How Can a Busy Mom Make Time for Writing?

I’m a busy Mom of 5 kids. They’re all very active, eat me out of house and home, pile up basketfuls of dirty clothes, and need armloads of love and attention. On top of the usual mom duties, I homeschool my crew—kindergarten through eighth grade. And as if that wasn’t enough, I’m also squeezing in what has become a full time writing career.

I’m answering your questions this week about TIME. Jaime Sundsmo asked: “How do you find time to write with so many little darlin's running around your house (I'm trying to figure this out with just ONE!)” And Susan Mills asked a related question: “I’m dying to know how you keep up with it all. Homeschooling, writing, blogging, normal motherly duties... ”

Yes, I’m busy and it’s not easy juggling all the demands of a large family. Of course I like to think I’m a martyr, and I always enjoy having pity parties for myself. But the fact is, many of you are probably just as busy if not more than me.

We’re all busy. Life is busy. And our writing only adds to the already packed lives we lead. So how do any of us make time for writing?

Most of us don’t view writing as just another hobby. We’re too passionate and our aspirations too high for such a label. Instead, most of us see it as our calling, gifting, or ultimate job.

In fact, I’ve gradually had to accept the fact that in some ways, I’m a “working” mom. (As if I wasn’t before!) And I really think it’s something any of us serious about publication need to consider—writing is real work. For a while we’ll have to work without pay—especially in the formative years during which we’re gaining something similar to a college degree in the basics of writing.

My point is that, if we want to accomplish our writing goals, the first step is making a shift in the way we view our writing. No matter where we’re at in our journeys, it’s never too early to treat it like a professional job by giving it the respect, time, dedication, and the effort we would other work.

On a more practical side, here are some of the ways I keep up with all the responsibilities, much like any working mom must do:

*Order out and eat lots of pizza. Sorry, couldn’t resist that one!

*Delegate household work. My husband does all our grocery shopping. (Don’t shoot me! Yes, I know, he’s a good guy!) Our philosophy is that everyone who lives in the house needs to pitch in with the housework. If you’re wondering how to get your kids more involved in helping around the house, see my article: 5 Ways To Convince Your Kids To Do Their Chores.

*Make simple meals. I generally stick with dinners I can make in 30 minutes or less. With a 13 year old son who inhales his entire meal in less than two minutes, aesthetics, even taste, aren’t all that important! I may cut back on meal prep, but I try to protect family meal time.

*Sacrifice a LOT. I've given up all hobbies, except for the things I do together with my kids for fun. I don’t get together with friends as much as I’d like. I don’t have time to shop (which is probably a good thing!), and I don’t watch TV (okay, except for one show).

*Be willing to work odd hours. I almost always work in the evenings after the kids are in bed, especially when my hubby is also working. And I get up early for a jump start on my writing. I also head to the library every Saturday, even when it’s a gorgeous sunny summer day and I’d rather be playing outside!

What it boils down to is this: If I waited until I had “free time” to write, then I’d never have enough. Instead, I have to carefully maximize my days—dedicate time to my writing AND then use that time as wisely and as diligently as I can.

What do you do to keep up with all your responsibilities and also fit in time for writing? Share your secrets! We'd all love to know!


  1. YES YES YES! Preach it sister! I do the same. And odd hours? Yep! I would not have written a word if I wasn't prepared to squeeze writing in when and where ever it can be squeezed. I am also prepared to write by the sand box, on the front porch, beside the game of play dough or cars or whatever and where ever my children are. MUST. WRITE> :)

  2. Jodi, my husband does the grocery shopping too (he actually likes to look for bargains). I think I'm the only Mom around here who writes in a notebook while watching (waiting for) swimming lessons.

  3. Finding the time to write is definitely the obstacle for a writer. Time is a precious comodity, and if I don't treat it with the respect it deserves, it runs out before I've fit in the important tasks. I, too, have a family who is willing to pitch in with the chores, and they're also willing to let some things go if I didn't get to them. I love those guys and girl!!

  4. Jody, your commitment is amazing! I'm a mum to 3 littlies (my eldest turned 5 today & my twins have just turned 2) and I'm pregnant with my 4th little miracle. My husband is a church pastor which means we don't have a predictable schedule or regular working hours & weekends are our busiest time. I don't however homeschool my kids (although I do see a lot of benefits to doing so, especially as I'm a trained teacher) and my eldest will start school next year. He's in Kinder 5 days a fortnight at the moment but the twins are home with me full-time.

