Why You Can (And Should) Keep Writing When You Have Children

If you’re a parent, you’ll already know this: the moment you have your first child, your life changes.

Forever. Irrevocably. And quite dramatically.

Why You Can (And Should) Keep Writing When You Have Children

In the midst of broken nights, feeding, cuddling, and getting to know a brand new person, writing might not be the first thing on your mind. (Especially if you’re the one who gave birth, and you’re still recovering.)

Perhaps you feel that writing is something that now needs to be put on hold: until your child, or children, are a little older. Maybe until they’re in school.

Some parents end up putting writing on hold for years, until their kids grow up and leave home.

But you don’t need to do that. While your role as a parent is hugely important, it doesn’t need to be your entire life.

Keep your identity as a writer, too. Your writing matters. Your ideas and stories are still just as important as they were before.

Yes, it’s even harder to find time to write once you’re a parent. But it is possible.

Keep your identity as a writer after you become a parent.

@AliVentures

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Write in short, scheduled sessions

There are a ton of great reasons to schedule your writing time. Here’s the one that matters most to me as a parent:

Scheduling means I don’t feel guilty about writing… and I don’t feel guilty about NOT writing.

When you’ve planned ahead, you can sit down to write without worrying that you should be doing something else. This is your time, time you’ve deliberately set aside for doing something that is truly important to you.

And when you’ve planned ahead, you don’t need to worry that you’re not writing in every spare moment. You can look forward to a writing session, knowing that you’ll be able to sit down and write soon.

Schedule your writing to avoid feeling guilty about it.

@AliVentures

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The optimal writing session length

Depending on the age of your kids, your writing sessions may need to be very short.

During the most difficult time for my writing, I had a 22-month-old toddler and a newborn. I tried to fit in 15 minutes when they were both napping in the middle of the day.

A few months on, when my older one started playgroup, I used to write in the nearby McDonald’s with the baby napping (always briefly, alas) in the stroller. On a very good day, I’d manage 15 minutes in McDonald’s and a further 15 minutes in the evening. It doesn’t sound like much… but those 15 minutes did add up.

Now the kids are a little older (two and almost-four), I write fiction for half an hour between teatime and bath time: my husband is always home at this point and I escape to my study!

What might work for you? These are some possibilities:

  • 10 minutes as soon as your baby goes down for a nap, every day.
  • 15 minutes before everyone else wakes up, every day.
  • 30 minutes during your lunch break at work, every weekday.
  • 45 minutes in the evening, every other day (alternate with your partner on who does chores and who gets to write/relax…!)
  • 45 minutes after you’ve dropped the kids at school… before you start on the housework.

Get your partner on board

Hopefully, you’ve got a supportive partner who understands why you want – need – to write.

If that’s not the case, though, perhaps the best way forward is to frame your writing as a leisure or hobby activity.

For instance, you might arrange things like this: you get to write, say, every Saturday afternoon while your partner has the kids for two hours. On Sundays, you take the kids for two hours while your partner does whatever they want to do.

If your partner doesn’t “get” writing, you might feel unsupported and isolated.

As a parent, it can be tricky to get out to local writing groups in the evenings or on weekends. Do look for sources of support, though – maybe an online forum, a Facebook group, or a friend who you can email regularly.

Schedule writing retreats

While short writing sessions are great on a day-by-day basis, I think all writers can benefit from being able to really immerse themselves in their writing occasionally.

As a parent, this is doubly helpful: not only do you get to spend some focused time writing, you also get a proper break from your kids!

In 2016, while my kids were 1 and 3, I did two writing retreats:

  • A day-long structured retreat (10am – 5pm) in March, with the wonderful Lorna Fergusson of Fictionfire, in Oxford in the UK. I wrote two and a half chapters of the first draft of my novel-in-progress.
  • An overnight retreat (2pm Sat – 11am Sun) in November, where I booked into a local hotel (my one requirement was “a bedroom with a desk”) and did a ton of editing and rewriting on my novel.

Both times, I also got to eat a delicious meal in peace…! 😉

As a parent, this sort of thing takes planning. You may need to look months ahead in your calendar in order to make a retreat happen.

