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Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 11th, 2012, 11:06 pm
by Briana
Hi everyone. I've been wondering if any of you have small children and how you've found time for writing. My children are 4 months old and 2 years old and I've only just gotten back to work on the raw draft of a MS that I haven't worked on since '09. I realize that it's not too different than writers who have any other day job, but I'd imagine there are some moms and dads out there who have found creative solutions to taking care of their kiddos and working on their stories as well.

Granted, it may be that I just need to wait until my kids are a little older before I can dedicate serious time to writing. Working during nap time is out since, on days when they're mercifully asleep at the same time, I'm usually passed out with them. "Mommy brain" doesn't help much either -- I feel as though all of the useful bits of information in my mind got filtered through a sieve. Instead of topics like epistemology, all that's left are words like "episiotomy" and "nasal aspirator"! ;)

Any tips for staying focused while caring for little ones? Or on how to get your brain back? haha

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 12th, 2012, 12:34 am
by AMSchilling
When my daughter was 2, I wrote during naptimes and after she was asleep for the night. I also passed her off to my husband for 10 minute breaks here and there. But I didn't have a 4 month old at the same time--honestly, when she was 4 months I was a zombie with no sleep (she's a horrible sleeper to this day) and got nothing done. I barely had enough energy to stay awake at work, let alone for anything else.

When she did start sleeping more, I started giving myself a half an hour between when I got home from work and when I picked her up from daycare. I felt guilty at first but I got over it--Mommy needs some play time too, or she's a crabby mom. Half an hour doesn't sound like a lot, but it felt like forever at that point.

And I'm not so sure I have my brain back totally. Luckily all I lost up there was stuff like phone numbers and people's names. And where I put the car keys. :D

Good luck. Get some sleep. Write when you can, even if it's in 5 minute chunks, and know that as they get a tiny bit older it will get easier to find more time.

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 12th, 2012, 2:02 am
by polymath
I don't have small children or any children, no lover, no pets, no plants, no refrigerator science projects, or much of anything besides work, no social life to speak of. I do have a busy schedule. Forty hours a week working as a freelance editor, ten hours a week working as bookeeper for a literary journal, ten hours a week working on a library archive project, and nine hours weekly master's writing program classes with thirty hours of homework. Ninety-nine hours out of one hundred twelve waking hours. Thirteen hours left over for activities of daily living. My sleeping hours are rarely eight a night. More like six. Those extra fourteen hours come in handy if I fall behind or for unplanned meetings and doctor's appointmnets.

To get any discretionary writing done, I have to plan, prewrite, sketch, oultine, mentally compose, raw draft, rewrite, and revise by increments to a plan. A lot of the writing work is done mentally, moments stolen here and there, borrowed shamelessly from other tasks. I have a tool kit full of rhetorical modes for organizing principles, like plot's many attributes, for creative nonfiction, added attributes of argumentation and voice, for essay nonfiction, a gamut of expository organizing principles. Organization is key to writing and managing a crowded schedule. Spring break is coming up. I might find a few hours to sleep in.

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 12th, 2012, 2:39 am
by Sanderling
I don't have children, but I plan to. My husband and I both work from home, and I've thought we might be able to work out a schedule where a couple times a week he stops his work early and takes the kid(s) for the afternoon so I can do my own stuff, or otherwise arrange some sort of split care schedule. Failing that, I would probably shell out the money to put the child(ren) in daycare one day a week, or pay someone to come babysit for the day while you're in another room writing (or gone to the cafe/library/wherever). When I was at the age to be babysitting for various neighbours, one family did this from time to time - I'd come over and look after the kids while the parents got work done around the house.

Of course, I don't actually have children, so I don't have a sense of how these plans would actually work in practice... but that's been how I've thought about working around the issue, anyway. ;)

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 12th, 2012, 7:55 pm
by Briana
Thanks for your responses! Those are all great suggestions, especially to work on being more organized.

Polymath, I hope you get to rest on spring break! :)

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 12th, 2012, 10:17 pm
by Ryan
I have a 22 month old son and a 7 week old son. I've found that I really need to get out of the house even if my wife is caring for them. It's hard when you hear the kiddos crying and know you can help out. Then there's the cat litter, garbage, and dishes always calling your name too!

I cared for my first son from five months to eight months on my own when my wife went back to work and I'd literally be running to the computer as soon as he went down for a nap. Sometimes I pull the college trick and stay up really late knowing that the next day will be brutal. There's a book called Writer Momma by a Portland woman (Katz?) that might have some tips. I think being realistic and having flexible expectations keeps me from getting too frustrated. Easier said than done. It's a full time job keeping everyone fed and picking up the food that's been tossed.

Print portions out for editing so you aren't bound to the screen and remember that working stuff out in your head is working.

When your book is done it will mean even more because of your family. :)

By the way I'm finishing this post with one hand while rockin my nug.

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 14th, 2012, 8:18 pm
by clairavance
I have a 5 year old (who just started school, hurrah!), a 3 year old (at the end of Feb) and a 6 1/2month old whom is watching me be awesome with my speedy one finger typing. :) I know in reality, the kids don't nap at the same time. I'm always fighting my 3yo to nap, and my baby is a 20min cat-napper when it pleases him.
I used to prep a movie or TV show the kids love, and set them up with sandwiches and crisps and whatever other junk I think they may need. And when they'd come bug me at the computer, I'd shove a cookie in their hand and send them back to the TV.
I got most writing done at night, after the kids are put in bed, sometimes started at midnight cos hubby wanted some attention, too.
Right now I'm lugging my laptop off with me and leave the house 30 minutes before school comes out. So I can get parking, or that's my excuse. That's 30 minutes of decent writing time I get in the car. The kids can't run anywhere, and I pack snacks, drinks, and toys/books to keep them busy, and take my earphones with me. Not that I listen to music but if the kids think I can't hear them, they do quiet down. That's the only writing I get in these days.

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 19th, 2012, 12:43 pm
by SteevO
Hello fellow parents :D I've been trying so hard to get some writing time in, but it truly is hard. I have three- 11,8 and 4. It seems there are never enough hours in the day, and when the day is over, I'm too burnt out to think about writing. Oh well, the 4 year old will be starting school in September, so then I will have tons of time to write. !

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 21st, 2012, 1:11 am
by Briana
Nice to know that I'm not the only one trying to sneak in writing time without totally neglecting the kids. ;)

Lately I've found that I can get the older one to nap next to me, nurse the baby to sleep on the other side, and read Story Engineering on the Kindle. It lets all three of us rest while I read and work on development for my WIP, even if I'm not getting anything down on paper. Plus, I'm becoming quite proficient at one-thumbed page-turning!

Re: Writers with Small Children

Posted: February 22nd, 2012, 11:50 pm
by MAP
My kids are 6 and 4 now, but I started writing when just before my second one was born. You sneak the time in when you can (I write at night), but be realistic and don't beat yourself up if you aren't getting the progress you want from writing. Even if you only write a page a day, it will add up. Your little ones are only little for such a short time. Enjoy them. Soon enough they will be bigger and more independent and you'll have more time to write (not enough though, you'll never have enough).

Good luck. :)