Writing, Burp Rags & Sesame Street–How Can We Balance It All?

Happy Friday!!!! Today I have a real treat for you. My pal and fellow Who Dares Wins Author, Natalie Markey is here to talk to us about a critical subject for many of us. How can we better balance being a great parent AND a great writer? Writer Moms (and even Writer Dads) face a unique set of challenges; like how to get Goldfish out of the CD drive in our computer or ways to endure the psychological torture of Barney without curling into the fetal position.

I love you. You love me. That’t why we’re in ther-a-py.

It is a tough road, being a writer parent. Balancing protags and potty training, narrative structure and Leggo landmines. Yet, in the WANA spirit…WE ARE NOT ALONE. Better still, we are in this together! I am not only your teacher, but your teammate and I am here to equip you for success…even if that means shutting up and bringing in experts who are smarter than me.

Natalie is going to offer some tips on how to remain sane and productive and keep your child alive. She also will be teaching a Write It Forward on-line course for more tips and tools to balance this wild and crazy writer parent life (feel free to sign up if you are the parent of small pets or houseplants. Have to start somewhere). Make sure you sign up for her class (link is below). I will be there with fresh notebook and Crayons (my Spawn has hidden all my pens), and I hope to see you in class!

Take it away Natalie!

One night, about a year ago I had an “ah ha” moment (and no I wasn’t watching Oprah.) It was about 3 a.m. and I was writing on my laptop, when I scratched my back and found a dried, dirty burp rag on my shoulder. I was exhausted, thankful that my baby was asleep and happy for sometime to write but I thought, “there must be an easier way to do this?” I mean really? I was so out of it that I didn’t realize I had a dirty burp rag on me. Well, I’m not sure if there is an easier way to be a writing mom, but there is a smarter way.

My daughter is now 14-months-old. I am blessed to be able to work from home, where I can be with her. This does, however present a need for some creative balancing. It does mean that sometimes I may work late into the night after she is in bed. It does mean that I get up at the insane hour of 5 a.m. so that I can get some work in before she wakes up. But I’ve learned how to balance the two extremes to avoid those 3 a.m. writing sessions.

Being a writing mom takes will power but I’m a firm believer in that if you want something, really want something, then you’ll find a way. I’ve been a freelance journalist for ten years now. I’m a published author of a non-fiction book, ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog’ and working on a second while writing fiction as well. I’m always on deadlines both real ones and self assigned. Some days, that idea of a nap is really appealing but I keep working, writing and striving forward through my goals and toy filled office/baby playroom.

Next month I’m teaching a Write It Forward Workshop through Who Dares Wins Publishing, Writing Moms: How to do it all without losing your mind. If you’re a writing mom seeking help through the burp rag- filled chaos, I’m not going to tell you what to do. Everyone is unique. When I had my daughter, I thought I understood time management. After working in a New York City public relations firm juggling multiple clients, I thought I had this mastered. The truth is that we cannot manage something we cannot control and babies are very uncontrollable!

So, I did a self-study. I literally studied me. By knowing myself, I knew what schedule worked best for me. During the month long workshop I will discuss the study and how moms (and even dads) can learn from it. Through simple trial and error, hopefully you’ll find your rhythm to having it all. But even then there are great days, good days and bad days. And you can have fun including your baby in your work. I always read my work to my daughter and she has been known to go through page proofs.

A major turning point for me was when I learned to let go of some control. This was hard for me because, well I’m a control freak. I LOVE to plan everything. Seriously, when my family goes to Walt Disney World I’m called the Itinerary Queen. After I had my daughter I worked off of to-do lists. This only depressed me because I was only seeing what I wasn’t getting done. Now, I trim everything down to goal lists. This makes things more manageable and not as depressing. The best thing to keep in mind when you’re working with little time is to JUST DO IT!! Yes, think about those Nike shoes in your closet. Just do it! I made the mistake for months after my daughter was born of spending too much time planning.

And now to the really fun part—Sesame Street. My daughter recently started watching this and it’s actually entertaining. I’m a fan and it makes for fantastic lunchtime entertainment. Anyway, I leave you with my teaching assistant, Ernie. Ernie will demonstrate the importance of doing rather than planning when writing a story. Take it away Ernie!

Learn more/sign-up for Writing Moms: How to do it all without losing your mind

Natalie C. Markey is a freelance journalist of ten years. She is the author of ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog.’  In addition to multiple freelance contracts, she continues to write non-fiction as well as fiction. Markey speaks professionally about dogs from an owner’s perspective as well as tackling the major writing issue, how to have it all as a writer and a mother.

