While being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life, it comes with its own slew of challenges. As a mother of a toddler, I’ve had to find a way to balance taking care of my darling boy while still working and finding time to write. This has become even more challenging with all the COVID19-related changes that include the closing of schools and many people taking on the role of teacher and tutor.
Striking a balance isn’t easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all for how to juggle being a writer and parent. But these five tips might help you to find a balance in your own life and to be there for your child while not neglecting or giving up your writerly dreams.
1. Know you can’t do everything, and that’s OK
There simply isn’t the time of day to do all the things. If you are anything like me, that means you are probably juggling working, being a parent, and squeezing in writing time when you can. And the younger your child is, the more attention and time they require.
Embrace that you can’t be everything for everyone, and that is OK. We can’t take care of the children, clean the house, make all the meals, support our partners, and somehow manage to take care of ourselves.
Not being able to do everything isn’t something to feel guilty about. There is only so much time in the day. It just means you need to aggressively prioritize your schedule (which we will get to shortly).
2. Set goals
Do you want to finish a chapter this week? Do you want to send out five query letters to literary agents? Do you want to upload your book to KDP or IngramSpark? Make writing (and publishing) goals for yourself.
Whatever your goals are, make sure you tell your family. That way, they are aware of what you need to work on and that you need time away from the family in order to accomplish those tasks. That might mean your partner watches your child (or children) in the evening for two hours on Wednesday night or it might mean that your partner handles bath time this week so you can slip away.
The key here is to communicate your goals so you can team up with your partner, and they can help you with the kiddos so you can achieve your goals. (But don’t forget your partner will also need time to themselves for self-care, too!)
If you don’t have a partner and are a single parent or caregiver, these goals might be self-imposed deadlines to keep yourself on task.
3. Prioritize your schedule
As I said before, we can’t do ALL the things. It simply isn’t humanly possible. Therefore, you have to aggressively prioritize your schedule. If you can, organize your list of to-dos into the following categories: 1) essential to accomplish and time-sensitive, 2) essential to accomplish but not time-sensitive, 3) not essential to accomplish and time-sensitive, and 4) not essential to accomplish and not time-sensitive. (Check out the Eisenhower Matrix to learn more!)
Examples of the first would be doctor visits for yourself or your family, while examples of the second would be vacuuming or cleaning the house. The third could be something like a phone call from your in-laws or interruption from your child. An example of the fourth is watching Netflix.
While you do want to prioritize some downtime for yourself throughout your week, Netflix might be the first thing you give up in order to squeeze some writing time in while your child takes a nap or is on a break from school.
However you prioritize your schedule, remember you are going to have to utilize any and all downtime you get. Is your baby watching television for twenty minutes? Get your laptop out and get some writing in! As I’m writing this blog, my son is eating breakfast and watching an educational kids show. Like I said, utilize any downtime you have! Because, as parents, we don’t get a lot of it…
4. Treat writing like a job
If you are anything like me or the many writers I’ve talked to who are parents, we feel incredibly guilty spending any time away from our littles. But if you want to be a career author vs. a hobbyist (meaning, you want to write books for a living and make an income from your writing), that means you will need to prioritize writing.
Sometimes, in order to make writing our job, we must first treat it as a job. In other words, you need to prioritize getting your writing tasks done just like you would for a corporate job. If you didn’t do your work in a corporate setting, you would eventually get fired.
Now, this isn’t me saying you should treat writing like a job and shift your mindset and approach to writing so it’s so methodical and passionless that you grow to hate it. This is me saying you shouldn’t feel guilty pursuing your passions while being a parent. Just like your child, you have dreams and things you want to accomplish in this life. It’s OK to want to be a good parent AND want to achieve your writerly goals.
5. It’s not about choosing one over another
Striking a balance for your writerly dreams and being a parent isn’t about choosing one over the other. It’s about finding time for both.
Sometimes, that means canceling your writing plans for an evening to cuddle with your child. And sometimes, it means your child watches an hour of the television while you chip away at a manuscript.
Whatever it is, it’s about making sure your child is loved, taken care of, and nurtured while also making time for your writing dreams.
There is no perfect formula, but as long as you do your best, communicate, and delegate where you can, it’s possible to be a good writer and a good parent to our darling kiddos who deserve the world.