Friday, May 8, 2009

Parenting and Writing—Some Tips on How to Survive and Thrive

blog39 This post serves as a shout-out to all those parents out there who write.  All writers face obstacles to writing,  but this post specifically addresses the unique problems faced by moms and dads with kids still living at home.  Like me.

What I’ve learned (and believe me, people ask how I’m juggling this stuff):

Write first.  Do it early.  Get up before everybody else.  Get up before the chickens.: I hate to say that for all the late sleepers out there.  But the silence of the early morning, plus the relative disconnect from the outside world (no one is on Facebook at 4:45. Trust me…I know. And no one sends you emails then—except for retailers) creates the perfect environment to write.

Get the kids’ school stuff ready the day before. Or earlier.  I find that it’s easier for me to keep up with packing lunches, putting stuff in backpacks, etc. The kids have plenty of their own responsibilities; this is one I don’t mind taking over and doing in record time. I make 5 little sandwich bags of pretzels for school snacks, 5 days’ worth of allotted chocolate chip cookies, 5 days of chips at the beginning of the week.  The night before I put grapes or a banana in the bag.  The morning of, I do make the sandwiches (don’t want them to get stale in the fridge.)  The kids’ papers are signed as SOON as they get home the day before. I have a checkbook in my hand as soon as they come through the door because there’s always a yearbook to be ordered, Scholastic book orders to be sent in, field trips to pay for, donations for the school, etc. that need payment.  I do these right away and just turn those suckers back in.

Make the coffee the night before.  This one is essential.

Have breakfast ready before you wake the kids up.  And after you’ve done a bunch of writing already.

After the kids go off on the bus or carpool, do a 15 minute pick-up.  You know it’ll drive you crazy if you don’t.  This is not the time to dust the ceiling fan blades.  Just pick up stuff that should be thrown away, put in a desk, or taken to another room.  If you stay at home, you can write much easier.  If you go to work, you won’t be greeted by chaos at the end of a long day.

Start a load of laundry.

Remember the fact that at some point, everyone will need to eat at the end of the day. I’ve rediscovered my crock pot. And found these sites: and . I throw the meat, vegetable, and sauce in and pray that it resembles supper at the end of the day. 

Cram in more writing at some point during your day (lunch break, etc.)

Whatever you do, make sure your mind is focused on your kids when you first see them after school.  This is not the time to be inventing cool dialogue between your two favorite characters. Because kids know when you’re not really listening.  Believe me: my daughter nailed me on it yesterday.  “Why did you say ‘umm-hmm?’ You weren’t at recess today!”      

Do the signing paper/check writing thing again.

Put that load of laundry in the dryer before it mildews.

Feed everyone. 

Make sure your kids put out the outfit they want to wear the next day.

Do you need to put some chicken or beef from the freezer into the fridge to defrost for supper tomorrow?

Collapse in bed.

Oddly enough (and with many different variations on this theme: insert sick kids, sick parent, upchucking dog or cat, errands to run, grass to mow) the basic structure of it seems to work.  For me, anyway.  How do you parent and write and run a home?  How do you deal with any other obstacles to your writing goal?