Markey is a graduate from Baylor University with a double BA in Journalism/Public Relations and Communication Specialist. She has worked for a NYC PR firm, been the youngest Business Development Director for a National advertising firm, served as the Creative Services Director for the fastest growing CBS affiliate in Texas and served as the Texas Spokesperson for the D.A.R.E. program.  A native Texan, Markey currently lives in an Arkansas forest with her supportive husband, daughter and dog, Oscar. Learn more at www.NatalieCMarkey.com

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  1. #1 by JM Randolph on September 16, 2011 - 9:12 am

    I’m intrigued by the idea of goal lists instead of to-do lists. To-do lists and I have mainly a hate/hate relationship, but when I make my New Year’s resolutions I meet most of them. I’m curious if your class focuses mostly on being the parent of babies/toddlers? I became a stepmom to five (literally overnight, five years ago) and though I missed those terribly difficult, high-maintenance baby years, I’m still struggling. Lots. The kids are 9-18 now.

    • #2 by Leanne Shirtliffe on September 16, 2011 - 11:29 am

      I like after-the-fact To Do lists. In other words, write down things you’ve done just so you can cross them out maniacally. It’s not productive at all, but it is therapeutic (I scribble hard!).

      I like goal lists too. But they also scare me a bit.

      • #3 by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson on September 16, 2011 - 4:48 pm

        Omigosh! I love after-the fact To-Do lists, too! But mostly to prove to my husband that I have done things besides sit at the computer all day. Or sit on the couch all afternoon grading papers.

        I like the concept of goal lists, but I am storing those in my mind at the present time.

        The best lists are “Honey-Do” lists. ;-)

      • #4 by Kim Terry on September 17, 2011 - 10:30 am

        I like “done lists”, too. Gives me a feeling of accomplishment that “to-do” lists don’t.

    • #5 by Jess Witkins on September 17, 2011 - 9:17 am

      I definitely like the goal list idea more. I made to do lists and they seemed unending. Working towards a goal and I can see and track progress and opportunity versus just looking at a laundry list of things to get to. And I absolutely love to cross things off too. *sigh* Wish I was getting more done on those lists, but I do think I’m on or near the right path towards my goal list.

  2. #6 by Kimberly Mullican on September 16, 2011 - 9:14 am

    While I do miss my kids being small snuggle bugs – I am so glad they are now self-sufficient. It does free up a lot of time!

  3. #7 by kbnelson on September 16, 2011 - 9:31 am

    Thanks Kristen and Natalie for recognizing the “other” job writer-moms have to do – with no vacations, sick days, pay raises, or retirement.

    I just finished both of Kristen’s books and have been working on optimizing the online extensions of myself. It’s a lot of work, but like raising babies, it’s all worthwhile.

    Karen Nelson
    kbnelson.wordpress.com

  4. #8 by susielindau on September 16, 2011 - 9:49 am

    Great article! Some how they do survive. Mine are 19 and 21 now and are thriving!! I think when kids know they are loved unconditionally, they can get through anything~
    Now I am trying to find balance since I am writing during all of my free time. Every once in a while my husband will look at the empty fridge and say, “what’s for dinner?” Hahaha!

  5. #9 by Catherine Johnson on September 16, 2011 - 11:56 am

    No day is ever the same that’s for sure. I’m not big into lists, I always know what is top priority each day.I’m sure that must save me at least ten minutes. Great post.

  6. #10 by alicamckennajohnson on September 16, 2011 - 2:04 pm

    I have an ongoing list of what I need to get done, but I gave up on the idea of planing out my day time wise a long time ago- it never works.

  7. #11 by lynnkelleyauthor on September 16, 2011 - 2:12 pm

    So true that babies are unpredictable. You never know what each day will bring. I remember those days well and will soon be dealing with it again when my daughter goes back to work and I babysit my grandson two days a week. She’d like me to do more, but, c’mon, I’m no spring chicken and know my limits. I’m hoping little Punkin will be a good napper, so I can get some writing done, but we’ll see. All I know is that they do grow up in the blink of an eye, though it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Inch by inch, one sentence at a time, and perseverance will help us reach our goals. And that online class sounds great, plus the support of WANA. I’m so thankful to be part of it.

  8. #12 by lynnkelleyauthor on September 16, 2011 - 2:14 pm

    I forgot to say that I love the Burt and Ernie video. Brings back so many memories. I’ll be tuning in to Sesame Street again soon enough with Punkin! Looking forward to it, too!

