Saturday, March 7, 2009

How do they do it? (Part One)

I’ve been doing a lot of surfing on the web, checking out blogs and websites from other moms turned Internet entrepreneurs. Hannah Keeley. Cheryl Lage. Elizabeth Lyons. Elizabeth not only has five young kids, two of them are twins. In between pregnancies, caring for the kids, and caring for the home, they have managed to write books, articles and blogs. Hannah now has her own TV show.

I’m partly envious and entirely curious. I mean really, how ARE they doing it? I don’t want a top ten list of ways to organize the pantry or advice on a three minute makeover that is guaranteed to make you look good enough to attend the Oscars. I know I need to find time for myself, and time for my husband. I can get out the door with twins and I am able to organize a child’s birthday party on a limited budget. I appreciate all the advice girls, I really do, but what I want to know is what is happening with the kids while you guys are writing.

I only ask because mine are either parked in front of the TV set or fighting over the cookies they’ve stolen from the kitchen while I was preoccupied at the computer.

Elizabeth writes that she did NOT have help with any of the first four, numbers two and three being the twins. Not even a housekeeper. She had a supportive network of friends, but most of them had twins as well. Can one really get enough babysitting from friends to write a book?

She also says that she was, and still is, chronically exhausted, hence not one of those people who can get by on only four hours of sleep a night and still function normally. She had twins, she DID get by on less than four hours of sleep a night, I can guarantee it, but how was she then able to write her two amazing books? (They are amazing, even if you don’t have twins, they are funny.)

My husband insists these women must have all had their kids in daycare, but I don’t think that’s the case. And even if they did attend the morning session, someone had to be doing the grocery shopping and cleaning the house, right? I mean, they’re not Brad and Angelina. (Who we will get to at a later date, I promise!)

The only thing I can think of is that they just did it, squeezed it in between the myriad other activities during the day, because they had to, because they felt compelled to, because it was a way to keep their sanity. I heard once that Erma Bombeck said she wrote her books a few sentences at a time while hiding in the laundry room from her kids.

I’d like to hear how these women do it once the kids get older and have afternoon activities. Or need help with their math. You know, when they’re not taking naps anymore and turning “Blue’s Clues” on doesn’t cut it. I’d also like to know who is watching the kids - and Hannah has seven - while they are filming their TV shows or giving a lecture.

I’m not being sarcastic. I really want to know. Because I want to be there for each of my kids and I want to write as well. I want to get the grocery shopping done, the house cleaned, the meals prepared and get everyone to their various after-school activities. I also need to sleep.

I’m going to give it my best shot and see how it goes. Maybe I’ll find the magic answer. My guess is it’s more about giving yourself a break, turning on the TV set every now and then and doing what you want to do, not what you feel you should be doing for the kids all the time. After an hour of doing whatever it is that your thing is, turn off the cartoons and get back to the Play-dough, but go ahead a take the time to do something other than be mom. It may seem like odd advice from women who have devoted themselves to helping moms be better moms, but I bet you that’s part of it.

More useful than the three minute makeover in my mind.


  1. Once you have achieved the status of having your own TV show, the word nanny melts off your tongue like whipped butter. I have tried to use the word, but it stuck to the roof of my mouth like generic peanut butter. Let's face it, if you look at Hannah's videos closely, you will see a very unhappy husband with a child attached to his hip. And while I'm at it,if I made my brownies with black beans and prune baby food I would be skinny too. But that is straying from the subject. How do we write when we have children? Well, Christine, I for one am happy to join your in taking a stand and putting an end to all this phony hullabaloo that gives people the impression we are "perfectly fine" with children running around us sick. Because they are ALWAYS sick. Yup, we turn on the TV, and toss 'em cookies. And we are not going to pretend otherwise.
    As for Erma hiding in the laundry room and writing, I also have pen and paper next to my fabric softener. Both are on the shelf next to the bottle labeled Bleach. Which is really vodka...."Daddy, why does mommy always take a glass of orange juice with her to do laundry?"
    And what's all this malarkey about a three- minute-makeover? Wiping the spit-up and snot off the shoulder of your shirt and giving your only pair of pants that fit you a fluff in the dryer before dashing off to a parent-teacher conference is the closest I've come to a three- minute-makeover.
    I don't know if I've answered your question as to how they do it, write books and play super- mommy. But I think you and I are doing a damn good job of it! So what if our children "bark" the answer to a question like they saw on Blue's Clues. (786 times) At least they knew the answer!
    It's all about finding the positive!!
    You and I might never get our own TV show, but who cares. , a nanny could NEVER do as good of a job on a school project as we could!

