balancing motherhood and writing (part 2)

First, two items of business:

1. If you missed Part 1 of a 5-part Writing Series, read it here.

2. I loved, loved, loved reading your comments yesterday. Intriguing! Inspiring! EXACTLY the kind of stuff I love to read! Bless you!

Now. Moving right along. This isn’t going to be pretty. Consider yourself warned.

Today is NOT a good day to answer Joslyn‘s question–How do you balance the mom-guilt and your writing? (Megan and Lisa asked similar questions about making time to write when you’ve got small kiddos.)

In fact, I had pretty much determined to save this question for last (if I answered it at all). But I decided to suck it up.

My day (Monday) involved a lot of laundry, playing games/puzzles with Nina and reading blogs. And a bit of adult conversation with our singer friend, Jared, who was here brainstorming with Gabe. I worked on my Zoo Book for about three minutes.

At 3:55, I decided to “rest” for 15 minutes before the older two got home. This turned into 90 minutes of I’m-too-tired-to-get-off-this-bed-and-take-care-of-my-children. I barked orders, broke up fights, and bemoaned my pathetic life–all from a horizontal position. At 5:30, I forced myself out of bed to get ready for Ava’s soccer game. Grouchy, tired, irritated at everyone and everything.

I eventually snapped out of it, but man.

(Lisa also asked how much sleep I get each night. NOT ENOUGH. I’d say five to six hours on average.)

Soccer game until 7:30. Late supper. Bedtime routines. Skipped showers/baths. Read to the girls a little. Spent the past hour flipping between facebook and e-mail accomplishing nothing. Writing nothing.

Are you SURE you want me to answer this question for you?

I actually wrote a whole post on Finding Time to Write over at my website (where I originally planned to write about writing on a regular basis–ha!). Here’s a bit of what I wrote there:

I’ve learned to write in chunks, in snippets, in spurts. I have ideas for books scribbled everywhere–journals, scraps of paper, backs of receipts. And when the house is quiet (and sometimes when it’s not), I start pulling pieces together and putting them where I think they should go. I don’t write books from beginning to end. Each of my books is a result of (literally) thousands of bits of info sewn together over time.Β  Lots of filling in the cracks, adding missing parts, smoothing out transitions. Lots of rewriting, cutting, fixing until I’m happy with the result.

I’m always praying about (and often stressing over) finding the balance between my family and my writing (and everything else in my life that doesn’t fit into one of those two categories). Some days I think I’ve got it. Some days not. It’s definitely a daily discussion between God and me.

(Click here to read the whole post. I think you’ll find it helpful.)

The daily discussion between God and me? That’s the key. And the sad part? Sometimes (many times), I fail to make that discussion a priority. I jump right in, try to do it all, and I flop and flounder like a fish on concrete. (and make up really bad similes. or is it metaphors?)

I’ve got to abide by Matthew 6:33–But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. All these things I want to write and say and do? I need to seek God first, ask for His blessing, ask Him to show me what He wants my day to look like.

Many days I crave writing. I just want to write and write and write. Other days, I write through the pain. It just about kills me, but I do it anyway. And all the rest of the days? I say forget it. And read a book instead.

As far as spending time with my kids? The Zoo Thing was awesome. Lots and lots of family time. The older two are in school most of the day now, so I try to keep my afternoons and evenings free for playing games, soccer, nagging them to do their homework.

Nina and I run errands together, and she helps me with laundry, dishes and straightening the house–she loves it. I try to spend 15-20 minutes out of every hour playing games with her or reading. The rest of the time she watches (purely, strictly, completely educational) TV and movies or plays (purely, strictly, completely educational) games on my computer.

So, this post is a far cry from a complete answer, but it’s a mile long already, so…Β 

Here’s what I’d love to hear from you today:

1. Follow-up questions on the topic of balancing motherhood and writing (or any other questions about writing).

2. Tips you’d like to share for balancing motherhood and ANYTHING.

3. Your favorite topic to write about.

Tomorrow’s post–Getting Something Published. Have a great day, friends!

30 thoughts on “balancing motherhood and writing (part 2)

  1. Pingback: so, you wanna get a book published? | Marla Taviano

  2. Crissy

    I missed posting to this yesterday so, I am going to sneak it in today. Talk about balance, as I sit here trying to post this my 10 yr. old is sitting at the table trying to do a book report, (constant questions coming at me) my husband is ‘trying to help’ (bless him), and my 7 yr. old is asking for a snack and getting into…well I don’t want to know.


    Balancing motherhood and everything else that we have on our plates is always an issue. My biggest and most important weapon to fight for balance is GOD! I would be a hot mess without Him guiding me through my days!

