Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Work Done (Or Not...)

Long ago, my kids decided life is BORING without Mommy devoting 99.9% of her day to their non-stop amusement. In addition to the usual daily domestic activities (ie, the super lame stuff, like cleaning and grocery shopping and endless laundry) I used to be able to get my creative work done with the girls underfoot. This was when I was an artist and my days consisted of sitting at the table with colored pencils all around and my diapered kiddos sitting next to me, scribbling in sketchbooks of their own.

Then I stopped drawing and started focusing more on writing and my kids decided I didn't need to get anything accomplished ever again.

Nap-times ended after age 1 when both girls decided sleeping is overrated and they wouldn't have anything to do with it.

Quiet-times ended after age 1.5 upon discovering they were being used for tea parties with fresh cups of pee, instead of for resting quietly. (And when the girls weren't doing that, they were ripping their sheets, cutting their hair and eyelashes with purloined kiddie scissors, or pushing toddler mattresses up against the window of their room so they could climb and then pull the curtain rods straight out of our apartment walls. Yep)

Let me just say, using my brain to write intelligible things is impossible when said brain is exploding from children shouting in my ear, 30 thousand times a day, "LOOKIT ME, Mom! I have a CUP ON MY HEAD! (and such)"

If I don't get this dang book finished and begin querying agents soon (very soon!) this girl's gotta put the kids in daycare and get a proper job to help support the family. So... when do I get my creative work done? When do I find the time to write when every free minute sounds like this -

ME: Okay, Annelie. We've played 600 games and read 600 stories and you've had 600 minutes of computer time and now it's MOMMY'S turn for a little bit of work time, okay?


ME [types]: ....

ANNELIE [stares at me]: Wouldn't it be really funny if I had glasses and I opened the dishwasher when it was still going and it fogged up my glasses and then my hair turned yellow?

ME: Yes. Now go play and let me get some work done, okay?


ME [types]: ....

ANNELIE [stares at me VERY INTENSELY]: I'm doing my laser eyes on you. Do you want me to do my hot laser eyes on you or my cold laser eyes?

ME: How about instead of doing any kind of laser eyes, you go and play outside? Or play in your room? Or watch a movie? Or draw?


ME [types]: ....

ANNELIE [stares at me]:....

[time lapse 7 seconds]

I wrote you a song, and here is how it goes.

I love my mommy
she is the best
and her cupcakes are yummy
and I love my mommy
then you would be the best for me and you
and the day will be as white as meeeeeee.

ME: That was lovely. Now go PLAY.

ANNELIE: Okay. But first I have to play my new song on the guitar for you, okay? [whips out guitar]


(this video is from last year... but it's pretty much exactly how I'm entertained on a minutely basis even now)(and when I say now, I literally mean THIS VERY SECOND)

Well, I'll tell ya when I get my creative work done ... Lately, I've resorted to printing out my pages and editing them whilst sitting on the bathroom floor until "MOM, I'M GOING TO WET MY PANTS IF YOU DON'T LET ME IN!" is shouted from the hall.

Creative work-at-home peeps out there, enlighten me, please - how in the world do you manage your household, spend time with your kids and significant others, cook, clean, AND get creative stuff done!?* Because as much as I love laser eyes and serenades from 4-year-olds for 14 hours a day... I also need to finish this book!

*besides taking it away from TV time - that time pretty much ended for me years ago.



mshatch said...

Oh I wish I had some advice. Maybe if you rewarded them in some way for an hour of peace?

Jonathon Arntson said...


Okay, so I maintain my imaginary household by populating it with four children who test me, but are respectful. They want adventure, but when it's time to go to bed, they comply.

Also, they love peanut butter as much as me and we stay on each other's good side for when there's only one spoonful left.

Marisa Hopkins said...

Oh Jonny, I love and adore ya. Also, my kids go through a jar of peanut butter each week. A JAR.

AlyGatr said...

