Cristi Craig wrote a great post for the Write it Sideways blog called “The Dilemma of the Mother Writer.” In it, she gave an illustration of the tug of war she feels between writing and motherhood:
When I flipped through pictures that my four year old daughter took recently, I saw a heartbreaking pattern: me, wearing reading glasses while I worked on my laptop; me, at the island in the kitchen typing away on my laptop; me, serving as backdrop behind a portrait of her doll, sporting my laptop. It was a painful truth and a testament to the life of a mother writer. I am always stealing time to write.
I’m sure this is a story that resonates with any parent who feels that tug between work and family time.
I’m lucky that I’m able to stay at home and write. But I do have a lot to accomplish—both writing and promo. My goal each day is to finish everything on the computer by 2:00 (which is when my younger child gets off the school bus.) Sometimes I can accomplish this goal…sometimes not.
Over the years, I’ve developed strategies that I hope work for both the children and me:
I’ve noticed that sometimes the laptop creates a wall between me and the children. Sometimes I’ll be working in the same room with kids…they’re doing homework, I’m writing. If I sense that they might want to talk about their day or open up to me about something during their homework time, I’ll write on paper. Otherwise, the laptop seems to stop them in their tracks.
I try to share with them what I’m doing. I spend so much time on the laptop that I realized they must wonder what it was that I was so busy doing. I talk to them about my books, about promo, about blogging, etc. I try to involve them a little in the process by asking their opinions about different things—do they like a character’s name? What do they think about the book’s setting?
When the children are talking to me, I don’t look at the laptop. It makes it look like I think my writing is more important than they are…and I definitely don’t want to give that impression.
When I’m talking with them, I try not to think about anything other than our conversation. (And this is a tough one, because I’m easily distracted.) I do this by asking intelligent follow-up questions for what they’re telling me…instead of going “mmm.”
Still, I need to get work done. Instead of writing in the same room as the children (when I really need to write), and possibly getting irritated with interruptions—I just go write behind a closed door. I preface the writing session by telling the kids, “I’ve got to get some work done. I’m going to write for 25 minutes, then I can play cards/talk/read a book with you.” Then they know I haven’t just disappeared for hours (honestly, I can’t write for hours anyway.) When they were younger, I set a timer outside my door so they could see how much longer I was going to be unavailable.
Although this post is on juggling parenting and writing, it also applies to writing around other family members, too. (Well, to some degree. I can only imagine the look on my husband’s face, if I put a timer outside the door and told him to be quiet for 25 minutes!) How do you set parameters for your writing—respecting your writing time, but also respecting your family time and obligations?