The Stay at Home Parent/Writer
This is a guest post by Rhonda Franz. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.
The great thing about being a writer with young children is the material. There’s emotion (good or bad) in everything from how their first word was “NO,” to the way they walk when they’ve put their pants on backwards.
The difficult thing about writing with young kids at home is that they’re young, and, well, they’re at home.
Children in the high-maintenance stages between birth and Kindergarten make for an extremely busy, sometimes overwhelming, season in a mom and dad’s life. In order to manage writing—and the business of writing—from home, it’s important to treat it as the job it is, and expect family members to do the same.
Have a Routine
Children generally behave best when they know what to expect. If it works in your household to get a little writing done during the day, make sure your children have specific activities to work on, and/or special toys they get to play with only during that time. For toddlers and preschool-aged children, consider letting them use this time to look at books, “write” with their crayons, markers, or pencils, or, if they have one, work on their own toy laptop computer.
Then sit down, get to work, and don’t feel guilty about your children having to entertain themselves for a few minutes; it’s good for them.
Novelist Barbara Kingsolver once said that she has always written while her children were in someone else’s care. That’s absolutely the best thing to do, but if you’re a stay-at-home parent with babies or toddlers (or both), and don’t choose daycare, the children are in your care. It’s essential to have a regular time—even if it’s when they’re sleeping—to work when they won’t require constant attention. Get up a couple of hours early, stay up a few hours late: whatever suits you and your family.
Certain Time, Same Place
Again, this touches on routine. If you plan to write while they’re around, try to do it at a certain time, or certain times, throughout the day. Of course, of course parents have to be flexible and deal with emergencies and crying babies and so on and so forth: ‘tis the life of the home manager. But the more consistent you are in making time for writing, the more it will become a habit, and therefore, just a normal part of your day, and of your child’s day.
Sitting in front of a computer looks different than teaching piano lessons or tutoring students in your home. The only visible action is that of your fingers on the keyboard. It can be difficult to get children (and sometimes, spouses) to take you seriously when you’re interacting with computer screen or notebook. Call it your “writing work,” or “writing job,” but refer to it as what it is: serious business. It’s up to you to set the tone.
If your computer usually sits in an open place, move it to a particular room or area of the house while you write. This way, you set up a distinction between Mommy or Daddy cruising mindlessly around the web and actual work being done. Save the cruising for after the children are in bed.
Place list paper, sticky notes, tablets, scrap paper, pencils or pens, in desks, the kitchen drawer, under the changing pad, and by your bedside. When an idea strikes during the day, it’s likely you’ll only have mere seconds to jot it down before your toddler heads for the stairs.
Get Out of the House
There’s always something calling out for attention in a house: laundry, phone messages, unpaid bills, dust. If you are fortunate enough to have someone who can occasionally watch your children, or you can take advantage of a local Mom’s Day Out or community program, consider getting out of the house and going to your local library, bookstore, or coffee house to write. Plant yourself in a corner and relish the fact that someone else gets paid to sweep that floor.
Multitasking is Great, But…
it isn’t always the most effective way to get something done. Use certain blocks of time to write, and certain blocks of time to do household chores. When you’re at the writing time, do not get distracted by the overloaded trash bin, or the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. When ideas come to you while working on those tasks, jot down ideas on the nearest piece of paper. Do not get immersed in a household responsibility. Remind yourself that you will see to those jobs during the time you’ve made to work on chores. If you are easily distracted, see the above information about escape.
Remember Your Priorities
There are days when your children require special attention. This is a good day to shut down the computer, put away your notebook, and concentrate on the reason you’re staying home in the first place. Your writing can always be revised; your children can’t.
Rhonda Franz spent seven years teaching other people’s children before taking a leave to raise her own. She learned to keep paper and pens everywhere in her house after using a Crayola marker to write a phrase on a disposable diaper. You can read more about her views on writing in public places at Freelance Writing Gigs. She’s a regular contributor at ParentingSquad.com, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, Coffeehouse Mom.
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