We signed our book deal at the end of July 2020 with a January 2021 publication date. We were in the midst of a global pandemic. Our kids were home 24/7 with nowhere to go. Karissa had a brand new three week old baby. And we were on a one month deadline for our first manuscript.
We could have said, “No.” There were plenty of legitimate reasons to turn down this opportunity. But since becoming authors has been a lifelong goal of ours, we had to find a way to say, “Yes.”
Thankfully, we have years of experience writing with little kids running around. And the strategies that we learned over a decade of working from home with kids helped us capitalize on this incredible opportunity to have a book out into the world sooner rather than later!
Put the Kids First
We’ve all experienced those moments where the kids seem to be content so you try to sneak off and get a little bit of writing done. Five minutes later, you have a child crawling into your lap. This can be so frustrating, doesn’t allow you to put out your best work, and isn’t helpful to your relationship with your kids.
When we don’t meet our kids’ needs first, we can expect more frequent interruptions and higher levels of mom guilt. Instead, be intentional about creating time and space for our writing!
When I had little toddlers at home, I got into the following routine before opening up my laptop. We would all go into the kitchen, make snacks together, fill up sippy cups, sing songs together and make it fun! Then we’d all head to the bathroom to make sure that everyone went potty and had diapers changed. And then we’d go into our play area to make a fun set up.
I always looked for toys that didn’t necessarily go together and would hold their attention. An example of this is to dump on the Lincoln Logs on one side of the room, place the animal figurines on the other side of the room, and place the construction vehicles in the middle. Then I’d tell my kids that this was their construction site, and they got to build a zoo for their animals!
Once everything was set up, I would sit on the couch with my laptop and supervise while getting some uninterrupted writing time. This routine allowed me to connect with kids, meet their needs, and then set the boundary that I needed some time to work on my computer. Of course, I could not expect to sit and write for hours on end. But with that focused writing time, I was able to get a lot accomplished in small bursts!
Capitalize on Little Moments
As parents, we have had to learn to make the most of little chunks of time throughout our days. Maybe you do not have a few hours of quiet to sit and get lost in your writing. However, there is also value in writing in short sprints! I find that quick, 10 minute bursts of writing can be especially helpful when outlining or brainstorming for your work.
If you are feeling inspired, do not let that moment pass. The dishes can wait, but inspiration cannot. Give yourself permission to run with an idea and see what happens—whether that light bulb moment occurs at midnight or the middle of the day.
I have also given up on the idea of writing in a quiet space. With young kids at home, there is very little quiet and having that expectation only sets us all up for frustration. Instead, I bought some affordable, noise-dampening headphones and will listen to my writing playlist when I need to lose myself in my work. I can still hear if someone needs me, but it does not invade my thoughts the same way because I have soothing music playing to keep me focused. (Note: Depending on the ages of your children this may or may not work for you. Obviously little ones need much more supervision, and we have to be careful with how much we tune out.)
Live Your Life
Inspiration can come from anywhere, but it often comes from something away from your computer. Talking with friends, going for a walk, and even playing with my kids can all spark new inspiration; but that means that I need to be intentional about carving out time for those moments.
My kids are often my break from my work, and my work is my break from my kids. Kids have an amazing way of demanding your full attention and inviting you to see the world through their eyes. And when we shift gears and are able to enjoy those moments with them, they can be so restorative! On the other hand, since I love my work so much, writing is my guilt-free escape from my kids. I know that my husband can hold down the fort, and I can get lost for a little while to work on a project. I love this time in my own little writing world, and it lets me exercise a different part of my brain.
Since my kids often see me writing at my computer, it is a wonderful opportunity to share my work with them. I can share life lessons about just how many query letters got sent out and declined before we found our agent, and I can celebrate the wins with my children as well. They love getting to be a part of this journey with me, and many times they are genuinely helpful with their insights. When I asked my seven year old how he thought I could become a better writer, he told me that I should read more books. And I took that great advice!
We don’t always have to keep our writer lives and family lives separate. We can live one, beautiful cohesive life that ebbs and flows as-needed.
Shari Medini and Karissa Tunis are the co-authors of Parenting while Working from Home: A Monthly Guide to Help Parents Balance Their Careers, Connect with Their Kids, and Establish Their Inner Strength. They are also the co-owners of the popular parenting website, AdoreThemParenting.com. With six kids between them and over a decade of work from home experience, they love sharing strategies that help fellow parents minimize the overwhelm while trying to juggle it all.