Can You Be a Parent and a Writer?
There can be a lot of fear surrounding this question, but being a mother of two adorable monsters myself, I can assure you it is possible to be a parent and a writer. There is hope! Don't fret.
I remember the anxiety I felt before having my first child, most of it due to the fact that I was about to bring a child into the world and somehow keep the thing alive having had no experience of any kind, but a lot of it was due to fear of not being able to write. I shrunk at the possibility of not being able to finish my book or complete other related goals. I trembled at the realization that I would no longer be able to write at my leisure. I was about to be at the beck and call of a tiny, pink alien! And why did I believe these things? Mostly because I was ignorant. I had no idea what to expect (Well, I thought I did). So I will tell you this: you will have time to write and you will be able to pursue your writing goals and complete them. You will still be a writer.
In a Buzzfeed article entitled “Being a Parent Did Not Stop Me From Being a Writer” by Rumaan Alam, he says, “At readings over the past couple of months, I’ve heard three different writers mention constraint, and how it’s essential to their work. All were talking about books they’d just published; only one of these writers was a parent. They meant the constraint of time, under which we all live, as well as constraint of form, which pertains to anyone working creatively. We are all constrained by our bodies, income taxes, the weather.”
“Constraint is such an elegant word, but it has eluded me until just now (other writers always say things better than I can). This helped me see that parenthood — again, my circumstances are charmed, I know — is also a constraint. So be it.”
I read this and was immediately comforted. One, because I no longer felt alone in the struggle of writing with kids, and two, it made me realize that, although the time constraint is stressful at times (and incredibly annoying- especially when I’m interrupted in the middle of a game changing idea), it’s been great as far as getting a lot of writing done. When you have a very limited amount of time to do what you want, you don’t waste time.
Before I had kids, when I wanted to write, I would first take the dogs out, wander my apartment for a while, maybe make some tea, stalk people on facebook… and then start writing. Now, if both kids are miraculously napping at the same time I snatch up my laptop and start pounding away on the keyboard because I have no clue how much time I have. I may have five minutes, maybe half an hour to an hour if I’m lucky. I don’t mess around. Having constraint has made me an expert in time management. I recommend reading the entire article. It’s not only inspiring, but entertaining as well.
In my own experiences I’ve found many ways to get around the time constraint and constant presence of small people. Here are some of them (I’ll keep this part short, I know you’re busy):
1. Be an Opportunist
It’s simple. If the baby’s asleep, write. If your neighbor offers to watch your kids, take the offer and write. If your kids are playing quietly by themselves (it does happen on occasion!) then write. If you want to continue writing badly enough then you’ll find the time to do it!
2. Take a Weekly Night Out
My husband and I both need our alone time. It’s necessary for the survival of our marriage, no joke. That time away from the home, the kids, and all related responsibility was essential to my writing. Because I was able to get away from the chaos of life I was able to think clearly, get my thoughts out in the way I wanted and do it all without interruption. Most of my “good” writing happens when I’m able to write without distraction. I also get the most writing done during this time.
3. Keep the Creative Juices Flowing
Because you aren’t able to write when you’re feeling in the mood it’s a good idea to do things throughout the day that keep your right brain engaged. I like listening to a podcast in the morning. There are many writing-related podcasts out there, but really any podcast that inspires your creative side will do. Audio books are also a great tool. Both are hands-off, which is necessary when handling toddlers and babies. I also find being out in nature to be inspiring and it’s easy to get some outdoor time with the kids in tow. Throw them in the stroller or carrier and get out for a walk.
4. Keep a Voice Recorder On You
At all times, I should add. Now, before kids I always had a notebook handy when an idea would come to me out of the blue, but with children around sometimes in those fragile, fleeting moments when a fantastic idea materializes, you just don’t have the hands to write your thoughts down. That’s where a voice recorder will save your life and story! I had a free voice recording app on my phone. It was very easy to open it up and start spouting out my ideas, scenes I wanted to add, etc. Sometimes I would talk for minutes about a particular scene or character just to make an idea more solid. I wouldn’t actually come to that ah ha! moment until I’d been talking to myself a while. Give this a shot. It came in handy more often than I thought it would!
Maybe you’re about to have your first child. Maybe you’ve had a kid for a while now or a couple kids and you just don’t know how to fit in time for your creative endeavors. Whatever stage you are at now, I can tell you that it is possible to pursue your writing dreams. You just might have to be more creative in finding ways to make it happen. I hope that some of these ideas are helpful and make it into your creative routine. I challenge you to take one of them and try it out. It can’t hurt!