For the mothers (and fathers) who’ve found a sudden rise in productivity levels since kids came along, Annie Ridout has it all worked it. Here’s why you are a whole lot more productive now than you were pre-children…
I’m not sure if motherhood makes every mother more productive, because I don’t know every mother, but I do know that all the women around me have seen a spike in activity since their babies came along. It’s as if motherhood bestows you with a newfound energy; it gives you the ability to not just multitask, but to use every ‘spare’ second productively. (There are no spare seconds, but there might be a tiny window between changing a nappy and heading out to the park that would once have gone unnoticed and now becomes ample time to hang the laundry out or write a super-speedy work email).
Before having my first baby, I was working full time as a copywriter in Clerkenwell – with the luxury of guaranteed work and money each week. But before that, I was freelancing – bits of journalism, bits of copywriting, bits of writing my first novel (still looking for a publisher; let me know if you’re interested). At the time, I was living in a flat in Clapton. I’d go for a run each morning, pick up a coffee from my local coffee shop, then head home and get my head down. I’d stay at the computer from 9-5 – breaking the day up with trips to the library; a change of scene aways inspired new pitch ideas – but I didn’t get a huge amount done. Enough to get by, but not enough to feel really satisfied. I finished the first draft of my novel, had some articles published, secured some copy jobs – and that was that.
When I started the full time copywriting job, I carried on writing the odd article, and kept up with my personal blog, but again – I wasn’t hugely motivated. Until I had my baby. I gave birth to my daughter and within days, I had poem ideas, blog posts to write, articles to pitch, Instagram accounts to start, new blogs to set up, short stories to write. I was full of ideas. But I was also tired. Very tired. So while I could write the odd article as the newborn slept, I never had long periods of time to sit at a desk and type. I certainly didn’t have the 9-5 hours I’d had during my freelance period in Clapton – more a stolen 1/2 hour here and there.
As she got older, and her naps became more consistent, I was able to use them productively. I’d have a few hours in the morning and afternoon guaranteed, and I’d cram as much work in as possible. I used this time to set up The Early Hour. Evenings and weekends also became invaluable, as did my parents’ help with childcare.
It reminds me that as well as being a mother, I can be creative. I can create something to share, and that others might find entertaining or useful
Eventually, I put my daughter in nursery two days a week and began REALLY working. That gave me time to focus on monetising The Early Hour, working more on the marketing and PR side – and continuing to write and edit content, but with less time constraints. It felt like such a luxury to have two full days to myself to work. By now, she was 18 months. I had six months like this, and during that time only once met friends on my work day. And that was when I was so heavily pregnant I could barely fit behind the desk anyway. Before having kids, I was always up for a cheeky coffee but now it felt as if time alone should be used to work – no socialising.
Baby two came along in January and again, I was full of poetry and article ideas after his birth. And again, I was too exhausted to bring most of them to fruition. I started an Instagram account for my poetry but have since neglected it, as time is spread so thinly already – freelancing, blogging and keeping The Early Hour alive (as well as my children).
I was telling Frankie Tortora (who runs brilliant freelancing website Doing it for the Kids) about the dilemma of having lots of ideas but not enough time to see them all through and she very generously related this to a talk she’d been to, where the speaker had said that “drive to create and make new stuff is the sign of a ‘true’ creative”. This made me feel better – the idea that it wasn’t so much about having all talk and no walk; but about brainstorming and keeping the creativity flowing.
This morning, as I stood in the shower listing the projects I want to get started/complete (a podcast, my novel, a non-fiction parenting book – again, seeking an agent and publisher… if that’s you, let me know – getting into gardening, a children’s book, a book of my poetry) I wondered why it is that I feel so inspired now; rather than during that Clapton freelancing period, when I had no children needing me constantly.
It suddenly hit me. As a mother, you need your own identity outside of ‘mother’. You need to escape, occasionally, and to be that person you were pre-kids. Debauched weekends no longer an option, the next best thing is to be creative. To write the book, draw the illustrations, plant the plants. It reminds me that as well as being a mother, I can be creative. I can create something to share, and that others might find entertaining or useful. Because who gives a damn that I taught my daughter to talk and walk and use a potty? Those, really, are far greater achievements but they are invisible to society – like so much of parenting.
Motherhood makes you more productive because you have to steal hours – or even minutes – here and there, to jot down ideas and start a project. You have to plan your time carefully. Also, because becoming a parent opens your eyes again to the world. You see it through your child’s brilliantly fresh, imaginative eyes. Motherhood makes you productive because when you’re already working day and night to keep little humans alive, why not add a few more hours on at the end of the day to achieve something else? But this time, something that’s just for you.
Do you think motherhood (or fatherhood) makes you more productive? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below…
Images from Designspiration