  2. Hello everyone -meet Liz. Fellow mother and the best writer I know. We keep eachother somewhat sane. Check out her blog - but let's also hope she writes some more on mine!

  3. It's an illusion. It's perception. And it's not their fault. No matter how many times I post pictures of my piles of laundry or my messy kitchen or confess to my too much yelling on my blog, I still get mom after mom wanting to know how I do it and wanting to put some sort of laurel of motherhood around my head.

    Blogs only show a small sliver of their lives. And for me writing is my escape. It brings me my sanity. I do it at night when all the house is asleep and I should be too.

    And I'm tired of feeling sorry for the TV dads. They aren't complaining about the paychecks or the free hair plugs. If they didn't want to do the TV show, they didn't have to sign the contract. Just another way we vilify fellow mothers.

    Fear not, you'll find your rhythm. You already are.

  4. Sorry about the delay - I have been so exhausted lately and I keep putting off responding until I can think of something either clever and witty or really profound as a response. All of which means that I was really really impressed with the way YOU responded - not just the sentiment (which I think is needed) but also the way you strung the words together. Very eloquent. So of course I have been on YOUR blog - and now know WAY more about you than you do about me. Which is okay - I am still just starting.

    I am really excited to meet someone who relates - who I can relate to - a big part of starting my blog.

    Illusion. Rythm. I'll remember that. You're right on both counts though - I can't fight the illusion and to be honest, most of the time it is working in my favor. And yeah - I guess I am finding a rhythm - it ain't always a pretty one, but hey, it's my own dance! Thanks.

  5. You are too awesome! I am AWED and flattered that you've got me in the circle of Hannah and Elizabeth...

    That said, you, ---not your husband---are right (at least in our case). Our twins (now 7.5) will be entering childcare for the very first time this summer...and now, only because my husband lost his gig with Circuit City (after 14 years) and I lost my freelance gig writing from home within the same month this past January. We both had to scurry for employment (which thankfully, we found). Until now, it was just me caring for our two during the day. Sure we watched TV, but not as a babysitter. It was virtually impossible to "work" effectively in spans of more than 10-15 consecutive minutes during their waking hours. But you know how much you can accomplish in 10-15 minutes when motivated! I did occasionally take the computer in the playroon if I was on deadline, but typically, most work was accomplished when they were asleep...or playing in a wi-fi equipped playspace! With the twins as my only two, and with very low housekeeping standards in a very small house, my plate is not too challenging to "manage"!

    Writing a book (and now, the blog) truly wasn't been all that time consuming. The book was composed primarily of notes taken during those crazy, chaotic first months, and then later, in their sleep times...naps and nights. You flatter me with "entrepreneur" as a title! Book sales, while I am very grateful for them, and any $$ from blog would not come close to paying our monthly cable bill (and we have limited add-ons)!

    Can't speak for Liz, or for Hannah (although she lives in my town, and I do know she homeschools her 7 kids, so I'm pretty sure there's no major supplemental care) but for myself, the "pay" comes mostly from the camaraderie in the multiples mom and parenting blog community.

    Which essentially confirms (at least I can confirm) your final do NEED to take some time for you! Those 10-15 minutes here and there can be VERY productive and rejuvenating if taken when you know they are safely at play, I've learned as my kids have gotten older, when I overdote, they milk, and expect. As an at-home, full-time (and loving it) mom, I focused so greatly on making their days "happy" and that's unrealistic. They do need to learn to entertain themselves and each other...with or without the TV! ;)

    You've got FOUR! Cut yourself a bit of slack! :) Again, while I cannot speak for Liz or Hannah, I'm not as productive as you're giving me credit. Which reminds me....I've got laundry to fold.... ;)

  6. And by the way, you're an amazing writer. You WILL find the's just different than it was when you could sit and concentrate without juice box straws being squirted at one another. But look at the additional fodder for prose you have....

    Keep writing...a minute here, a minute there...