My writing habit. With a full time job. And a 6 month old.

For those of you that don’t want to read the whole story, I’ll give it to you right from the beginning. I know it’s not recommended to give away the punchline before you tell the joke but hey, we’re all busy people.

I schedule in 1-2 hours, 1 day a week after the little goes to bed. I physically write it in my planner/calendar. This, of course, requires that the little is actually going to bed at a reasonable hour and staying asleep for a reasonable amount of time. A lot of what made this meager writing habit even possible was actively working on a sleep schedule for the little that worked well for me and my partner.

It’s not much. And yes, it’s slow going, but it helps me feel accomplished without pushing me to the edges of my sanity. If/when his sleep schedule continues to improve, I may consider making it 2 days a week, then three. But I strongly believe we have to give ourselves a little bit of self-compassion now and then, so working in some flexibility helps too.

If you want the rest of the journey (including what we did to improve the little mister’s sleep), here it is:

Keeping up a side gig with a baby and a full time job is hard. From day one to about 4 months of having the little man in my life, my writing habit was almost nonexistent. I was on maternity leave, so I fit it in wherever it could. Writing became my naptime hustle. And only when I had the energy.

Once he turned 4 months old, I started back at work. The transition back to work was full of joy and excitement, but also guilt and anxiety (see my post on going back to work here). His sleep schedule was rocky. Sometimes he would give us hope that he would start sleeping through the night only to revert back to waking up every 2-3 hours. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that his 7:30-8:30-ish bedtime was also my bedtime.

But when I wasn’t working, all I wanted to do was spend time with the little mister. I spent so little time with him during the week that I cherished those couple hours every morning and night. So writing became something that I sometimes maybe squeezed in on the weekends while he was napping.

Then, at about 5.5 months, we buckled down on refining our bedtime routine and consistently got him to bed at 7:30 pm every night. Then 7:15 pm. Our bedtime routine now looks like this: one last nursing session with only a reading light on, change into jammies, read 1-2 books while cuddling, switch off the reading light so there is only a night light on, turn on white noise, put the sleep sack on while whispering affirming statements and telling him it’s bedtime, and putting him down in the crib awake but sleepy. At first, we had to jiggle the crib for quite a while to help him fall asleep, but eventually, he figured out how to go to sleep on his own. This did wonders for his sleep. Finally, I felt like I could stay up a little longer past his bedtime.

This was not perfect. He reverted back to waking up every 2-3 hours for about a week due to a room change and some shifts in nighttime feeding to figure out what worked best. But now he’s putting in a 8-9 hour chunk of sleep at the beginning of the night with the occasional mini wake up before then. He now only has one nighttime feeding at about 4 am and from there will sleep until 7 am.

Every baby is different. We followed the suggestions in Precious Little Sleep by Alexis Dubief for ‘motion junkies’ because out little one loved being rocked or swung to sleep. Our tactic probably will not work for everyone and we were lucky that this worked so well for us. I could not have kickstarted my writing habit again without this improvement in baby sleep (and, by extension, my sleep). There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. There are lots of baby sleep resources out there and every family has to find what’s right for them. This is what worked for us.

From there, my 1-2 hours/week writing habit began. If I have energy for and can fit in more time, great. If not, no sweat. I’m sure there will still be the occasional hiccup. For those nights, I have to remind myself that I can’t do everything all the time. All I can do is my best. For now, I am grateful for my 1x/week writing habit.

What does your writing/side gig habit look like? If you have kids, how do you work around their sleep/nap/school/play schedule?

Audrey Martin

Writer. Engineer. Spouse. Mother. Join me for musings on writing-life balance over a cup of tea. Or two.

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