terrible decision to stay up past midnight editing and writing. Oh, I also spend the day taking a bajillion photos. I’ll wrap it up in bullet-point form:

  • Naptime is sacred blogging/social media time.
  • What can’t be done during naptime is finished up on the couch while ignoring my husband.
  • When my husband asks if we should head to bed, I say I’ll follow in just a few minutes (2 hours will pass).
  • House keeping? What’s house keeping?
  • Take a bajillion pictures of my toddler during the day to document that she’s adorable and to make sure I have photos for Facebook and blog posts (don’t forget Instagram!).

Check out Michelle’s blog! Her FB Page! And her Tweets!

***

CHRISSY HOWE from FULL METAL MOMMY:

Chrissy Howe Full Metal Mommy

I find myself wondering how other writers find time to write when the role of care provider is so consuming. As a mom to three kids, all under age Five I feel fully confident that nobody is sitting back, looking in at my unkempt hair and heavily booger smeared shirts wondering how I manage to pull anything off. It’s painfully evident to even distant passerby that I am a Muppet mom, with arms flailing and desperation in the rising pitch of my voice as I beg my kids to climb off of each other.

Writing is my passion, it’s my balm. It offers me the chance to confess my sins and correct my errs. To make time for this I have to beg the nine month old breastaholic baby off on my husband after the other kids are asleep, or to write in the day light hours I have to let go of the shame surrounding the friendly flashy light up box and embrace my live in helpers, Doc McStuffins and Curious George. I have to ignore the pile of dishes in the sink and put blinders on in ten minute increments. I languish behind my screen or note pad, high on my 5th cup of coffee while my kids are being brainwashed by commercials well past the pediatrician recommended One-measly-useless-hour. The baby is usually gnawing on a piece of garbage she picked out of the floor boards when I finally look up from my work, but it was worth it for the rush of hitting “Publish” on my blog. I write a couple of times a month because my kids are so small, feeble and helpless, but the ache to tell my story is always in my mind.

Check out Chrissy’s blog! Her FB Page! Her Tweets!

***

STEPHANIE JANKOWSKI from WHEN CRAZY MEETS EXHAUSTION:

Stephanie Jankowski When Crazy Meets Exhaustion

Writing with kids? As of late, not gracefully or all that well. Because I have a WAH full-time paying job on top of the full-time non-paying job (Mom-ing), the writing tends to fall to the wayside, which is sad because I love writing like a Kardashian loves a Black guy.

My oldest started Kindergarten this year, so I naively believed I would have more time because, you know, less kids = more time, but my 4yo had other plans. She has morphed from an independent ME DO! into this needy little ball of adorable; her “Mommy! Look at me’s!” have increased substantially. She idolizes me (take it while I can get it, amirite?!) so we’ve set up a system where she and her toy laptop and pretend cup of coffee park it beside me and we “collaborate.” I’ve found that thinking aloud gives her something to listen to and emulate, and I actually get a bit of the creative thought process out. I’ve less time to complete the process in its entirety but, strangely enough, that’s often when I churn out my best stuff. Quick and dirty seems to work best for me. *former English professors gasp in horror*

But don’t forget the baby! My 17-month-old is, thankyoubabyjesus, really easy going. She also takes huge naps and I like that about her. So when the 4yo is in preschool and the tiny one is snoozing, I can squeak out a few worthwhile words. This window of opportunity lasts approximately 1 hour a week.

In sum, I have about 1 hour a week to write. If I don’t fall into the trap of trending hashtags and breaking news on Facebook. So, I have about 6 minutes a week to write.

Check out Stephanie’s blog! Her FB Page! Her Tweets!

***

TONI HAMMER of IS IT BEDTIME YET?:

Toni Hammer Is it Bedtime Yet?

I don’t sleep. That’s the KEY.

But, really, I don’t have much, if any, time to write when my two toddlers (ages 2 and 3) are awake, so I reserve my evenings for “me time” which includes writing and working. During the day I’ll make notes for pieces or potential tweets, I’ll schedule funny FB posts, and I also write a lot of posts in my head. Let’s face it, my son doesn’t need all of my brain power while I’m playing cars with him, so I’ll try to work out the main points of an upcoming piece in my head so that when I do have time, I can just spit it out in much less time. It works for me!

Check out Toni’s blog! Her FB Page! Her Tweets!

