If like me you have to combine parenting and writing, you most likely understand how much of a struggle it is. It’s difficult trying to collect your thoughts and attending to screaming children. But we love our children, and we also love our work! So what to do?
1. If they’re old enough, help them to understand your work.
You’d be surprised to see that your children can understand. I suggest sitting them down and explaining as best as you can what you do, and how you need time to work. Sometimes all they really need is to understand that the tapping on your keyboard is not trifling but serious work. Now don’t think they’ll be gone for hours, if they give you thirty minutes of interrupted work time, use it well!
2. Have scheduled times to write.
If you work from home, take advantage of the hours when they are away at school or asleep if they’re too young for school. If you don’t, it’s a great idea to plan to write at night, if you can stay up. Plan to write when you will have little interference from the children, otherwise the process will not only be frustrating but unproductive. There’s no point writing under pressure if you’re going to end up deleting it anyway.
3. Find ways to engage them.
If you can’t help having them around while you work, find something that engages them. Have them paint, draw, play an instrument (certainly not a drum or a saxophone!), play games or watch cartoons. The trick is to keep them busy enough to prevent interference.
4. Distract them with food.
This might seem silly, but food really works. Is the house quiet when the kids are eating? Yep, that’s the silence you need! I’ve realized that sometimes they’re bothering me because they are hungry or simply want something to nibble on. So, I make sure that they are well-fed before I start working. I also ensure that I have snacks and drinks to keep them filled after major meals.
P.S: You might want to check out this tantalizing article on food writing, if it’s your thing.
5. Make them a promise to look forward to.
Promise them an outing or a treat if they let you work. I know, this sounds like a bribe, but I like to think of it as something they’ve earned for letting me do my work. Staying away from Mummy has to be really difficult for them! So, Mummy’s working and they’re working too!
Caveat: You must keep your promises! Children may be impressionable but they don’t forget an unkept promise.
6. Have someone babysit them.
So maybe this should have been number one, but not everyone can afford childcare. If you can, get someone trustworthy. I recommend hiring someone who has been referred to you. If you can’t afford childcare, you can ask a family member, or a friend to watch them while you get your work done.
7. Plan a retreat.
Sometimes you really can’t get enough work done no matter how hard you try. In this case, you might want to consider going on a retreat. There are several opportunities available for female writers, although they don’t come cheap. If you scout well enough, you might find some that offer a part scholarship that reduces your cost. You can also plan a retreat with friends where the cost of accommodation and feeding is reasonable. If you still cannot afford these, you can plan to visit a relative alone and hopefully get some work done.
8. Have a support group.
It really helps to have someone to talk to about your struggles, because sometimes it can be overwhelming. There’s no shame in admitting that you feel inadequate. A good cheering can give you the boost you need to finish that project. Stay away from people who only make you feel worse and gravitate towards those who will encourage and guide you.
I try a combination of these tips. But the honest truth is that it takes a great deal of effort to work effectively as a writer mom. However, the key to remaining productive is remembering that you’re not alone and that there is really no excuse for failure. Give yourself a pep talk if you must, but do what you have to do.
Got tips or suggestions of your own you’d like to share? Leave a comment!