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Summertime Management for Writing Moms

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It’s that time of the year again, when kids are out of school, the days are long and warm, and afternoons by the pool are the norm. I wish!!! In actuality, the kids are out of school, the fighting has commenced, and I’m struggling to write and work with two children underfoot. Afternoons by the pool are few and far between, and I find myself wishing I had the money to hire a nanny.

Unlike a lot of moms, I dread the summer holidays from school. Not because I don’t love my children, but because now I must accomplish everything I did during the school year, only now I must stop every 20 minutes to mediate the newest argument or answer endless questions about a video game I’ve never played. Sound familiar? I’ve been brainstorming some solutions that I hope will keep me (and you) sane while we try to continue writing this summer.

1. Set up a daily schedule.

I know, this is summertime, why do we want a schedule, but trust me, having one just might save your sanity. I’m not talking about a super rigid, watching-every-second-on-the-clock type schedule, but a more fluid style that allows for flexibility within the parameters. This will allow the kids to know what’s coming up, and not wake up looking at a full day with nothing to do (boredom) and searching for ways to fill the hours (mischief).

For instance, I joined a gym during the school year, so this summer we’ll be trecking there every day. That gives me a set time to get up and get everyone ready to leave the house, instead of hours of television before noon. I’m planning to encourage the kids to play outside in the cooler mornings (which they enjoy, so that shouldn’t be too hard), then allow television and video games in the heat of the afternoon (sorry, I’m not one of those moms who keeps ultra-close tabs on how long her kids watch television every day). I’ve maintained a ‘siesta’ of sorts since my kids were babies. Though they’ve outgrown naps, I still require us all to lay in the bed and read for an hour every afternoon. Not only does that get some summer reading in, but we all get a break from each other for a while (and Mommy gets a few minutes of peace and quiet).

2. Day Camps/Lessons

Keeping the kids from getting bored is a big problem during the summer. Not because I think kids should be entertained 24/7, but because too many days of boredom in a row leads to endless fighting between siblings (something I hate with a passion). One help for that is summer activities. I can’t afford for mine to go all summer, but I try to schedule something here and there for us to do outside of the house. A couple of summers they took a week’s worth of swim lessons, one summer it was a week of soccer camp, my daughter usually goes to a week of day camp with Girl Scouts, that type of thing. The local library offers summer reading activities. There is also a local Science Museum for kids that offers morning classes on different fun science projects and activities. One every couple of weeks gives them something interesting to look forward to. And gives me a morning to write without interruption.

3. Free Activities Away from Home

Speaking of writing time, I’ve learned from the time my kids were born to make use of every opportunity I had. I get lazy about that during the school year, but the lesson is driven back home in the summertime. Another way to combine writing time with entertaining the kids is to find places that will occupy them, get them out of the house, where I can sit on the sidelines and write. If you have a local park, that’s always a good one. We don’t have one nearby, but there is one about 30 minutes away, so I try to make the occasional trip over there for something different. It has only 1 entry/exit, so I station myself nearby and send the kids off to play while I hit the laptop for a bit. Chuck E Cheeses or McDonalds play places work for smaller kids (I’ve learned to tune out the noise, for the most part). Older kids could be let loose at the mall or movie theater while you chill at the food court or coffee shop with a notebook. And bookstores are great for all ages.

4. Babysitting on a Budget

I’d dearly love to have a babysitter several days a week during the summer, but it just isn’t affordable or practical. Instead, I’ve gotten creative to find ways around it. For instance, my sister and I Kid Swap during the summer. Every Thursday, 1 of us takes both of our kids from 9:30am to 4:30pm, giving the other one a full day to themselves. The next week, we swap. Thus every other week, I’m free for a day, my kids get other children to play with, and it doesn’t cost either of us anything. And I find my kids are actually easier to handle on the days we have company, because they have someone to occupy them besides me. :)

Another option would be to pool your resources. This summer, several of us are planning to meet at one house and hire a babysitter to keep all the children (4-6) for the day while we hightail it to a local bookstore to hunker down with our laptops. We already meet like this while the kids are in school (we call it Write Out) and know it can be productive. It also motivates us to write at other times during the week and we want to keep our productivity from slacking during the summer. This requires us to only find 1 sitter, and she gets paid handsomely for watching over kids who are basically playing together. It’s a win-win.

