A Writing Mom’s Summer Survival Guide
I have a love-hate relationship with summer. Everything about it wears me out. If I’m not shuttling the kids back and forth to camps, then I’m sitting in a pool of my own sweat, waiting for them to finish their swim lessons. Like this past week. Have you guys heard about the 100-plus temps down here in Texas? Yeah, I change my clothes (including my underwear and bra) at least three times a day. And if it’s not the scorching Texas heat draining my shallow pool of energy, it’s my dear 7-year-old telling me for the 100th time that he’s bored. (Yes, mom, I know I whined about that, too, when I was Ian’s age. I get it. Paybacks are hell.) Or my sweet 3-year-old soiling his shorts. At swim lessons. In the 100-degree heat. Without wipes. And have I mentioned that my husband travels?
All the above not only punches holes in my sanity, but it all throws a very heavy, oily wrench in my writing schedule, which during the summer, is hardly a schedule at all. And nothing gets me in a worse mood than to have my writing time sucked away. Seriously. Writing is so much a part of me that it literally has the power to shape my mood. Speed through a thousand words on my WIP? Mama’s skipping around with the energy of 10 women. Blocked on a blog post? Then I advise you to get out of my way and just leave me to stew in my own disgust and angst.
But that’s not my kids’ fault – or their problem. It’s mine and I’m willing to own it. I choose to write. I also choose to work for myself from home. And I choose not to allow the craziness of summer get the best of me. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been toying with some ways to help make my life easier. And since many of you are also parents, I figured I’d share them with you, too.
Set Realistic Expectations
I have approximately two hours most mornings to write, blog, Tweet, post on Facebook and promote LITTLE 15, which are all necessary tasks for building my platform as an author. The first few weeks of summer I nearly exhausted myself trying to do it all. So here’s what I decided: less is more. I will focus on blogging and social media, and start fresh on my next novel in the fall. That’s still a lot to chew – and some days I might not get to any of it. But at least I’m still writing and maintaining my presence. And I’d rather do that than nothing at all.
Go Easy on Yourself
I just did. And I feel so much better. So cut yourself some slack. If I can do it, so can you. Life is just too damn short to spend all balled up.
Keep It Simple
I’m an over-achiever, which if I’m not careful, can easily translate over to my kids and their schedules. I’ve realized that it’s OK to have down time, or even a day when nothing’s planned. I have found, though, that I do better (as do my kids) if we have at least one activity per day. Two is sometimes pushing it. So don’t go all out trying to schedule every minute of every day. That’s just crazy. Additionally, make sure your kids have some free time and/or quiet time scheduled into their day. We have quiet time every afternoon – for my sanity and theirs.
Get Plenty of Rest
People who can get by with 4-5 hours of sleep simply amaze me. My body just can’t do that. If I don’t get at least 7-8 hours of shut eye every night, then this mama bear comes out growling. For the sake of myself – and my family – I always try to put myself to bed at a reasonable hour. That means no staying up late to write. Period. I’ve tried it and for some reason, I’m just not wired that way. Plus, I prefer writing early in the morning when my brain is fresh. But this summer you won’t catch me doing that either, because …
This is non-negotiable in my book. We all know the benefits of getting our heart pumping, so I won’t go into it here. But I will say this: it’s important that you carve out time for some huffing and puffing. I don’t care what it is – walking, running, yoga, roller skating, skateboarding swimming, etc. For me it’s biking. Around 6:15 nearly every morning, I force my butt out of bed to go ride it like I stole it. That’s right. For 45 minutes I pretend I’m Lance Armstrong with a vagina. Some mornings I go 10 miles. Other mornings it’s seven. I stopped counting a long time ago. All I know is that exercise gives me energy – and balances my mood.
Make More Time
For Sex With Your Spouse or Significant Other
Seriously. A regular
romp in the sack date with your spouse will do wonders for your marriage and your nerves – especially when life with kids gets intense. And trust me, it will get intense. Just ask the Bead Lady, Carolyn Evans, who created the Forty Beads Method for spicing up her marriage. And you don’t need me to remind you about the benefits of sex spending time together. (Breath, mom. It’s OK. I’ve been happily married for more than 13 years now, so I know what I’m doing.) What’s more, according to Women’s Health, a marriage that included regular humping date nights was figured to bring the same levels of happiness as earning an extra $100,000 annually. Cha-ching!
Now that I really got your attention, let’s keep going …
Let Your Kids See You Work
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling your kids that you need a few minutes of work time. In fact, you are setting a great example of using your talents and gifts, which helps give them confidence, knowing that mommy and daddy are well-rounded. (Plus, when they get older, you’ll still have a life.) It’s also a great opportunity to get them involved in what you do. Do you enjoy painting? Do what artist JR Rapier does and set-up a kid-size easel with paints next to yours. Are you a writer like me? Give your child a journal and have them write or draw while you edit your blog post. (I’m not talking hours – just 20-30 minutes here and there depending on your child’s age.) Trying your hand at gardening? Take your child to the nursery. You get the picture.
Call a Friend Who Gets it
For me, this friend is Amy. She’s in the exact same place I am – juggling career and kids – so it’s nice to vent to someone who truly understands. While we are both pinched for time, a quick minute conversation can do the trick. Even though we might not solve anything, just getting it off our chests helps to raise our spirits and get through the day.
Drop the Guilt
What if none of the above makes a difference and you are still a stressed-out mess who thinks she’s a failure in all areas of her life? Some days might feel like that, but I promise you, there will be more good days than bad. I say this to myself as much as I say this to you: Let. It. Go. If you don’t, it’ll make you fat or kill you or both. So like I used to tell my greyhound when she’d snag a bird (Lord rest her sweet, canine soul), drop it, girl. Now.
Drink a Slurpee
And finally, my secret weapon – the Slurpee. So if all else fails (like when your son soils his swim pants right after his lesson), drive your butt (and all the other soggy butts that are in your car – but wipe ‘em first) to 7-Eleven and buy everyone a Slurpee – including your sweaty, nasty, sticky self. Because Slurpees make everything better and they help cool you off, in more ways than one. (By the way, the new Slurpee Fanta Watermelon Lime is to DIE for!)
I love hearing from you! What are your secrets to surviving the summer? Please share! And if you’re an artist, how do you find time for creativity?