  9. #13 by Jami Gold on September 16, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    I definitely qualify as a perfectionist with a to-do list. I’m also the itinerary queen my family. We went on one trip with my parents when I hadn’t come up with a list of possible things to do, and everyone freaked. “Then how are we supposed to know what to do?” LOL!

    I’m trying to switch over to more goal oriented, so that’s a great tip. Thanks!

  10. #14 by alexlaybourne on September 16, 2011 - 4:39 pm

    I have three children then eldest is 4 and the youngest is 1. Our second child, (and youngest son) has Autism, Life is crazy, the house is always a mess, it doesn’t matter how much you clean, but the time you have finished the start is just as dirty again.

    There are some mornings when my alarm goes off at 5am, that I just lay there and think to myself, what am I doing. Why am I getting up so early. I’ve only been in bed 5 and a half hours (and on a good night only been up three times with the kids) I could easily sleep another hour or so. But I suck it up, get out of bed and write. I refuse to sacrifice time with my kids. Especailly as I am at the office all day, I only get a few hours with them during the week. When I think of it like that I realize they are the reason I do it.

    Really good post, it is often refreshing just to her that We Are Not Alone in this world.

  11. #15 by Candace Rose on September 16, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    I recently found out that I’m expecting number 4. It was a sobbing, teeth gnashing, hair ripping moment. This post gives me hope that I won’t have to give up my writing dreams to raise these four! monsters ages 7 and under.
    I definitely need to check out that workshop!

  12. #16 by Gene Lempp on September 17, 2011 - 5:37 am

    The idea of goal lists is excellent. I’m another that loves to-do lists and you are right about them becoming depressing. Especially after having to combine the remnants from the weeks lists into a notebook that requires a forklift to move (sometimes there are a lot of remnants). With a goal list we can plan things out, like Ernie, and then handle it when the time is there. Very cool.

  13. #17 by Kim Terry on September 17, 2011 - 10:27 am

    Burp rags? Ahh…does that ever take me back! Particularly the part about being so out of it that you don’t know you’re still wearing one!

    Excellent advice about managing parenthood with “writer-hood”.

  14. #18 by Jolyse Barnett on September 17, 2011 - 11:11 am

    Great post! My situation is a little different, as my children are older (one is special needs) and I work a dayjob, but I definitely understand the juggling aspect of my life. I agree that when there’s a will, there’s a way. I set goals and finished my first book pretty much on schedule (about a month later than I had hoped), and have begun the second.

    Sounds like a great workshop. I’ll check it out.

  15. #19 by nicotarquinio on September 17, 2011 - 11:29 am

    I’m not a parent, but this blog entry really got me to rethink the way I’m approaching (and failing at) writing.

    The Sesame Street video was surprisingly on-point, and definitely cheered me up–if at least to imagine the other sort of things Bert and Ernie would be doing indoors.

    Great post!

  16. #20 by Sara Grambusch on September 17, 2011 - 11:46 am

    Oh my gosh, the baby is so cute. I am distracted by the baby.

    I separate my long and short term goals for prioritizing and perspective because I tend to think I have to do everything now.

  17. #21 by the writ and the wrote on September 18, 2011 - 10:16 am

    Great post. I’m not a parent, but I do struggle with finding time to write around work and other commitments. I like the idea of goal setting vs to-do lists. I’ve been thinking that I need to set some self-imposed deadlines for my writing, since I don’t have a boss to tell me when things need to be done.

  18. #22 by bethkvogt on September 18, 2011 - 2:12 pm

    A little perspective: I put writing on hold while my first 3 grew up. (I had a lot to learn as a mom the first go-round). Then a surprise late-in-life pregnancy at 41 made me realize: If I wait until this baby grows up I will never, ever write!
    I pulled my writing dreams off the back burner and figured out how writing and motherhood mixed. I learned, while it wasn’t easy, it could happen. (And landed a contract for a book on late-in-life motherhood. How ironic.)
    I believe in To Do lists, Done lists, and the reality that some days you realize nothing got done. But there’s always tomorrow.
    And critique groups are a must–talk about accountability!

  19. #23 by Marilag Lubag on September 19, 2011 - 1:59 am

    Parenting is always hard. However, the kids are cute so it should cancel everything out. :-)

  20. #24 by Sonia G Medeiros on September 20, 2011 - 9:15 am

    I dragged my feet a lot but I eventually had to make a schedule and stick to it. That included getting up at 5-6 am and I am so not a morning person. However, it’s worth it to get the writing done.

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