    I am currently trying to finish my degree in psychology. There have been many times that I have had to simply make ‘my stuff’ a priority. With that said, there have been times I have turned on a movie and let the TV babysit my kids while I worked. (Shocking) I will also let my kids know that I am working and cannot talk with them at the moment. They have begun to understand that mommy has other things in her life, besides being the best mom in the world, that she needs to do. They have become supportive of my efforts to finish school, write, and help others.

    I know my kids are on the older side of childhood (preteen scary!!), but I started making time for things that I enjoy when they were much smaller. A wise friend (who has 5 kids of her own) once told me that her kids do not define her. Her statement was one that I needed to hear at that time in my life. I have a son who has some challenges (chemical imbalances, ADD and other issues too) and I had begun to let my children define who I am. I LOVE being a mom however, this is not all God created me for! I realize how important it is for me to make time for the things I enjoy, the things that God has given me a passion for, and have found this helps my kids see me as more than just their mom!

    I could go on, but I still need to get a post on my own blog today! πŸ˜‰

  3. Jonna

    Marla and Kyla, That is too funny that you BOTH remembered the “incident”. I will let you two hash out who gets to claim the mastermind ribbon for that one ; )~ All is forgiven…. and I’m sure that Greg looks down from above smiling at the both of you.


  4. Joslyn

    Thank you for answering my question, I am a SAHM and I feel so very blessed to be able to raise my children. My oldest is in school right now, I just have my two girls at home. I feel that right now God is leading me to just be with my kids, to raise them the best way I can. I do take the time to do NanoWrimo every year, which I do at night and in the early morning, not to healthy but I get it done lol! My husband is all about me getting a “real job” as soon as my youngest is in school full time. I don’t want to, because I don’t want to have to use daycare (after school/before school/summers!) and we don’t have any family around that could really watch them. He basically put it on me that I need to figure out a way to make money writing while I’m at home with my baby. So that’s about five years to figure that out. I’m praying and keeping my fingers crossed. I feel like things will fall into place, some how, some way.

    I find that I get way to fixated on things and then nothing gets done. The 15 minute rule (i really think rule is not the right word) is great. I really struggle with balancing everything in my life, something I pray about often.

  5. Mindy May

    Thank you so much for this series!!! I am loving it. I enjoy writing (just like you) and I love that writing is incorporated in your life. Sometimes when you want something so badly you can let it dominate your life. It is funny that this was your topic today because I am watching a Dr. Phil episode right now that about a mother who wanted to be a writer and write a book. She gave up custody of her children to the father and moved 2000 miles away. She believes that her choice was not a selfish one. I don’t agree but I am not in her shoes.
    But it seems that you try with all your might to balance each one. Thank you for your honesty!

  6. Jody hedlund

    I love your honesty, Marla! Balancing writing and family responsibilities is incredibly challenging! But at the recent conference I attended, the key note speaker said that through our writing we can inspire our children to follow their dreams. I’m beginning to accept that my writing will make my family life less than perfect, but it wasn’t perfect before either! And in fact, perhaps my writing can enrich my family life in a new way!

  7. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    “Spent the past hour flipping between facebook and e-mail accomplishing nothing. Writing nothing.”

    We are cut from the same cloth, sister. And the whole Kingdom of God NOT Kingdom of Megan thing first? YEAH. Been hearing a LOT of that from Him lately.

    Thanks for this. For real. Helpful to know what day-to-day looks like in your home. It’s not a whole lot different from mine. Except I bet you don’t have panic attacks with every deadline.

  8. Lisa H

    I just remembered something I heard Lysa TerKeurst say recently. She was talking about writing even when you don’t feel like it and “banking up” your words/writing.

    One weekend she found herself in a situation where she needed to write about 30,000 words in two days. She knew that was nearly impossible, but she went to her writing bank and pieced together almost all the words she needed to make her deadline.

    I’m struggling with this whole thing about writing when I don’t feel like it. Some days I feel very inspired, but I don’t always sit down and write out the ideas that are swimming in my head. I am thinking maybe I need to just make a 15 minute rule and decide that no matter what I am going to write for at least 15 minutes a day.

  9. Mary

    Hm…I don’t have anything deep to say about balancing writing with other things. But I have enjoyed your posts so far! Just hate that I might maybe possibly (ok I DO) fall into the category where I just want to get an agent, be published, and famous πŸ™‚

    And my career will probably really take off after you write your “Having a Baby” book, starring me in labor.

    What are you going to do if I really DO call you from the hospital??? πŸ™‚

  10. Mandy

    About the sleep thing: actually I succeed about 50% of the time and 80% is my new goal. Don’t know where my brain was when I wrote that.

  11. Mandy

    1) How do you balance reading and writing? I mean, I love to read and I love to write. When I learn something from reading, I want to share it in writing. But I also don’t want to just write what’s already been written. And don’t want to start writing like all my favorite authors. Is it best to stop reading when it’s time to be writing or can a person do both in the same day without the reading invading the writing too much?

