“Hold yourself to writing in small, doable increments. For me, this was two pages a day, five days a week.”

- Yona Zeldis McDonough, Author of You Were Meant for Me

[Learn more about the Pen Parentis Research Project.]

PP: Describe your life in the context of writing, parenting and other employment (if applicable).

YM: I live in Brooklyn, New York, and I have been a freelance writer exclusively since 1987. I have done many kinds of writing, as well as editorial work. My children are 19 and 23. Now that my children are older (and one is out of the house) I have much more flexibility about work times.

PP: How do you integrate creative writing into your parenting/work responsibilities?

I start my day with coffee and checking e-mail, going on social media etc.  Then I shift into work mode.  I work steadily until lunch, then take a break to eat and walk the dogs. I go back to work until dinner.  I always break to make dinner.  I’m still the mom, and am perceived as the source of nurturing. I know my family can feel neglected if I don’t prepare dinner.

After the evening meal, I try to get to the gym, and then I might get back to work later.  Late nights have been very productive for me—the e-mails slow down, phone stops ringing. I get some of my best work done between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.  But if I stay up any later, it throws me off the next day.

“The work you love is not at all incompatible with raising children. Writing is a very family-friendly profession.”

PP: What’s awesome about being a parent who writes?

YM: Being a parent gives you a broader perspective, forces you to think about other people and provides an endless source of raw material!

My husband is good back up for chores, dog care. Older kids are good with meal clean up and shopping.

The gym [helps me feel balanced].  It makes everything glide into place: I feel better, sleep better, and work better when I have gone.

The most rewarding thing about being a writing parent is knowing that the work you love is not at all incompatible with raising children. Writing is a very family-friendly profession; I can think of many professions that are not. 

PP: What’s challenging about it?

YM: Trying to maintain the balance, as always.  I struggle with still feeling I am not doing enough in a day. I need more hours in the day!  And more help with housework—it is never ending.

PP: What’s your advice for other parents who write?

YM: Hold yourself to writing in small, doable increments. For me, this was two pages a day, five days a week. Remember that though the days are long, the years are short.  Your kids will be grown and gone before you know it.  Cherish them!

[As my children have grown] it has gotten easier as they move into their own lives.  But they are still my number one priority.  My daughter’s freshman year at college was very rocky; I spent hours and hours on the phone with her, helping her through a bad time.  Just because they get older doesn’t mean you stop being the parent.

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Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels and twenty-six books for children. She is also the editor of two essay collections and the fiction editor of Lilith Magazine. Her short stories, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in many national and literary magazines and her seventh novel, The House on Primrose Pond, will be out from New American Library in February 2016. Visit her at yonazeldismcdonough.com and on Facebook.
The Pen Parentis Research Project is a series of interviews with parent authors in order to learn how they mange time, publish, earn a living, nurture creative community, and care for their kids. Managed by Mary Harpin, the project will culminate in a book with stories, data, and helpful information that other parent writers can apply to their own busy lives. Support the project with a contribution to the Pen Parentis crowdfunding campaign.