***

MARY WIDDICKS from OUTMANNED MOMMY:

Mary Widdicks Outmanned Mommy

Life as a parent is a delicate balancing act wherein you have to juggle your children, your spouse, your friends, and hopefully that little something special that makes you who you are.  Of course, while I’m writing about my children’s hysterical misadventures, they are busy living them.  It takes every bit of energy and patience I have to change a diaper, while playing trucks with the toddler and explaining to the five-year-old why his sister doesn’t have a penis, all to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star so the baby doesn’t roll in her own feces. There is an advanced level where you must also keep the dogs at bay with one foot so they don’t lick the baby’s butt before you can get to it with the wipes, but to be honest I’ve just given up fighting that battle.

And while their chaos provides endless inspiration for blog posts, it also makes finding time to actually write them challenging. I wait, like a cat ready to pounce, for the quiet moments – during naps and between sibling rivalry – to quickly tap out notes on my phone.  That is, until one of my boys spots me and takes great offense to my inadequate appreciation for his tape-ball-creation.  Maybe someday I will find a routine that allows me to participate fully in my children’s lives, writing about it, while still making time for things like a social life. Someday. Maybe. For now, I just resign myself to another late night of working after they’ve gone to bed, composing blog posts on my phone while nursing the baby, and nurturing a healthy caffeine addiction.

Check out Mary’s blog! Her FB Page! Her Tweets!

***

Thank you to these magnificent writing mamas for sharing their thoughts here on the home tome. It’s heartening to know that there are others out there attempting this particular juggling act: it’s challenging and crazy but we gotta do it. How about you? If you are a writer (or a professional of another kind or creative person of an another kind) with toddlers (or toddlers plus!), how do YOU do it? Please keep the conversation going in the comments…and please let me know if you’d like to be featured similarly in the future, as I am thinking of making this into a series.

If you need more home tome in your life (really, who doesn’t?), I cordially invite you to follow my FB Page and Tweets.

Finally, check out my latest potty humor on Mock Mom: Parents Plan Blow-out Potty Party

Writers with Toddlers: Creating amid Chaos

11 replies

  1. Wow, this is an amazing article! What a cool glimpse into what it takes for real writers, living real lives to keep their gifts alive and growing – inspiring!!

  2. Hey, lady! Thanks so much for including me alongside such talented Mamas. *bows down yelling I’m Not Worthy!* And that kind intro?! I’m verklempt! I’ll never reach Toni status because I’m a real wench when I don’t sleep. Meh. 😉

    • Thank YOU – thou arte worthy indeed. BTW, I tried talking about what I was going to write with my 2 year old, and it worked! For 42 seconds! Woo! Regarding The Amazing Sleepless Toni: am mystified. zzzz

  3. These ladies are so inspiring, and so are you J-dawg. Such a cool post!

    How do I find time to write? Let’s see. I used to write during my daughter’s naps until the naps ended abruptly, and I became a worse person all around. I found babysitters similar to Chrissy Howe’s—they are named Dora and Diego. Then I sent my daughter to preschool and used that time to write. Since then, I had another baby, and have found that there are absolutely no free moments to write or go to the bathroom by myself. Someone is always awake and needing my attention. I recently started having a babysitter (a real person) come once a week to help me in the early evening. She came tonight and instead of unpacking from a weekend trip, doing laundry or dishes, I wrote. I feel more fulfilled than I have in a while because I got some work done, but I also feel guilty about spending that time away from my kids and bad because the babysitter had to see how much of a slob I have become. But, I want and need to write to make sense of the chaos, and so it’s important to make time for it.

    It’s so nice to hear from all of you and to know there’s a community of writer moms out there making it happen!

    • Yes, it is cool. I think a lot of parents (women and men) are juggling, but the writing one has its own specific obsessive (blessing/curse) quality and does require a particular kind of concentration and head space. I love your tale of trying to send out an essay from the baby’s nursery while rocking her…we gotta keep trying, right? Even if we can’t do as much as we want…a little is better than nothing 🙂 Thanks for your input Sara/Shmooples.

  4. Yep, me too. Even though she’s five now. I don’t have to necessarily worry about her eating something she shouldn’t but now it’s all “look at me,” “play with me,” “let’s chat about me.” I work in an office full time, but still, why doesn’t she have a job yet?!

    • Yeah, she should get on that. Maybe if you offer to re-work her resume she’ll get the hint.

      My attempts to ignore/encourage self-amusement often have opposite effect i.e. child driving truck through hair.

  5. This is brilliant. Stephanie’s made me absolutely howl with laughter and they are all a talented bunch and I’m rather honoured that one of these fine ladies follows my Facebook page regularly. Congrats on the book!

  6. Oh lol thanks. It’s very much a work in progress. Sloooooow progress with a looooooong to do list! Chipping away one day at a time. Thanks for the follow on FB. Came up with your personal name so I didn’t realise til just now following Insta follow.

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