I am not a single parent. I have a wonderful husband who is a great home maker. But I was a single mom for the first six years of my daughter’s life. Her dad and I were together, but we didn’t live together. (Long story.)
Now that I’m not a single mom anymore, I am an indie writer. Apparently I thought my life was too easy. Having done first one, and now the other, though, I’m seeing similarities. A lot of what I learned as a single parent has, in fact, made me a better indie writer. A lot of what I learned no one bothered to tell me, and I wish someone had. So if you yourself are a single parent, or an indie writer, here are 12 things to keep in mind.
You’re going to have to learn to take some shit
Not everyone approves of single parents or indie writing. People are going to tell you that you are wrong, and that you are making a bad decision. They will tell you that you are messing up your life, and that you need to just listen to them. Yeah, no. If I’ve learned anything over the course of my thirty years, it’s that people who are telling me to just listen to them about my life probably has nothing good to tell me. I had to make my own choice, and if that choice set my life difficulty on ‘nightmare’ then that’s on me. If you can, remove people from your life who would tell you that you are living it wrong.
Sleep? Yeah, that’s not a thing you’re really going to do for a little while
I didn’t get a full nights sleep until my daughter was a year and a half. Even when she started sleeping through the night, I was still up until all hours doing dishes or cleaning, or trying to sneak a little writing in. Then, of course, anytime she made a noise it woke me up, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Now that I’m producing my own books, there is a constant stream of things that need done. Right now, I’m getting up crazy early to have time to write before the day job, then working on business hat stuff after the monsters are in bed. Most nights I’m averaging seven hours. Most. But I have pulled all nighters, getting stuff done. It’s not healthy to do often, but sometimes I’m just not going to get anywhere without it. Grow accustomed to finding out just how little sleep you can really live on.
Your day job is just one thing on a very long list of things that you need to do in a day.
This one is true for parents with co parents, too. I have a husband, and I still have so much more to do than just my day job. There’s still homework to help with, classes and appointments, grocery shopping. Then we’ll throw all my writing stuff on top of that. And when I was a single mommy, it was worse. There wasn’t going to be dinner unless I shopped for food, cooked it, and washed dishes to put it on. There would be no clean clothes unless I washed them. There was no such thing as coming home and crashing on the couch. There was come home, cook dinner, wash the dishes, play with the monster, put her to bed, clean the house, then crash hard. Now, replace all the cooking and cleaning with talking to book reviewers, making advertisements, editing and writing, and that’s what I’m doing now.
Honestly, I think I relax more at the day job.
You develop a love/hate relationship with overtime, and money in general
Maybe this one’s just me, but it’s still something I struggle with. My job offers overtime, most of the time. We don’t have to take it, but we can.
On the one hand, I love picking up overtime, because the money is good. And we can always use money. The monsters always need clothes, I want to go on vacation, the bills are crazy, we need so many things and food is freaking expensive.
But overtime takes away time you could be spending with your babies, or on your real passion, writing. Even now I feel bad working more, because I never feel like I’m spending enough time with my monsters. I always feel like I should write more.
I haven’t found a happy balance, so if anyone has suggestions, please let me know.
Not a lot of people really want to help you
Again, maybe this is just me, but my family was not super supportive when I had my monster. I got little to no help, and in fact was generally treated as though I’d done something very bad. No one had any intention of helping me with my mistake. And if they did help, I had better be damned grateful because they didn’t have to help, and I should remember that.
Indie writing isn’t as bad. Lots of successful indie writers want to help, much like other single parents want to help other single parents. But generally, most people are not going to be doing you any favors in the indie business.
All this is hilarious, given the next thing you want to remember.
Even though most people really don’t want to help you, everyone wants to tell you how to do what you’re doing
Boy, do they ever want to tell you how to do what you’re doing. Even if they’ve never been a single parent, or an indie writer. They want to tell you.
You shouldn’t let your daughter watch that movie. You should have a newsletter. You should be working more, or less. You should put your books on Amazon. You should dress her more like a girl. You shouldn’t talk about yourself on your blog. You shouldn’t cut her hair. You shouldn’t do your own cover artwork. You should take her to church, but not that church. You should have a huge following before you publish.
Please, if you get nothing else from this post, please learn to listen to advice with your head and your heart, not your fear and guilt. I can’t tell you how many things I did my first few years as a mommy because people told me I should. I was too afraid that I was screwing everything up to question whether what they were telling me was good for me and my little family or not. You all know the amount of crap I’ve tried, and failed at, with my writing career, because someone I admired told me it was a good or bad idea.
You will multitask like you breath.
Write rough drafts while supervising quiet play. Wash dishes while dinner is simmering. Edit on your lunch break. Write social media updates while the monsters watch cartoons. This is my life. I’ve learned what can be multitask-ed and what needs to have my full attention, after some pretty painful trial and error. But successful multitasking is a required skill for both the single parent and the indie writer.
Some of the best things happen in laundromats
I got a washer and dryer when we moved into the house, and I can’t even tell you how much joy this has brought me. Especially with a puppy who wets the bed. But part of me kinds of misses going to laundromats. I don’t even know why this is a thing, but some magical things happen at those places. I have had some amazing talks with my monster while we waited for the spin cycle. On the infrequent occasions when I went alone, I got some awesome writing done. I don’t even know why, but trust the magic of the laundromats.
There’s no such thing as according to plan
If you haven’t learned this yet, know that this is something indie writers and single parents live by. Rain drowns out park trips, people bail on you, computers die at the worst times, kids get sick. I have all these lovely deadlines for myself, but then things happen and I can’t realistically meet them. I have the best of intentions to get the whole kitchen cleaned up, and then I just can’t do that. Have back up plans, have contingency funds if you can save them up. If you can do it at all, start saving towards a $1,000 emergency fund. Plan for everything to go to shit, basically, and don’t feel like a failure when it does.
You can learn as much as you want, and you will still never feel like you know what you’re doing
And there is so much to learn! Countless books, blogs, classes, podcasts and magazines about indie writing and single parenting. You could start reading right now and never get through all of the information. (Theoretically. Really, when you break down all of this information, it’s usually the same info again and again.)
I learn everything I can, especially now while I’m still learning to be an indie writer. I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve been a mom for 12 years now. I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. It’s an anxiety that I will never get over.
You have got to put some energy into self care
This is not a joke. I know I just told you that I’ve been pulling some all nighters recently, and I know better!
I’m actually going to do a whole blog post about self care, it’s varying levels, and some tips to help you make sure you’re taking care of you on Sunday, so I’ll not go into it right now. But make you a priority, girls and guys. Insist up on it, or you’ll burn out. Some nights, when I was a single mom and suffering from more than a little postpartum depression, my version of self care was eating Oreos while binge watching Futurama. Was it healthy? Not physically. But it was about the only time I let myself just not accomplish anything. It was the only time I put down the to do list and just relaxed. So, mentally, it was very healthy.
Remember, you’re a superhero
One day you’re going to be in a position to look back on this time in your life. When you do, you’ll likely have a healthy child or a completed published book in your possession. You’re going to look at this time, and everything you did, and you’re going to have one question; How in the hell did you live through that?
How did you get through all the crazy work and worry? How did you get anything at all done? How did you just not spend those years in a crappy sweater, eating dry cereal at the end of the day? Most of all, how did you end up with this actual person, or real life book you’ve got now?
I’ll tell you how. You’re strong, and brave. You worked hard, and you deserve to feel proud. So feel proud now, and know that this isn’t how your whole life’s going to be.
It’s all worth it, in the end. I promise.