    2) Tips: Well, my best tip just came from the book Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The lie is, “I don’t have time to do everything I need to do!” or something close to that. The truth is: “I have time to do everything God wants me to be doing.” This has comforted me, because I find that if I take time every morning to just say, “God, this day is your day. Please help me do what you want me to do today,” my day goes more smoothly. Instead of worrying about something I think I should be doing (“shoulds” are killer), I say, “God, if you want me to do this thing, please give me the time to do it.” Obviously, planning and scheduling are very helpful tools and it’s great to be organized, but God’s got to come first. I try to have a routine and schedule for each day, but being available to do what God wants should always override everything else. And, as someone else posted, having my priorities straight is so important: God first, husband and kids (I have to keep reminding myself that my primary job during the day is to take care of my kids), and then other relationships, ministry, etc. Finally, I say GET SOME SLEEP! This may seem impossible, but it’s oh so important. If I let myself go in the sleep area, everything else goes downhill. I try to discipline myself to get 8 hours of sleep each night. I think I succeed about 80% of the time, but I’m working on getting better. BTW, I have two boys: a four-year-old and a 15-month-old. I am home with them full time and and home preschooling my older son.

    3) My favorite topic to write about is probably relationships – God’s lessons on relationships.

  12. whimzie

    I would like to re-write the second sentence of the second paragraph, please. “I have to use a timer; set small, attainable goals; and plan my day or I will get to the end of it with nothing productive to show.”

  13. whimzie

    I struggle daily with balance. I’m trying to do a couple of work-from-home projects and I’m realizing that I’m doing a million little things and I’m not doing any of them well. I’m also noticing that the less free time I have, the more I seem to waste time that I really need for projects.

    I’m discovering that I have to set boundaries for myself. I have to use a timer, set small, attainable goals, and plan my day or I will get to the end of it with nothing productive to show.

    I also have to remind myself that God blessed me with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. I promised Him that I would take that role as seriously as I would any career outside the home. I fall short and have to be reminded of that promise on a daily basis.

    Thanks for the peek inside your life, Marla.

  14. Lisa H

    Thanks for your honesty and for your willingness to talk about this even though you didn’t want to πŸ™‚

    What you said about spending 15 minutes with Nina per hour was gold to me. I have had lots of guilt lately about not playing enough with my 3yo while my 6yo is at school. I can do 15 minute chunks though. That is very do-able.

    For me balance is all about keeping my priorities straight (like you were saying), which isn’t always easy. I’m passionate about good health and my time with God, so on the days when I get up and exercise and spend good time with God before anything else, I’m much happier throughout the day. For me the balance between body, mind, and spirit is key.

    Writing is very important to me, but right now it seems to be on the bottom of the priority list. I’m trying to strip away some other non-essentials to make more time for writing. It’s hard, but I’m having to say NO to a lot of GOOD things to make room for the BEST things.

    My favorite topics to write about are faith, family, and good health. I’m working on a new blog totally devoted to my journey to better health. I love to write about whatever God is teaching me–how He is convicting me and pruning me to mold and make me more like Jesus. You know–how He kicks my tail big time!

  15. Missy

    I know you’re posting specific to writing and I don’t want to distract from that, BUT, your post applies to all that is the motherhood/rest of life balance! For me, the key really is being cognizant (I know you like fun words) of God and what He would have me to do throughout the day.

    I’m doing the Beth Moore/Priscilla Shirer/Kay Arthur study, Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed. Right now I’m in the “Anointed” part of it. Literally, in last night’s homework, Priscilla talks about what you just posted on. She uses examples from the life of David, and in this case, David’s first priority as king to get the Ark back to Israel as an example, and writes, “Although no physical chest must sit in the center of our homes or cities to indicate God’s presence, we must each make a personal decision to restore the centrality of God’s presence and authority in the epicenter of our lives. We are the modern-day tabernacles in which God’s presence dwells. We must centralize His authority in the practical rhythms of our lives.” She then asks you to list five things you need to decide/do this week, what our first response would be in those situation, and what a God-aware response would be. She challenges that those things can be little or small things. Ouch. Or at least, for me it was!

    It definitely is a challenge to be aware of God and what He desires me to do on a moment to moment basis. Thanks for the post!

  16. Kyla

    I don’t really have any valuable tips for balancing motherhood and writing. I usually get seventeen juicy seconds with a Word document before I have to stop and say something like “We don’t drive cars on baby brother!” and then I stop. I like to write about funny things related to being a female/mom, like weight issues and pregnancy and spiraling into madness–er, being a SAHM. I feel very inspired now that I’ve read this blog (and Part One). Thanks, Marla!