Yeah I've got nuttin. As you well know by now, my whole day of logging into work from home so The Man and I could switch off to go to dentist appointments has been riddled with little people being told "let Momma work" over...and over...and over. Believe it or not, I actually got some work done...some. Give her Will's iPhone, I bet she stays busy :P

Kelly Warren said...

I certainly cannot answer that question since I'm not in your shoes, but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed this post! You may not be writing your book, but you still write a great blog post. :-)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

A tea party with FRESH CUPS OF PEE? Okay, I've gotta go read that post.

I'm sorry I don't have much advice for you. I don't know if it will make you feel better or worse to know that the years when my daughters were under 5 were the only years of my life when I did no writing at all.

However, I made lots of very pretty Creative Memories scrapbooks. That was my sole creative output (besides teaching).

Denise Felton said...

Wow! For just a second, I thought you'd ripped a page out of my journal and posted it. Well, except that if this were my post, that adorable child would be blonde and more likely singing about the Weeding Wainbow or her achy breaky heart. My solution was to put my girls in daycare nearby from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00. It was amazing how much I could get done in 6 hours with no kids, no office mates dropping in, no phone calls from chatty friends. Household chores were off limits for that time (but naps weren't). From 2:00 to 9:00, I was full-time wife and mommy. (Plus I returned the screened calls from chatty friends.) Then, if I was on deadline, I could work from 9:00 till 2:00 or so. (Hence the occasional need for naps.) Of course, this works only if you already have cash coming in from writing to pay for the daycare. If not, maybe you could do a swap with another mom two days a week. Imagine what you could get done with 12 hours of uninterrupted writing/editing time!

P.S. There were no pee tea parties at my house. But there was a poo finger-painting session that I'll never forget.

Denise Felton said...

Oh, wait, why 2:00 to 9:00p.m. for full-time mommy? Because their bedtime was 8:00 p.m. Meaning it was about an hour after that until they stopped getting up to ask critically important questions ("Mommy, does my hair always grow longer or does it sometimes grow shorter?") and hollering for one more drink of water.

Crystal Cook said...

I SO wish I had an answer for this, as I bet almost every mom out there does. I think really we just do the best we can, and if that means mac and cheese for dinner so mom can feel sane and write for fifteen minutes then that's what happens. I feel for you, I really do. But I will send you to this link which I found VERY helpful, and read every so often.

It's by Shannon Hale talking about how she balances being a mom and a writer.

Good luck my friend! And when you figure it out, let me know k? :)

Oh Mandie said...

Up until today (when both of my kiddos finally went to school and left mommy have some peace and quiet) the only way I was able to combat this was to become an insomniac.

Sometimes you have to pick your rewards, sleep or the stillness that only 2am can bring.

Too bad I'm always too tired for the later.

Good Luck!

Kelly said...

Your girls are so incredibly cute! You had me laughing at the pee tea party!
When my kids were that age, I wrote when they went to bed. That's about it. Now I can write here and there in the afternoons while they are at school because I'm too darn tired to write at night anymore anyway!
Good luck to you getting that query ready!

Cathy said...

lol can't believe i missed the pee in the cup episode! hehe

i can totally relate to what you wrote - except i'm not trying to write a book.

so, so hard....sorry, i don't have any solutions. i can't even go to the bathroom without someone trying to break down the door!

Jeanmarie Anaya said...

Oh my goodness, this post made me laugh! I feel your pain. I have to tell my eldest (at least 74 times per day) "I AM NOT YOUR ACTIVITIES DIRECTOR!!!!" My kids have a bajillion toys but refuse to play with them unless I'm somehow running the entertainment show. Takes a huge chunk out of my writing time. Sigh. I've taken to waking up early and writing then.

Good luck!

Melissa said...

LOL! Oh, man . . . this sounds familiar. I'm lucky that Hannah is old enough to entertain herself and "get" what I mean when I say I need to work, and Jake likes his alone time as much as I do. But Bea . . . she's a little firecracker, just like your two.