    I find the hardest thing for me right now is finding the energy to write. I'm about to have 4 kids under 6, and although they are just beautiful, the demands of parenting little ones leave me physically exhausted by the end of the day. Throw in church work & supporting my husband in his ministry and life is more than a little hectic! However, I'm in the middle of editing a 75,000 word contemporary Christian novel and my first picture book will be released in December.

    The secret to me being able to write despite the busy stage of life I am in is simple: discipline. I believe I am called to write and therefore I do treat it like a job in many ways. There's no question that I love it, but I'm under no false illusions that it's always going to be enjoyable. So, I set my alarm for 5am and get up a couple of hours before the rest of the house wakes up. Those 2 hours a day add up over time. 10 hours of uninterrupted writing time each week can achieve an awful lot over a year! That means I have to make sure I'm in bed at a reasonable hour. It's all about priorities. My family comes first, but writing is the one thing I do just for me. And I'm a much happier person because of it! Once I've had my 'fix' of writing early in the morning I'm ready to wear my mum hat and face the day with a smile and a song in my heart.

    Thanks for sharing how you manage.

  5. "If I waited until I had “free time” to write, then I’d never have enough."

    One of the truest quotes I've ever read. Excellent post, Jody-girl!

    Now, onto my question. What's the one show you watch? Curious minds want to know (at least this one does!)

  6. I went out to coffee with a friend last night and all of a sudden I looked around and said, "Oh, right this is what this feels like." Needless to say it had been a while.

    How do I do it? My bedroom floor is almost never clear of clothes. My folding and dumpting station.

    Excellent post.
    ~ Wendy

  7. It' so true, you can't WAIT for free time to arrive, because it will just get sucked away by something else.
    Plus, Cooking Light has some great 20 minute meals. *wink*

  8. Wow, Jody, I bow down to you. As a teacher, I can totally understand how much work homeschooling is. I don't have children and I find myself amazed at all of the mom-writers I know getting it all in. I love your tips. I agree with cooking simple meals and ordering out if possible.

    My husband works on and off away from home. When he's home, I have a hard time fitting in as much writing because I want to indulge in spending time together. Conversely, when he's gone, I'm full speed ahead with writing. I find early wake-ups also help me fit in extra time. Having a partner for blogging is ideal, too! :)

    Thanks Jody!

  9. Excellent post Jody! I'm positive I have more time than you, but many of my methods are similar. I'm amazed by how much gets done when I give the little ones a job to do (like emptying a dishwasher rack). Of course, I have to check them frequently. *grin*
    Thanks for sharing your process and I agree, the sooner we start treating writing professionally, the better.

  10. I'm guessing the show is a "Wipeout," becuase the kids will be glued to the set.

    For me, finding time has always been a challenge. But certain times of day (my lunch hour at work, for example) become sacred writing time for me.

  11. I have blogged on this issue multiple times, and have guest posters set up for next week to tackle this very topic. I love this post! Wish I knew about it and could have asked you to guest post on my blog!

  12. This post is near and dear to the hearts of writers. I have more time than I have ever had since my children are grown, but life still gets in the way.

    "If I waited until I had “free time” to write, then I’d never have enough." This is so true. If we wait until the right time to do anything we love then we lose. We just have to do it. A few free minutes can produce many words.

    PS I love your photo.


  13. Katie & Walt--My favorite show? My one and only TV obsession? :-) I think I'll wait and see if anyone else has a good guess today before I reveal my secret! ;-)

  14. Wow--I didn't realize you homeschooled, too!! I've been blaming school being out on not writing regularly. I need to stop making excuses and make time to write.

    Great post!

  15. Excellent post. You are right on that if you wait for free time then you'll never find time to write.

    It never fails that if I decide to wait to write until all to-do list is finished, I find myself either too exhausted to write or not inspired right then.

    I tend to write in spurts between chores. It works for me. I set a timer and write for so many minutes (unless toddler interrupts), then I do chore #1 for a while. Then I write for so many minutes, then I do chore #2 etc,

  16. I totally understand your words, "if I waited until I had free time..." It's so true too. And I loved how you added how we have to MAKE the time. It's so simple a solution, but sometimes someone just has to say it--or write it--outloud for it to connect in another person's brain.

    If you love something, you'll find the time for it. It's as easy as that!

    Great Post.

  17. Jody, this post is a wealth of helpful points. Thank you!

    I particularly liked this thought: "For a while we’ll have to work without pay—especially in the formative years during which we’re gaining something similar to a college degree in the basics of writing." I've accepted the work, the practice and honing, all without pay, but I'd never thought about it as a college degree in the basics of writing. That's brilliant.

