There’s no challenge quite like that of trying to balance your writing career and being a good stay-at-home parent. We’ve all seen the movies which show a parent single-handedly whipping up the perfect home life while simultaneously cranking out best sellers. It seems that they make a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then randomly change a few diapers. Those of you who are reading this article and are parents who are trying to manage a writing career know what a load of nonsense that is.
We know all too well the reality of trying to keep up with manic toddlers, preventing your home from becoming a demilitarized zone, and keeping your spouse feeling like they’re still your heart and soul. You can’t seem to get a single moment alone to relax much less write. It’s even tougher if you have children who go to school on top of toddlers and infants. It seems like there’s never any quiet or you’re pounding down copious amounts of coffee to stay awake after you have put them all to bed. “Sleep?” you say, “What’s that?
Don’t despair, it’s not impossible. It all comes down to organization. There are many ways to find the time you need to write. Setting it all up may take you a bit of time and wrangling but it can happen.
First, try to implement a schedule. Discipline yourself. If you have ever heard the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place,” try applying this philosophy to time management. Discern a schedule that will work for you and your family, and stick to it. Set periods of busy time for your children throughout the day. Set naps, TV time, play time, meal time, and learning time at the same times every day. Many parenting magazines advise this type of time management for young children. I can tell you in my own experience, with four children, it works. It takes time and discipline but this can be accomplished.
Work with other parents or family who live in your neighborhood. Offer to set up a carpool where a few parents take turns taking the kids to school and picking them up. Set up a schedule where you babysit one another’s children in the same way. The other parents may not write, but they’ll love some time to themselves. If they do enjoy reading or writing, you might want to start a book club or a writer’s club. This can help you get valuable feedback on your work.
Get your spouse involved. Communicate your needs with them. Schedule times where you switch household duties. Schedule outings for your spouse and the children. If that’s not good, schedule an outing for yourself to a quiet library or coffee shop for a few hours of uninterrupted writing time.
Don’t waste the time you have carefully cultivated. Keep a stick-it notepad with you to jot down ideas. As the ideas come to you, write them down. Then when you go by your desk organize them on a pin board or in a spiral notebook. Smartphones were practically invented for this purpose. Use a memo or note function to verbally record your ideas. When you do have time to write, everything will be right there waiting for you to commit them to story form. You’ll never again be sitting there without a clue as to where to start.
In summary, get creative. Join or start a writing group. Organize time sharing with other parents. Get your spouse on the same page and switch off duties. Get organized with your time and you’ll be surprised how much writing you can get done in the time you have made for yourself.