It's been a number of years now since I started my writing journey. My boys are no longer babies and toddlers but kids in that funny space after babyhood but still a few years before teenagehood. I admit, it's a lot easier now to find time to write while they are out in the backyard playing their own dream versions of major league baseball or in the driveway playing NHL hockey. Even so, the information below helped me through those "growing years" for all of us, and since I've had so many people comment on how helpful and how relatable this information was, I've decided to leave it right where it is.
So for those new mothers and mothers of young children still finding their feet under them in the parenting and writing world, this is for you...
Helpful Hints for Writing with Young Children Underfoot
There is nothing quite like being a mother. But let's face it, the first thing you lose to become a mother is time. Time to be independent, time to be a wife, time to just sit and do nothing, and especially time to fulfill our own personal dreams. Yet we take the time to develop, encourage, and promote our children's dreams so don't neglect yours. The good news is that I don't think any other species on earth, including the male species, can multi-task like a mother can. We grasp an hour or two at nap-time, maybe a half hour here or there, or whenever we can jot down a note between laundry, making dinner, and diaper patrol. Here's some tips to extend your 'me' time using the P-system (and I'm not talking about the cruel and inhuman job of potty-training, although this system could be of use there too):
Patience ~ Planning Ahead ~ Playing
It's a struggle of guilt when you want to be writing but thinking (because we are ingrained to do so) that you should be giving your time to the kids. Remember though, especially for stay-at-home moms, we are with them 24/7. If you don't give yourself a little space, it could end up being detrimental to everyone. So be patient with yourself and with your children. They can't help being kids and don't realize that their volume control switch is on max...permanently. In the next section I'll give you some suggestions on how to keep them occupied while writing but remember, some days a cuddle is the only thing that works and on those days it's best just to accept it and enjoy the feel of your child in your arms while they still fit.
Here are some things I've learned never fail:
a) Children could cross a desert and not want a drop of water but the moment you are deep in a scene feeling the rush of the words flowing like a super sonic jet from your fingertips is when they will scream that they are dying of thirst and starvation with all the drama of an Oscar winning performance.
b) If they are going to fight, it will be during the most complex moment that took all day to figure out in your head and if you don't write it down immediately it will fly away.
c) When your writing is going so well that you can't wait to get back at it, this will be the day they don't want to take a nap and either kick up a fuss or call down every two minutes to see if nap time is over yet.
Planning ahead is the only way for you to keep your patience (sanity) and still get some work done. No matter how bad those characters are talking to you, it will save you no end of interruptions if you first:
1) Fill those sippy cups!
2)Have snacks ready at hand but keep them in the kitchen. This may sound like I am contradicting myself but it's actually a good thing. When I'm really on a role I forget to stand and stretch every so often or when I'm staring blankly at the computer screen frustrated because nothing is coming, I find a few minutes away lets my mind relax and give me new ideas. And most important, it lets your kids know that you aren't totally ignoring them.
3) The more occupied they are, the more writing you will get done. Remembering that kids have a 2 second attention span at worst and two minutes at best, keep the activities easy and light. Have a box that just comes out when you are writing--special toys, colouring books, puzzles, blocks, or games (careful with these and keep them simple where one or two kids can play together or you'll find yourself on the floor playing Candyland instead of writing--but don't feel guilty, this will come in the Play section). If they can only play with these toys when you write, it will keep them fresh. Go to a Dollar Store and let them help you pick out a few items so they feel included. Also rotate the toys every once in a while with ones at the bottom of their toy box. They'll think it's new again!
4) Children love to pretend to be adults so set them up with a little table near yours that is their 'office'. Most of the time, kids just want the security of knowing mommy is close by and this way they also think they are playing with you. Take a few minutes and print off activity sheets or colouring pages of their favorite characters. There are a lot of good websites for children out there--go educational or try googling their favorite T.V. show or movie for activities.
5) It's inevitable that some of the really young ones will want to sit on your lap. Again, it's a security thing not necessarily that they want you to stop and play. I've become pretty good at typing one handed. It's not quick but it makes both of you feel better because you are together.
This is where the guilt factor gets a reprieve. Before you start writing, explain to them that you need some time to work and that when you are finished you promise to play their favorite game, or go for a walk, or let them help you make supper. My little guys like to colour together or play living room hockey. (I am the best pink-fuzzy-slippered goalie in the world!) Writing is a solitary occupation that sits you in a chair for hours. Your mind gets a work-out but not your body. We all know kids like to move so join them and get your exercise at the same time.
Quality time spent with your children laughing and playing relieves tension and encourages them to work with you, instead of against you.
Routine is also the key. When you do it continuously, every day or every other day, the kids get used to it. If you put them down for a nap in the afternoon as babies, don't stop just because they don't sleep anymore. Call it quiet time and have them lay in their beds and read or play with a quiet toy. Don't feel guilty because, trust me, it is good for both of you. This way the decibel level in the house gets turned down for a bit so you can actually hear yourself think which lets you breath and get some writing done (or for those days you just need the quiet, pick up a good book and give yourself an hour to read). If you continue like this right from the start then they don't know the difference and it's okay with them...and great for you. My youngest still falls asleep. My four year old looks at books while he waits for his brother to nod off then he knows he is allowed four Hotwheels which he plays with quietly on his bed. It might sound like a miracle but it isn't; it's just routine. At the same time, I'm not going to lie and say it happens every single day but four or five out of a seven day week works for me. Find out what works for you and stick with it.
~As mothers we look after everyone 24/7 but who looks after us? Exactly, we do. So remember, while taking care of everyone else, don't forget to take care of yourself.~