The Parent/Writer: Secrets to Surviving
The challenges of being a parent and a writer have swamped many an artist. For some, the decision is made to delay pursuing writing until the children are older. While this is certainly an option, it doesn’t have to be the only avenue open to you. Flexibility and creativity, marks of any artist, are key when you bring children and a writing career together.
When children are very young, in the preschool years, there are several things you can do to carve out some writing time for yourself. Naptimes can be excellent writing opportunities. (As a new mother myself, I will encourage however, that if you need this time to catch up on your sleep, certainly do that first.) When your child gets a little older and stops taking naps as often, you can still make use of “nap time.” Children benefit from having a set “quiet time” and there is nothing wrong with continuing this tradition for several years. They can play or rest quietly in their crib or playpen for an hour or two while you write.
Another option for when they are very young is to pay a babysitter. This person can care for your little one for a few hours while you take off for the park or a café with your laptop or notebook. If finances are tight, arrange to swap babysitting times with another mom for a few hours. You watch her children one day and she watches yours another. Or, if you find that you can concentrate well enough at home, pay someone to come to your home and care for your child a couple times a week while you’re home. Fifteen hours a week with a babysitter can go a long way towards allowing you the time and focus you need to write.
Make use of “busy-work” times to think about your writing. Car trips, cleaning, walks in the park, and more can be excellent times to keep a young child busy while freeing your mind to think about your writing projects. As a writer, half if not more, of our “working time” is actually spent exploring ideas mentally.
When your children are little older, you can incorporate reading and writing time. Save books or special notebooks just for them. These books only come out for those special times when your children get to be in “your office.” Children come to look forward to these times and you will be able to carve out some much needed working time for yourself.
Try to segregate your writing time and your family time if possible into separate spaces. When you’re spending time with your children, focus on them as much as you can. Turn off social media and put your phone away. Then when it’s time to write, help your children understand that writing is your job. Value your writing and teach your children to value it. Your children will know they are important to you and will learn to respect your work as well.
Finally, realize that raising children is temporary. In those long nights when the little ones won’t sleep it’s hard to remember that, but the time will fly by and before you know it, you’ll be writing in a quiet house. Treasure the time you have now with your children, invest in them and show your children what it means to value yourself and pursue your dreams.