Search icon


07th Sep 2017

How to actually get around to writing that book… when you’ve two small kids

From a mammy-of-two herself...

Sarah Breen

As mums, it can be hard to imagine squeezing anything additional into our already manic lives.

Meals; commutes; playgrounds; grandparents; play-dates; creche; birthdays; work; activities; school… it all adds up to leave approximately zero-to-none spare moments left over at the end of any given day.

In short, getting around to writing a book is pie-in-the-sky, dreamland territory – up there with eight-hours of unbroken sleep and toddlers who eat broccoli.

And yet Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling has now been released nationwide. Written by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the concept humbly started out as a Facebook page depicting a very particular type of Irish country gal.

Now, eight years after her laugh-out-loud incarnation, Aisling has diversified from social-media (40,000 Facebook fans and counting) to full-length novel.

As for the power-women behind the protagonist – Emer is from Kildare and Sarah from Carlow. They met while studying at Ballyfermot College and at one stage even shared a flat in Dublin.

These days Sarah herself is a mammy of two cutie-pie girls: India, four, and Esme, nine months. She’s features editor of The Gloss and here she exclusively offers HerFamily her top five tips for writing a novel while also being a top-notch parent…

1) Have at least one ‘good’ kid:

My eldest daughter India, who’s now four, barely slept a wink until she was a year old. I know this is totally normal but I was pregnant with my second baby last summer when Emer and I were offered a book deal so you can imagine the stress. I was determined – DETERMINED – to get my half done before my due date in January but, well, that didn’t happen. What heavily pregnant woman wants to come home after a full day in the office and write? Not me. So when No.2 arrived I still had about three-quarters of the novel to go. But as luck would have it, Esme turned out to be a textbook ‘Good Baby’ (you know the type you see in films, not a peep out of them. Usually played by dolls.) Bingo!

2) Only do a half 

It’s worth noting that you’re still an author if you only co-write the book. So enlist the help of a friend to reduce your workload and make the whole experience a bit of craic. Emer and I frequently used our “book meetings” as a front to get together for wine and crisps. In fact that’s how we originally created the protagonist of our novel, Aisling. Everyone knows an Aisling – if you’re the one who minds the drinks on a night out, it’s you. We all have a little bit of Aisling in us.

3) Carve out the time 

Accept that no matter how ‘good’ one or more of your kids are (see tip No.1), you won’t get anything done in their naptimes. Those precious 40-minute increments are for drinking coffee, eating biscuits, and peeing with the door closed. If you try to use them to fix a plot point or flesh out a character you will lose your mind (trust me, I tried it). I used to write every night from 8-11pm in our home-office-slash-playroom, where India’s easel came in handy more than once to map out the story arc.

4) Realise that something’s gotta give

You can’t do everything. Nobody can! Even though having kids means you’ve probably got the organisational and time management skills of a Fortune 500 CEO, you’re only one person. I don’t mind telling you that I completely abandoned cleaning for the three months before our deadline. Staying on top of the laundry, and lashing out a few thousand words every night, were my only priorities. We all survived.

5) … but don’t let that thing be sleep 

Sleep is the one thing you genuinely can’t survive without. I was lucky – Esme went out like a light at 7pm and would sometimes only wake once or twice for a quick feed. As our deadline approached, I could burn the midnight oil and still handle the next day – just about. If your kids prevent you from getting enough shuteye, as so many do, writing a little bit daily might not be for you at the moment. Let your ideas percolate instead because they grow up fast – which is sometimes a good thing.  

Oh My God What A Complete Aisling is written by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen (Gill, €14.99) is out now. You can also follow Sarah (as well catching glimpses of her lovely daughters!) on Twitter and Instagram.