I pretty much walk around with the laptop and/or typed-out pages of my manuscript (yes! i do that, too!) with me at all times. You steal your moments however and whenever you can.

Once mine are back in school it'll be much easier, but summers are definitely a challenge.

PS - It is possible (but not advisable) to write and watch TV at the same time. ;-)

Meeling said...

Lol...I had a good laugh reading your post!

I'm afraid I always had nappers till they were 3 or 4 so I always managed to have a little quiet time during the day and even after naps were over my kids are kinda low key...don't get me wrong there were/are days but overall they are quiet boys.

Maybe a designated "quiet area" and then a timer...can't talk to you and must stay in that area til the timer goes off? Start with a small amount 5-10 mins and slowly increase...I've done this in the past..worked like a charm.

Natalie C Parker said...

I really believe that sometimes you are posting just to give me a daily smile. Also, I wish I had a cold laser beam stare.

SewSweetStitches said...

LOL I just love you guys. Also, this is like word for word what happens to me every single night when I get home from work. My husband works second shift, so it's a struggle to keep up my etsy shop with a 4-year-old hanging around! I made her a Speshul Sewing Box with all kinds of scraps and buttons and gigantic yarn needles. When I want to work, I tell her it's time to work! She gets her sewing stuff out and "works" right next to me. That gets me about ehhhhh 3 minutes of peace lol. Then the needle came undone, then she's out of thread, then she can't make a knot, etc etc.

Sorry, I got nothin.

DancingMooney ♥ said...

Oh Marisa! I feel this way and I don't even have any children. LOL. We do however, have two dogs, one of which is not seemingly capable of entertaining herself, and is constantly giving me that same look of 'entertain me NOW please'... If I am not paying attention to her, it's little moans and groans and heavy sighs and she lays near my desk...

I've found that creating a schedule is helpful. Not sure that you can get those girls to nap again, but if you make time mid day to get them dog tired, maybe they will nap, or maybe they will have played hard enough that they are willing to sit and watch a movie for an hour, and maybe you'll have some quiet time before the husby comes home?

Maybe you just need to be persistent and insist that they respect your personal space for an hour a day?

Wishful thinking, ay? Oh, and my house is never as clean as I'd like it to be, and my creative ideas are never as complete as I'd like them to be, but I suppose all things come with time... ♥

Leah said...

I wish I got anything done, ever! I usually fall asleep once I get the kids to bed, and naps have always been difficult here too...

Sara Walker-Howe said...

I used to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom/writer. Now I work outside the home 8-9 hours a day and get more writing done. Go figure.

Here's what I can offer for tips:

1. Get some noise-cancelling headphones. You need to be able to hear yourself think.

2. Get some time away from home by yourself. Write at the library or a cafe. This is for your own sanity.

3. Get up early and write in the wee hours of the morning before everyone else gets up. Or,

4. Stay up late and write after everyone else goes to bed.

5. Nap time. 'Nuff said.

Maggie Stiefvater has a great post about writing/painting at home with small children:

And, good luck!

Maria said...

I don't have any ideal solutions; I usually end up writing way too late into the night, and then the next day, I can play fun games with the kids, like "climb all over mommy while she falls aleep on the floor."

Seriously, one thing that does work for me, is making them do more work. Like have them help clean up after breakfast instead of immediatly running off to play, and soon they will learn that mommy is not just for fun. I sometimes use a timer. for 20 minutes you have to play by yourselves and then I will play with you for 20 minutes and then 20 minutes we do some kind of work together. Then they get used to the idea of leaving me alone. If they interrupt me when I've asked to be left alone to work on writing, I tell them if I have to stop, I'll work on my "other work" (like laundry, or cleaning) and they can help me with those things. Or they can help me with writing, by playing on their own. They usually choose playing. Sometimes it works better than others, like anything in momhood.

Marisa Hopkins said...

You guys are all geniuses. And so very, very awesome! THANK YOU! :)

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