    Right (and write) on, sister!

  18. this is an excellent post! I'm often wondering the same thing. Where is my time??? I feel like I had so much more time last summer. I can't figure it out. Where is my time going?

    I think I have to also remember that my children are still young (4 & 2) and still need activities, and that takes up a lot of my time. I'm not willing to give up on swimming time and playdates and library time, so I have to accept the fact that I'm not going to have as much time to write. still, I envy those that do! great tips on cutting back!

  19. Great post. I wrote my first novel early in the morning and late at night, while working part time and momming my two daughters. If you love what you do, you find the time.

  20. Right on, Jody! I've been asked that question a lot being the mother of seven children myself. On top of that I've been working on my degree and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. As far as making (finding) time, I've found that having active children helps. If they're engaged in their own projects then I have time for mine.

    I use notebooks A LOT. In fact, some of my best chapters were written freehand in bed, at the doctor's office, or even while pumping gas. There's something about only having the paper in front of you to keep you focused. No internet, email, or twitter to distract you.

    I don't order out because of cost, but I buy prepared in bulk. We have a few favorites that taste almost home made.

    As well, writing is just an understood topic in our house and my kids love to read and write as well, so we have plenty of time "together" passing around ideas and being sounding boards. Common interests are great that way. Now if I can just get my daughter to let me steal her latest book joke. Kids have great imaginations.

  21. I was just asking myself this same question this morning. Summer has been challenging with my kids home. I'm used to getting a lot more accomplished on my writing days.

    Thanks for the tips.

  22. I cut out all other hobbies, tv shows, and extra time with friends. My kids do chores. My husband buys groceries, too (he really likes it). I still get enough sleep and exercise, volunteer at church and spend time with my family, but everything else has just fallen away to make room for writing. When my friends complain they don't have enough time to write a book, I usually say, but you have hobby A and B and activity such and such. There's always time if it's worth the sacrifice to you.

  23. I think the hardest part for me right now is now so much as finding the time but keeping my energy up. After sitting and writing for a short amount for time I’m fired or fidgety or achy.

  24. Thanks so much for posting this, Jody! Most of my writing is done when the kids are in bed, too. Sometimes I only wish I could get along with less sleep :) I think what I'm learning to do is ask the Lord when and where to take the time. When I'm obedient to do that then I can feel good about writing and its priority level.

  25. Great post!
    I've nixed the TV, as you do, except for when I'm exercising on the bike or floor.

    The alarm blasts me up around 5:00 (okay, not every day, but many days.)

    I reward myself with blog visits when I finish a scene or chapter or whatever crunch I'm under!

    Love this place. We Inkies were talking about what a good job you do...

  26. Great post, Jody. And, I only have two kids. I still don't know how you do it all!

    For me, I keep odd hours, for sure, and cook simple dinners. As my husband said, "we have tacos once a week, whether we like it or not"...and that was before writing :)

    And, like you, I rarely watch TV. Sometimes I allow myself a movie, when my writer's mind simply needs a rest (one of my "artist's dates" for myself).

  27. Another great post, Jody. Even though my son graduated college this past May, I think the issue of dedicated time still applies. I have many other responsibilities - paid and unpaid - and if I didn't consider my writing as my work, something I don't wait for "spare time" to do, the writing time would never come.

  28. Oh Jody, what a relevant post for me since I'm just venturing back into writing. I've struggled in the past couple weeks with wanting to pursue a normal stay-at-home mom life but also not wanting to lose the writing opportunities God has given me lately. Just recently, I started thinking through my calendar and figuring out where I can squeeze in writing time. It won't be easy with a new baby in the house, but you are such an inspiration on how to make it work!

  29. I'm with Sarah! I'm slowly making my trek back into the writing routine, and I've missed it. Now more than ever I know that writing is my calling.

    Now that I'll soon be a mother of three I'm very nervous and anxious to see how I will learn to manage it all.

  30. Sche-DULE!

    I hated the thought at first, but then again, I needed help.

    My sister in law (amazing woman! she's an organizer-see my blogroll, Orderly Manners)showed me

    I clean a minimum of 15 minutes a day, and my house stays clean

    I'm not overwhelmed with my house duties, my 50 hrs a week used to stop me from doing anything outside of the realm of being mommy.

    Housewife? Bring it on!

    My hubby cooks and cleans the kitchen.

    We shop together as a family, making it fun and family time.