5. That’s What Grandparents Are For

It just so happens that this will be the first year that both my children will spend a week with my family several states away. My daughter has gone for several years now, but my son is only just now old enough. This is wonderful, and I’m indebted to my mother for offering, but I realize it isn’t an option for everyone. Grandparents are wonderful, but not always willing to take on this big a task.

That doesn’t mean getting their help is totally out of the question. We also have grandparents who live in town, and while they can’t keep my children for a week because of living arrangements, they can have them over. Consider asking grandparents if they could keep the children one day a week, or if they could plan 2 mini-vacations during the summer where the children spend 2-3 days with them. Scheduled ahead of time instead of last minute planning will allow you to place these strategically where they would be the most help, and give your children the chance to spend some true quality time with grandparents. It doesn’t hurt to ask.  :)

These are just some options to help make your summer (and mine) a bit easier on the whole family, and friendly to your writing goals. But my biggest advice (to you and to me) is to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that might come your way. That unexpected call from a friend inviting the kids over for the afternoon could put you 10 pages ahead of your summer goals. Also, keep a running total of your progress on a calendar. This will keep you aware of how much you are writing/not writing, and you will get to the end of the summer with some great things accomplished, instead of wondering where all the time went.

Do you have any suggestions for Summer Kid Patrol? Or keeping the kids from fighting, because I could always use the help!  :)

38 Responses to “Summertime Management for Writing Moms”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    LOL, Danielle…with two young kids of my own, and a desperate yen to get SERIOUS WRITING done this summer, I definitely face this dilemma. I’m a teacher, and my job eats me alive during the school year, summers are totally make-or-break.

    My son is five (almost six) and a wild monkey climber, so even when he’s not bugging me or squabbling with his sister, some part of my attention is always jolting over to “Where is he now? How high off the ground is he? Is that him laughing, or calling for help?”

    Where we live, summer day camps are definitely the norm for kids, and I just dropped a thousand dollars I can’t really afford so my monkey boy can do some well-supervised climbing (and running and jumping and swimming) for at least a few weeks this summer.

    Then I can finish the writing I need to finish, and spend the rest of the summer with my little guy at the beach or the pool or on our bikes and not be seething with frustration.

    Good luck to us all!!

    • Its amazing how unbelievably expensive summer camps can be! If it weren’t for inlaws, mine wouldn’t get to go.

      Climber, huh? That’s a tough one (that luckily I’ve never had to deal with). I know it isn’t much, but maybe the rest time would help. REading for an hour (when you know he’s confined to his room and can’t get hurt) would give you a bit of time. My only other suggestion is to make the most of any TV/computer time, etc. Save it for when you most want to write, then write like the wind while he’s occupied. (Then again, TV time doesn’t bother me like it does other parents. I don’t let them do it all day, but we probably watch more than others.)

  2. Hi, Danielle. I’m not a mum but I really appreciate your advice on scheduling. My life’s is the craziest it’s ever been and I think I seriously have to break down my time and schedule tasks in, otherwise I might have a breakdown myself!

    Good luck to all the parents here over summer!

    • The scheduling thing is actually working well. We don’t stick to it every day (especially if its a busy day), but it gives a loose structure where the kids aren’t bored all day long. Instead of being tightly timed, it is more a flow thing. We do this, then this, etc. Before lunch, we do chores or pick up the house. After lunch we have reading time. Then free time until later in the afternoon.

      I also have priority to my own schedule. I do any pressing work for my clients first, then I alternate other work with writing projects until dinner. After dinner, I can write or read or whatever.

      Like I said, not strict, but it is helping.

  3. Piper Evyns says:

    Great post. This is exactly what I’d been stressing about the last few weeks. It’s hard to balance writing with giving the kids a fun and memorable summer. It is their vacation, and it sucks for them to spend it all in the house.

