It’s the beginning of September and if you’re a parent with school-age kids, you’re doing the end-of-summer dance of joy that your kids are back in school. And that means you’ll have tons of time to write now, right? HAHAHA. In between your day job, errands, shuttling the kids to and fro, supervising the madness at home, and trying not to collapse from exhausting after doing all that, when exactly are you supposed to write? Do you have to give up writing entirely until the kids are older and you’ve got more time for yourself? No, of course not. In fact, you might need your writing more than ever once you become a parent, just to stay sane.
Here are some tips to find the balance between parenting and writing:
Find time where you can
The days of uninterrupted stretches of time to yourself are pretty much over when you’re a parent, so grab pockets of time where you can. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there – they add up after a while. Those scraps of time might not be enough to really get into a character’s psyche, but they are good for research, rewriting the scene you wrote yesterday, editing, etc. Take what you can get. Baby’s napping? If you’re lucky, that might be a solid two or three hours of uninterrupted time to really dig in (those are miracle children who nap that long and you count your blessings if you have one; I remember weeping with frustration when my kid would wake up from morning nap after 40 minutes like clockwork). Kids are doing homework? Time for your own homework. Sitting at the kid’s practice? Sure, you might get weird looks for pulling out your laptop on the bleachers, but as long as you – or the computer! – aren’t going to get beaned by a line drive, think of all that time you’ll have to write every week.
You can also get up early before anyone else in the house is awake and sit down and really focus. But I always feel bad recommending this because you need your precious sleep. (And I think time does not actually exist before 6:30am and I don’t want anyone else to have to prove it. Can you tell I’m not a morning person?) I’m a night owl, so I stay up quite late working – it is currently 12:10am as I’m typing this – and that somehow seems better than waking up early? Whatever works best for you; just grab those moments while you can!
When you’re finishing up your writing session, try to have a good sense of where you want to go next so it’s easy to pick up the thread when you’re able to steal 15 minutes after dinner or early in the morning. Obviously, this might not be possible all the time if someone starts crying before your writing time’s up or needs help finding Teddy before bed, but if you can even just think about where you want to go with your writing while you’re cuddling the five-year-old or trudging down the stairs to get another cup of water for the third time as the kid stalls bedtime, you’ll be able to maximize your time the next time you sit down to write.
Have a support team
If you’ve got a partner who understands your need to be a great parent while also trying to be a successful writer? You’ve hit gold, my friend. Work out a mutually beneficial system so both of you can parent and have time to do the things that make your heart sing.
Are you super-parenting on your own? Can you get a babysitter or a family member to come watch the kids? Even just a friend who can supervise your kids in the house while you lock yourself in your office, a closet, the bathroom to write? Or – and I hesitate to suggest this because I’ve read all those screen-time articles too and felt that mom guilt – if your kids are mesmerized by TV and will actually stay still and focus on it, toss on some Sesame Street and grab a half an hour of writing time. (I am not above doing this myself. I have ended up absolutely bewildered when my child has said “no, Mommy, I don’t want to watch TV.” Seriously, kid?)
For women in particular: don’t be afraid to ask for support and to grab those opportunities to write when you can. There is so much pressure on women to be “on” and be mom all the time; you need time to yourself to do the thing you love so you can come back refreshed to be a great parent. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
Be gentle with yourself
If your goal is to write every day or three times a week, but today the baby refused to nap or the toddler had a complete meltdown or the teenager slammed the door in your face and you just don’t have it in you to be creative after dealing with whatever your kids threw at you today – that’s ok. You adjust, you recalibrate, you regroup – then you try again the next day. (Parenting in a nutshell.) Don't berate yourself if you can't make your writing goals; it's almost certainly going to happen with kids around. Expect that, but don't let it prevent you from going back to your writing after you've gotten past that frustration.
How do you manage parenting and writing at the same time? Let me know in the comments!
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