  17. Rachel

    I’m working on the “balance thing.” What works best right now: writing/blogging/facebook/laundry(?) before the little one wakes up, during her “room time,” naptime, and bedtime. If she stops taking a nap, I don’t know what I’ll do… πŸ™‚

  18. Conny

    I am here & reading … I missed commenting yesterday – but I am a writer-wanna-be. I write in my head all the time – fiction, non-fiction, snippets of lessons learned, conversations with God – but sometimes I sit down to write & I am BLANK. How do you get what is in the head down on paper?? Or maybe it’s my short-term memory problem!?
    For now, I blog a little, journal a little, but share very little yet. I say I write for myself but feedback is nice.
    Because I want to live my life by the principles of serving God first, my family second (husband, then children), and then pursuing my own stuff, I am interested to hear more tips on balancing writing (hobbys/interests) with family. Thank you !!

  19. Marla Taviano

    Kimberly–please don’t EVER feel bad about commenting. Your suggestion was brilliant. My BIL actually bought me one of those, and I rarely use it. Time to get it out!!

    Jonna–I love you, dear cousin. And please forgive me for writing “Jonna Loves Greg” in fudge on your bedroom walls. You are brilliant and gifted. Just WRITE whatever God lays on your heart. He will tell you what to do with it.

    Gail–I remember that interview. Good stuff. It’s such a personal decision–what God wants for YOUR family. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Gail

    Earlier this year, I interviewed author Deborah Raney on my blog (if you’re interested, you’ll find it here:

    This bit of her answers was pertinent to our conversation here…
    “I know enough full-time moms of young children, who are also successful writers, to not say that it can’t be done. But in my own experience, I couldn’t pursue writing until my kids were in school full-time. I began writing as a way to continue to stay home with our toddler when I also needed to be making money to put our older children through college. So for the first 2-3 years I was writing, I had a child at home full-time. I wrote when I could (during naps and after the kids were all in bed) and when the kids came home from school, they entertained and babysat their sister so I could catch up on housework or laundry or grocery shopping. Also, one day a week, I traded babysitting with a neighbor. This actually gave me two days a week to concentrate on writing––one when our daughter was at my neighbor’s, and the other when the little neighbor boy was at our house keeping my daughter entertained. But I honestly don’t think I could have sustained that kind of schedule for very many years. Once all four of the kids were in school, it became much easier to make school hours writing hours, to schedule my contract deadlines so my summers were free, and to occasionally go away for a writing weekend to finish a book away from the hubbub of family life.

    “Only you can know how such a schedule would work for your personality and your family, but my “stock” advice to aspiring writers who have small children at home is: WAIT. At the very least, wait until they’re all in school (or school age, if you home school). They’ll grow up before you know it, and then you’ll have all the time in the world to pursue your writing dream. …”

  21. joyce

    I think it is the need to juggle and find balance as well as purpose in my life that draws me to God at the start of a day….life is unpredictable and those off kilter days remind me of my need for Him…I think if my life just chugged along beautifully every day I’d be tempted to try to run it all on my own. Course there are days I try to do that anyway but it normally doesn’t work so well for me : )

  22. Kimberly

    I’m not a mom so I feel bad commenting, but something I do at work might help in the same way. We used to dictate our reports to secretaries way back when. (now everyone types their own) Anyway, back in the day I learned to carry my dictaphone (just a little tape recorder) in my pocket. I’d talk as I walked, cleaned up, any time I thought of something. I’ve kept that habit with the recorder on my phone. When I get an idea I want to write about (or an errand I don’t want to forget got that matter) I record it. Then later I pull out the computer and just type it up. Supposedly the phone even sends it to a word document but I can never get that to work. The point is documenting it when I think if it, without stopping what I’m doing.

  23. Jonna

    I wanted to let you know that I am completely inspired by you. I remember the pigtail days o cousin of mine. I used to love to write, it was my outlet for every emotion and I found it cathartic. I truly believe in my heart that I am to pour my soul into writing… but I have no idea what I’m supposed to write about. Where do I begin? How will it end? What if I get stuck? And, all the while listening to doubt and saying to myself “what in the world would you have to offer… I mean really… who would want to read anything YOU wrote”. You have given me the permission to not have all of the answers and have challenged me in my walk with God. I thank you for this. I am currently juggling my schooling, home schooling one of my kids, candle and jewelry making and wondering where I will fit writing in between loads of dishes or laundry. You are a true blessing!

  24. Emily Kay

    Hmmm…I got nothing. πŸ™‚ I pretty much suck at balancing much of anything these days. I blame it on having not slept through the night in at least 7 months, but really it’s probably more reflective of my walk with God than anything else. My husband is happy and well-fed and the house is semi-clean but I yell at my munchkins too much and anytime I feel overwhelmed I sit down in front of my computer. So I think your tip about daily discussion with God is SPOT ON. Without that relationship, everything else tends to fall apart. I know what you mean about flopping and floundering…lately I feel like that nearly every day.

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