The writing mum - creative parenting and how to find time!
Motherhood and creative writing – finding a balance
Afternoon nap. Bliss. No, not me – my two-year-old bouncy, babbling, bright and breezy tiny one who gets up some time around 7am and races around from then till now. 12.30pm. Four-year-old delivered to nursery. Tick. Two-year-old snoring gently. Tick. Catch your breath. Make up a sandwich. Sit down and write. Hooray!
That was me three years ago and finally, the novel I was writing during those naps, ‘A Thin Sheet of Glass,’ has been published. One question I always get from friends, is how I managed to combine being a full-time mum with creative writing – so today I’m going to reveal all and blog about my multi-tasking life.
For me, there were three big spurs to pursuing a career in writing whilst looking after children:
1. Passion for reading and writing
2. Doing something for myself in a world that revolved around the needs of my family
3. Flexibility – I could fit my writing in around playdates and routines so there was no need for additional childcare
Here was an opportunity to explore my creative side – something I might never have fitted in had I still been in full-time employment. Suddenly, I had small pockets of time during the day to make the most of.
Having said this, attempting to combine looking after small children with your own pursuits is an exercise in patience and self-denial. Your own needs and priorities must come second:
- If your toddler wakes up after only 30 minutes of sleep, you turn off your computer and give up on writing for the day.
- If your child is unwell, off school, resisting naptime altogether – you put it all aside to sort them out.
It can be frustrating, but you can’t let it frustrate you. There will be times, as C.J Brightley points out in her blog about being a mum and a writer – ‘the hardest job you’ll ever love’ – when you have to switch off before you’re ready to.
What qualities do you need to make it work?
1. Concentration and focus: you’re dealing in short breaks here, you have to maximise them.
2. Determination and drive: if you love writing, you’ll make it work.
3. Patience: you’re in it for the long-haul, you have to be able to relax and enjoy your time with your children as well.
How do you balance childcare with writing?
Naptimes for me were dedicated to writing. I didn’t allow myself to do any chores, potter around the house or find distractions. As soon as heads hit pillows, I grabbed a cup of tea and a bite to eat and started typing.
It all began when my first-born was 18 months old and I knew he would nap for up to two hours most days (with luck!). By the time he was 3, and had grown out of his naps, he was able to attend nursery in the afternoons. My younger son slept at this time, so I was able to continue work in this time.
It was always a juggling act, figuring out routines, but somehow, I managed it. Chores were done alongside children, daily tasks like sticking on a wash, folding clothes, keeping the house neat and clean – I found I could manage these throughout the day, whilst keeping an eye on play. Mornings were for activities, post-nap playdates got us all out. I muddled through and found a way.
Adapting to change: what happened when your children started full-time school?
September 2017 and my younger son began Reception. At first, I felt a little lost, so:
1. I divided my day up into two-hour writing slots. I was used to concentrating hard for short periods. I suffered burn out when I tried to write for longer.
2. I was able to complete chores, including cooking, during the day instead of in the evenings and around the children.
3. I looked at other opportunities to make money from writing including copywriting, copyediting and proof-reading.
I started to plan a career. I sent my second novel off to my wonderful agent, Laura Macdougall at United Agents, who has stuck by me all this time, helped me develop my writing to publishable standard, mentored me through the ins and outs of the industry…and then I got pregnant again.
So now I’m back to square one…
What’s life without a challenge😊
Are you a creative mum? Trying to juggle motherhood with your personal priorities? Please do get in touch, I’d love to hear about your experiences.