    My afternoons are for the boys, then I start my nighttime routine, and clean a little on the house :D
    Piece of cake.

    It does involve pushing yourself when you're wiped out, though...not gonna lie.

    I loved this post, Jody. Thanks so much, I love all the ideas!

    BTW, what show do you watch? lol

  31. First, I enlisted the support of my wife and kids. Without a mutual understaning, it won't work. Ofte, all they see of me is the back of my head as I sit and type. But they know they can always approach me and ask a question or whatever.

    Never turn a family member away. I may tell them I hear what they're saying, please give me a few minutes to find a natural breaking point and I'll take care of it.

    Stephen Tremp

  32. I have three boys - 9, 6 and 3 years old. The best thing I've done, in terms of writing, is create a "work schedule." My boys know I write until 10:30am. I expect my older two to keep the little one busy. After my work hours, we have a daily adventure.

    But the bulk of my writing happens at night. Since my boys are in bed at 7pm, I have a nice chunk of uninterrupted time to sort out difficult things like plot twists.

    And meals...ummm...yeah. Thank goodness I have an understanding husband who isn't afraid of the kitchen (and lots of take out menus).

  33. With my own 5 kids and a farm to run, time is very hard to master, especially during Harvest! I sneak my writing time is when we come in for lunch from working and also as I sit in the hall waiting for my 3 yr old to fall asleep. He's starting to sleep easier now, but I sit there anyway because it's my excuse to sit in one spot and write for an hour every night without fail.

    thanks for posting!

  34. Jody, thanks for this wonderful post!

    Wendy, my bed is never empty of clothes waiting to be folded. Usually a huge mound.

    It's true that a lot of things have to change if we are to treat writing as a profession. As homeschooling mom, I have to give up the idea of living in a really clean house. I don't watch TV either. And my social occasions have to be regulated carefully.

  35. I love your tips!! I especially love the order out and eat more pizza. It covers many of the basic food groups. :)
    I hope as fall approaches I will manage to get these things down.

  36. I'm feeling this. Especially this summer. I do best with a schedule, so I block out every weekday morning for my "business"--writing, revising, blogging, plotting, etc.. But I will say, I still feel guilty. It's like I'm squeezing a full time job into part time hours. It's tough!

  37. Great post, Jody!

    I have done the same, dropped all hobbies and groups to focus in on writing. Well worth the sacrifice!

    When I'm having trouble fitting in some quality writing time my best plan of attack is to attach it to something else I'm doing. If I'm going somewhere, I'll arrive early, grab some coffee and write for an hour or two. Then I'm on time and I've (hopefully) got a few new scenes. Less sleep also helps, that's where the espresso comes in :)


  38. Wow... I'm really impressed with your ability to keep all the balls in the air. I thought I was doing well with working full time, writing full time, raising two kids and juggling a husband, but you have WAY more on the go than that! Good for you for finding a way to make it all work.

    My time management habits sound very similar to yours -- things like dinner being kept simple and giving up most outside interests because there is only so much time in the day. TV is not usually a problem because I'm so exhausted by that time that if I sit down to watch something, I usually end up dozing off within about 10 minutes! So I might as well just keep working... ;)

  39. WOW! Great informative post! I have 4 children aged 14 to almost 3. I am also about to go back to school full time online and go back to work part time at the Christian school my kids attend. So you see, I stay very busy. I want to find specific time to write but in so many ways, life just gets in the way. I have to accept that and go with the tide.. which sometimes very welcoming. like last nite taking the three oldest to a spur of the moment movie! Thanks again for your post!

  40. Thanks for the advice! :) Working a full time outside the home job and having a newborn keeps me running too. Although i DID sacrifice the All-Star Baseball game last night and worked on editing. So I'm learning to sacrifice. Sigh.

    Thanks for the input, Jody.

    And now ... the television show you watch is? (please don't say Desperate Housewives!) :)

  41. Those are all great suggestions, Jody. I gave up all of my hobbies, too. There are only so many hours in the day. I love my evening time when the kids are sleeping - that's when I am most productive. :-)

  42. I agree with everything you've said about making the time to write. If you love it, you'll do it. It's that simple...or rather not simple, but there you go.

    I'd love to have my hubby do the shopping. So since you're the cook, do you write the grocery list? Curious minds want to know.

  43. This might sound strange but lately my husband has been cooking dinner while I read him books on writing technique (I'm training him to be a critique partner). Hahahaha.