    I try to take the kids camping as much as I can. It doesn’t cost much to go to a provincial park, and the kids can run around our camp site all day while I write. (mind you I do spend a lot of time untangling fishing line from trees when they practice casting)

    In my parents town, there is a college that offers art classes for kids in the summer (ages 5 and up) that range from drawing, to cooking, to drama to jewelry making. One of the cutest ones is Wizardry, the kids make their wands, cloaks and other magical themed crafts, and practice spells. The room is set up to look like Hogwarts and the kids have a blast. I’m sure a lot of community centers have similar programs.

    • You’re a brave woman, Piper! Camping is so not my thing. :) But going to the park is kind of like that. I write while they play, stopping every 15 minutes or so to check on them and solve any disputes. We eat a picnic lunch, etc. Not my most productive time, but I’m getting more done than if we were home and they were bored (i.e. complaining, arguing, bugging me, etc).

  4. I sort of forgot it was summertime. My kids are grown and the weather here looks more like the tail end of winter.

    I didn’t start writing until my daughter had left home and my son was sixteen. I’m not sure how I’d have juggled writing with motherhood. I often wish I’d started sooner so maybe I’d be established now instead of feeling like I’m starting a new career at my age. But the kids might not have survived.

    • When I first joined my local RWA chapter, I was the only member with a child under school age (my oldest child was 2 at the time). Only 1 other member had school age children, and the rest had waited until their children graduated before they started writing. It wasn’t until the next year that others joined who had small kids like me (and we’ve bonded, let me tell ya).

      It is difficult, but I hope I’m showing my children that if you really want something, hard work is the way to go. I’ve learned how to keep the guilt at bay, and strategies for balancing home and writing and work (though I falter more often than not). I just do the best I can, and pray I’m not scarring them emotionally with my attempts (in all aspects, not just writing). :)

  5. Hope Ramsay says:

    Well my kids are all grown up, but I still have children I have to manage — they are called clients. :)

    I have a service-based small business and let me tell you working on a writing deadline while juggling client work is really interesting. Making a daily schedule and prioritizing deadlines is absolutely essential. And I have to force myself not to feel guilty about making time for the writing, especially now that I’ve sold and have professional writing deadlines in addition to client deadlines.

    While I have not let most of my clients know about my writing career–(clients want to think that you are devoting all your time to them, personally — sort of like kids)–I do believe that being honest with one’s editor and one’s clients with respect to deadlines is absolutely essential. Always underpromise and over deliver, has been my motto for many years.

    Unfortunately, my clients don’t have grandparents who can babysit them. However I do have a couple of wonderful employees who keep the balls in the air for me, every time I miss a step. I could not survive without them.

    • I’m in a similar boat, Hope, as I run a part-time resume writing service. At first, I prided on being able to have a quick turnaround, something not offered in my area. I’ve since learned to tack a couple of days onto my projected deadlines. If I deliver early, great. If someone gets sick or I have an emergency, I have ample time to work in. And I’m still the fastest in the area. :)

  6. My kids are grown too and I wasn’t writing when they were small. Had I been, these would have been great suggestions for carving out writing time. I never had family in town though, so that’s a big plus for you.

  7. Elise Hayes says:

    I love the idea of swapping kids once a week. I have a friend nearby with kids who are near my daughter’s age…hmm….that might work!

    The one good thing about a shortage of time is that it makes me laser-beam focused on actually getting writing done during my writing time. No dawdling on the internet–just straight to my story, butt in chair and fingers on keyboard.

    Good luck fitting it all in this summer, Danniele!

    • Try it, Elise! It never hurts to ask. :)

      You know, I’ve found I’ve lost a lot of that laser focus this year. My youngest started kindergarten, so I’ve had the days child-free. Amazing how much time you can waste when you don’t worry as much about it! Sigh. I need to regain that.

  8. Shea Berkley says:

    This is a wonderful post, Danielle! I wrote when my kids were small, but not for publication. I just needed the outlet. When my fourth daughter arrived, I put her in a swing near my desk or in one of those bouncy chairs and I’d push it with my foot while I typed. When you’re a mom, you become a multitasker. (grin)

    I think it’s important to teach kids about our writing time. I never wrote when they needed supervision, so it was naptime writing. When they grew out of naps around two-years-old, I put them in their rooms for breaktime where they could play quietly or I’d have them watch a movie nearby.

