I had some good news recently, writing-wise, but I’m going to save most of that for next week. Instead, I want to talk a little bit about writing and being a stay-at-home parent.
I’ve been at home with the kids now for ten years– longer than I’ve been writing. And most felony convictions. Now, I imagine that writing while stay-at-home parenting isn’t that much different than writing while holding down a full time job (which most writers have). You do your work, which in this case is making sure the kids are alive and at least vaguely prepared to interact constructively with society, and around that you fit the writing in. The main difference is that the kid job– well, lets just say it surrounds you. It’s in your house, eating your food, bouncing on your bed, and doing terrible, terrible things to your laundry. While most jobs follow you home to some extent, this one climbs all over you, drooling and puking.
Carving out time to write can get difficult under those circumstances. But the most frustrating thing is that it seems like it shouldn’t be that hard. Tell the kids to go play in the yard, or let them worship at one of the electronic idols, or play hide and seek while you count to one million. That should be good for some writing time, right? It seems like it, but it never is. There’s always something, some squabble that must be solved, some problem that must be handled, some horrible bodily function that must be dealt with. And in those rare instances when there isn’t… I end up sitting, waiting for it, wondering what’s going to happen. Because invariably, those long, peaceful times are the buildup to something awful.
Because of this, writing when the kids are around just ends up being stressful. It’s hard for me to work, and then when I do start to get something done, I get interrupted. Which makes me grouchy, and then I feel guilty for being grouchy at the kids. Then I feel guilty for not getting the writing done. Then I feel grouchy for feeling guilty, and wash, rinse, repeat.
The only solution that really works for me, then, is to not write with children. My first writing times were nap time, a couple of beautiful hours of peace. It was fantastic, actually- there wasn’t much time, but it was very set. I knew when I had to write. Similarly, bed time. Kids go to bed early, and that gives me some more time in the evening. Though that ends up competing with the all important lie-down-and-go-blegh portion of my life.
Starting this year, I have a major new time block. School! Both kids are in, and suddenly I have all this time! However… Turns out there are still things like cleaning, and cooking, and other irritating aspects of life that compete for that time. Along with other things like errand running and exercise. Still, school is cool! At least if you’re an adult.
Now wrapping this back around to my good news. It involves a contract! And a deadline! A couple of things I’ve been wanting for awhile. I was so wired, thinking about how easy this was going to be, about the ridiculous word counts I would be able to pile on while the kids were away, getting smarted up. I sat down that first day, and I started writing.
Then I got up to answer the phone.
The youngest had puked in class. Could I come get her?
Okay, one day kind of shot. I could make up for that. She bounced back quick, and went right back to school.
Which called me again, to let me know that my older daughter was now sick.
So, most of this week has been spent doing Daddy the nurse. A not-so-subtle reminder that thinking I finally have time is just asking for it. But that’s true for all of us, parents and workers and writers and bomb-squad technicians. So back to doing what I can, when I can, taking care of the kids and squeezing the writing in.
Just like always.