    Now there's a time-saver ;)

  44. Thanks for the great answer. I don't even know what odd hours are anymore. Do they even exist? To me, any hour that allows me the peace and quiet to work is normal.

  45. Kathi Oram Peterson asked: So since you're the cook, do you write the grocery list?

    My Answer: I cheat! I have a downloaded grocery list form that I print off for my hubby once a month when he shops for all the big things. Then he gets the fresh stuff once a week (milk, fruit, etc.).

  46. Hi Jody -

    Thanks for sharing your time management secrets. A supportive family is a big plus.

    I do my best work when I have a deadline. If I have a "free" day with no demands on my time, it's too tempting to fritter it away.

    Susan :)

  47. Great post, Jody! And very convicting ;)
    I am a tumbleweed, very hard to anchor in one place. Time management has been my biggest obstacle.
    A quote that keeps me in line:
    "There are enough hours in the day to do what God wants you to do...
    and no more."
    That helps me to sift through what He wants me to do, and say no to everything else.

    With my 2 kids on mission trips this month, I thought I'd get so much writing done on my days off, but it's amazing how so many things can fill up that time. It's time to be more proactive in guarding that time! Thank you!

  48. Note to reminder: "Don't think writing is impossible with three kids when Jody Hedlund does it with five."

    Thanks for the bit about writing in the morning before kids wake up. I think it will help me wake up earlier!

  49. Hi Jody! Congrats on your upcoming book... I can't wait to read it! Rachelle pointed me to your blog and I'm so grateful that she did... it's really great! So much great information! Anyway, my non-fiction book is due out in early 2011 and when I got my book deal on proposal, I was given 2 months to hammer out a complete manuscript. I panicked. I stay home with my two kids and already balance a work-from-home writing job... how was I going to write an ENTIRE book? My husband came up with the solution: Every weekend, I checked into the Holiday Inn with my laptop and pjs and nothing else... and spent all weekend writing writing writing. I got it done! Thanks for your insight, Jody!

  50. LOVE this Jody!!! This sounds very similar to how I figure it out, although some days I fail royally!

    I view my writing as a part-time job in addition to being a mom and having a full-time job. If it were just a hobby, I'd have cast it aside a long time ago for lack of time.

    Now, that said, I've taken a little sabaticle due to baby, but it is temporary and I hope very soon that my creative brain can function again so I can get back to it!

    LOVE your tips! And uh, I didn't find anything funny about the pizza/order out thing. You mean that's BAD?!? Whoops!

  51. I'm like Susan R. I have to have a deadline to get my work done. I call is school mentality but it works for me! Having my Power Group helps me keep accountable to my goals too.

  52. It's interesting reading the last post and this one because you're saying basically the same things in both. And very wise and thoughtful things. It's really about setting priorities for ourselves and being willing to let things go that don't get us where we want to be. And balance. Always striving for balance - some days more successfully than others.

  53. I have given up my hobbies too. :-( And I hardly ever watch tv, unless it's American Idol season. Even then, I kill two birds with one stone, because this is how my oldest wants to spend time with me. :-)

    Writing does take sacrifice, but as long as we're not sacrificing the more important things in life ... then write on!!!

  54. And so it goes with the writer's life. But as with anything else, we cannot do it all. Good tips, thanks!
    Karen :)

  55. Wow you have a handful at home! You should be very proud! Keeping up your home life and your writing!

    Awesome job.

  56. Great tips! Problem is, I don't want to sacrifice. I like my hobbies and my shows. But I guess that's a perk of not being published--no deadlines, except the self-imposed ones.

  57. When I write, it's generally at night. Although things might change with school starting back up in September (as I will have mornings to myself). I'm focusing on my kids this Summer and on stepping into the role of a Stampin' Up demonstrator, so I haven't taken as much time for my writing. I can do that since I don't have any writing deadlines like you do. lol :) I applaud your dedication!

  58. Wow, excellent post. Just found your blog. These are very helpful tips - I'm already doing most of them. I have a full time job, three kiddies and I write, mostly in the evening when the kids have gone to bed. I hear everything you say loud and clear!!! I don't even think I have any other suggestions. Nice to meet you!

  59. Jody,

    Thank you for sharing your insights! I have three children ages 6, 4 and 1 and I understand how hard it can be to get time to yourself to write as well. I like your tips, especially of ordering pizza! Yes! ;) I tend to stay up late to write because I am not an earlybird. Also I tend to procrastinate on laundry. Laundry is my nemesis and one day I will banish it forever!!

    Congrats on your second book! Many blessings to you and yours!



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