    But my kids always come first. I made it clear that writng is my job, and that it’s important to me, but that when it comes to the end of the day, they are the ones who get the lionshare of my time.

    • Piper Evyns says:

      I used to write while my youngest nursed. (which he did until he was 18 months, and almost constantly since he never took a bottle or a soother.) It was killer on my back, but the only way I could get anything done. Mother’s really are the masters of multi-tasking.

  9. rita says:

    I am in awe of those that have children and a job outside the home and still find time to write. Amazing. If I get distracted, it takes forever to get back on track. Ugh! My children are grown but still remember summer wild times. I also had a siesta time after lunch. It was their time to get required reading in and my time to recharge in peace. My four could not talk to one another during that time. I didn’t care where they spent the hour. They had to remain within feet of the chosen area. It was sometime in a tree, the basement, a cardboard box, whatever -just give me peace. When mine were little we were so broke we couldn’t pay attention. Free was always good. The library frequently had programs and in those days there were free city programs. We did crazy crafts one a week. I remember one was paper making. we saved all those card inserts from magazines, soaked them and put it in a blender I got from the thrift store. The mess was pressed through a piece of screen and then flattened with old rolling pins until thin. Once dry the little buggers had to write a letter to someone using it. Lord what a mess. The fighting thing ended when I made them give each other kisses. I thought they were fighting because they needed love and attention-grin- from the person they were fighting with so they had to hug and give kisses. I think they would have preferred to be stabbed than do that. Got so all I had to do was say “Do you need some attention.” That seemed to snap them out of it.
    But times have changed.

    • Love the kisses thing, Rita!!! I’m definitely going to try that. My youngest probably won’t care (he’s 5 and still a cuddler) but the oldest is 10 (a girl, and usually the instigator of the problems) and she will not like that at all! Thanks!

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Wow, Danniele–I didn’t realize we had kids the same age, and same genders! My daughter’s 10 and my son’s in kindergarten. Do you have anybody in between? (I don’t–just the two). It *is* quite the combo: my daughter’s adolescent-intense already and my son’s still capable of a good toddlerish temper tantrum when he feels like it. The screaming matches can get VERY dramatic.

        • How cool, Elisa!!! Yep, my daughter is quite the intense one–we nicknamed her Drama Queen at an early age. The youngest doesn’t have tantrums much, but goes for crying instead. Sigh. The thing is, my son is perfectly content playing alone, doing his own thing for the most part. She can’t stand that–she’s a people person and wants him to play with her. He’d happily do it, except she only wants to play what SHE wants, not anyone else. Down to scripting any role playing they do. He’s easy going, but not that easy going. Fighting ensues. Heaven help me!

          We will make it through this, won’t we? :)

          • Forgot to say, no more in between. I had a miscarriage when the oldest was 2. My son was a last chance baby. :) We gave it one more try (after years of trying and 3 miscarriages). Both my kids are miracles. :)

    • Diana Layne says:

      I used to do the making them hug and kiss each other with my older boys too–wow, they hated that, lol. Often I found tho, when they were fighting a lot, they did need my attention. My youngest two fight more than all my older four did b/c now, it seems like I have even less time. I’m not sure how that happened….

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I love that strategy, Rita! My little guy would love it, actually–he wishes his sister let him cuddle up with her more. But my daughter would protest from the very depths of her soul.

  10. Beth Langston says:

    I have two teen daughters–3.5 years apart. No issues now but when they were smaller, we had the “summer choreography.”

    One year, when DD1 was 15 and DD2 was 11, we had “Camp Sisterly Love” (their name for it.) DD1 was paid $50 a week (plus some expense money) to plan activities for little sister. We had a contract with DD1 to ensure we weren’t giving $50 in exchange for yelling “shut up” for 5 days. DD2 was given incentives to cooperate as well. Turns out–the parents were overly cautious, because the girls had a great time together and did it the following year as well.

