The Mommy Writer: Months 6 to 12

[This is part of an ongoing series about getting work done after having a child.  As always, what works for me will probably not work for anyone but me and my particular child.  But I hope you enjoy reading anyway.]

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these.  I’ve been trying to group eras together, so I wait for something to change significantly in my daughter’s development that affects my work habits, and then I take note and wait for it to change again, so I can talk about that era having just passed through it, rather than from the middle.  Six to twelve months was definitely an era, and one I quite enjoyed.

An amazing thing happened at six months–my daughter learned to crawl.  Suddenly instead of whining and struggling every time I put her down, she happily scooted around the house, and then crawled with competence, and then pulled to a stand and cruised everywhere, and then walked.  Everyone prophesied and complained at me: once they can move, they get into everything.  Once they can move, you’ll never get anything done.

So I was thrilled to discover that for my particular circumstances, the opposite was true.  Along with the ability to move came the magical ability to play happily by herself.  For multiple minutes at a time.  Sometimes, against all reason, for hours.

There are a couple of things that I think contributed to this.  One sadly unrepeatable thing is my daughter’s personality.  She’s fairly independent, not terribly destructive, and dissuaded from “getting into everything” by basic childproofing.  And childproof we did–everything we can lock or close or latch we did so, and what we couldn’t we gated off.  I read in one of those baby books that you really ought to childproof at least one room…but we childproofed everything, so I can put my baby down wherever we are and work while keeping half an eye on her.  It works well for all of us–she’s happy to explore everything she can reach, and I’m happy knowing that she’s safe while she does so.

The other thing we did to facilitate this is fill our house with toys.  There’s a toy box in every room, toys and children’s books on all the lower shelves, and larger, activity-center type toys in the corners.  I spend significant portions of my day picking up toys and books, but I also spend significant portions working, so I’ll take what I can get.

These days, my work space often looks like this:


(what you can’t see are the ants under the table . . . the perpetual ants who cannot be poisoned since they live in toddler-land)

I found during this time that the biggest barrier to getting work done was myself; it was easy to discount the five, ten, twenty, and thirty minute increments of happy playtime I had, since there was no way to know when any of them might come to an end.  The thought process that began with “there’s no point in starting now” would always end in a wasted day.  And, as always, there were times when I honestly couldn’t get work done–there were a few growth spurts and the week when the ear infection and teething and flu that hit all together–and it was easy in those times to forget that on a normal day, I was getting as much writing done as I ever did before I had a child.  I often had to give myself assigned times to write (naptime, early mornings before Drew began work) that could be guaranteed to be child-free, not because I couldn’t write with her around, but because I couldn’t get myself out of my way to take advantage of the time that I had.

I also found that to make the most of my short keyboard snatches during the day, I did more and more of my head-work while doing other things.  If I thought through a scene while I was prepping lunch, I could make the most of the fifteen following minutes by writing it down without having to pause to do the think-work.  I couldn’t afford to spend lots of keyboard time thinking, so I separated thought time and typing time as much as I could, which actually made my writing less frustrating over all.  Since I had a non-talking child during these months, there was plenty of time to think when my hands were busy.

So, against predictions, working during months six through twelve were doable at my house.   At twelve months things changed somewhat.  I’ll get back to you about that when it changes again.