  11. Ain’t it the truth, Danniele. I used to stop writing in the summer. Now I just get up really early and try to sneak some hours in before it’s crazy. Good luck, parents!!

    • Um, not happening. I’ll admit, the one thing I won’t give up for writing is sleep. I don’t function well without 8 hours. And in order to cope with everything else, I MUST have that sleep. I used to think I was just lazy. Now I realize I’m just one of those people that need it, unlike my oldest daughter, who doesn’t need as much as the rest of us (unfortunately).

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        8 hours…I’d kill for 8 hours! My usual is six, and that’s not counting all the time lost when the cat or the dog or the 5-year-old wake me up during the night (each does it at least once nightly, often requiring me to actually get out of bed for some reason). I think maybe I can write only because my brain is half-stuck in dream-mode all day.

        • We will have times when the kids start getting up again at night. I can take it for a few nights, then I tell them–ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WAKE ME UP TONIGHT. If you need something, wake up your father.

          That puts an end to it really quick. Why will they wake up mom so readily, but heaven forbid they should disturb dad? I’ve never been so happy as when my youngest finally started sleeping at night. That’s one reason I refused to have any more children. :) I simply couldn’t go back to Zombie Days.

  12. Liz Talley says:

    Great tips, Danielle. And, sister, I’m in the choir with you. They are driving me bananas and we just had a shouting match all the way home from swim team practice.

    Honestly, I’ve been going to bed early and getting up early to write. Currently, after yelling at them for a good ten minutes about being spoiled-rotten and self-absorbed, they are in their rooms “reading.” Snort. But they’re not bothering me. Yet.

    Thanks for the ideas!

    • What is it about the car? I can’t tell you how many lectures my kids get in the car! And the fussing on the way home from school was the worst (and the most dreaded part of my day). We finally had to institute a no talking rule in the car.

      “Spoiled-rotten and self-absorbed”? I know that diatribe well. :) Just breathe, sister! This too shall pass… hopfully before we strangle them.

      One of the things I’ve found also works well with fighting is to say, “If you are this grumpy, you obviously need more sleep. Must be time for a nap (or early bedtime).” But you have to follow through. If they don’t stop fighting or crying, put them to bed. Or take away 1/2 hour at night so they go to bed early. They get extra sleep AND you get peace and quiet. :)

  13. Laurie Kellogg says:

    What I did when my children were off from school for the summer was to designate two hours each day in which they were not to bother me except if someone was bleeding. I’d make sure no one needed anything beforehand and then I set a timer so they would know when quiet time was over.

    The kids learned very quickly to respect MY TIME, because if they fought or disturbed my peace with trivial interruptions, I found jobs for them to do. If they didn’t want to play quietly, they could work around the house.

    This ME TIME was really good for them because they learned how to amuse themselves and get along without a referee.

    I also traded play dates with their friends’ parents, so one or two days a week they would be at their friends houses for several hours.

  14. Tina Joyce says:

    Great ideas, Danniele, and boy do I need them! Fingers crossed that the two I have left at home (one is all grown up) will find LOTS to do this summer besides hang around the house.

  15. Darynda Jones says:

    I am SOOOO working on the daily schedule thing. But now I”M the grandma. Foregoing writing to watch the baby is just too much fun. Seriously, I might need an intervention.

    Great post, Danniele!

    • Dontcha just want to wake ‘em up?

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Aww on the grand-baby time!! You may need to schedule Writing Time instead of Reading Time for yourself, and enforce it strictly. (Oh, but just thinking about it I’m smelling that new-baby smell…you know, the delicious top of the head fragrance!! Pass him over here!!)

    • Laurie Kellogg says:

      I’m with you on that one, Darynda. I have Sammy three days a week, and I’d much rather play with him than write.

    • Going through the same deal right now. I think we realize how quickly they grow and move on.

      Great advice. WIth the baby in the house, I’m learning all over again to use the bits of time. I wonder how I accomplished all I did with four at home.

      Baby calling….

  16. Jenna says:

    Yay! I’m so happy I found your blog (#2 in a Google search for “summer time management”). This has been very helpful and I look forward to reading some of your other blog entries too! :)

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