But it should be possible. Try roping in some extra childcare: with sufficient advance warning, though, there’s hopefully someone in your life who can assist.

You don’t necessarily have to do a full day or overnight retreat, either. Perhaps three hours on a Saturday morning is what you and your family can manage right now. Whatever it is, though, try to find some opportunity for a much-longer-than-usual writing session during the next few months. (Do share your ideas or plans in the comments with us, too!)

Becoming a parent is a wonderful, life-changing, heart-expanding experience. At the same time, it can be very difficult, if you feel like your former identity has been lost in the process.

Hold onto your writing. Make time for it, in the midst of family life.

How have your kids impacted your writing? What will you do to find some writing time this week? Share your story in the comments.

Ali Luke is an author (of fiction and non-fiction, both self- and traditionally published), and her blog Aliventures covers the art, craft and business of writing. Her Facebook group for parent-writers is completely free and open to everyone who wants a place to find support, understanding, and fellow writers-with-kids to talk to. Grandparents, carers and parents-to-be are all very welcome, too!

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20 thoughts on “Why You Can (And Should) Keep Writing When You Have Children

  1. I’m glad I kept writing when my children were very young. When they had afternoon naps, I either napped or wrote in my journal. Those journals became a treasure trove of information for my memoir and blog topics. Another reason to keep writing when you have children: they provide you with a wealth of material! Becoming a parent is life-changing and full of so many new lessons and truths. Why not record them while they’re fresh?

    1. What a wonderful way to use that time! And you’re right, there are so many things to learn as a parent. I keep a brief daily journal for both my children — writing about the little moments that might so easily get forgotten otherwise. I’ve been doing it for two and a half years now and it’s fascinating looking back!

  2. I am a stay at home mom of a 3 and 1 year old, and I have found that I’ve had to give myself mercy on the requirement to write every day at the same time and give up on any pre-writing rituals – but just to write whenever I can for however long I can. Some days they nap at the same time, and it’s glorious! Other days…. well, you know. Ha! It’s hard but so worth it when you make it a priority. Great tips here. Thank you. ❤️

    1. Thanks Katie! I think grabbing the time when you can for as long as you can is a great way to do things — there’s only so much planning you can do when they’re little. Hats off to you for carving out those precious writing moments!

  3. I love this post. Just recently I’ve decided to make my writing a priority. As a full-time working mom of 4 boys, I’ve tried many things but the best one, by far, has been “The Miracle Morning.” I now wake up consistently before 6am (when the first boy rises) and after taking the dog for a walk, I relish sitting down with the laptop and freewriting for 15 minutes. And, just as you’ve said, knowing I have that time scheduled each day means I don’t have to beat myself up about it when I’m not writing for the rest of the day.

    1. Good for you, Laura! We’re still trying to crack mornings here (youngest is FINALLY sleeping through till 6am, most mornings…) but I do want to get back into early-morning writing some day. 🙂

  4. For a long time I felt guilty about my sporadic writing after having kids. I would scold myself and think I should have been writing the whole time.
    But what if it all worked just as it should have?
    Let’s say my dreams came true. Let’s say I wrote a bestseller…heck, multiple bestsellers, while the kids were little. Beyond the writing, I never would have been able to do the job when my kids were 1, 3 & 4. I couldn’t have gone on book tours. I couldn’t have gone to conferences. I couldn’t have gone to speaking engagements and publisher meetings. Not because I couldn’t physically do it, but because it wasn’t how I wanted to parent.
    Maybe God’s grace is exactly what brought through those years still having a passion for writing with very little writing happening.
    Maybe it’s the intermingling of the writing life and real life that allows us to find our sweet spot as a writer.
    Grateful for your suggestions today. And grateful to be reminded how every journey looks different.

    1. Of course everyone’s journey is different — sounds like you’ve found the path that’s right for you! I know a lot of parent-writers feel guilty about not writing enough (quite often at the same time as feeling guilty about any writing they do..!) — and of course, no-one should feel ashamed or guilty about how much / how little writing they’re doing.

      I think you’ve found a very positive way to look at those years: that they weren’t the right time for you to put lots of energy into writing, for several reasons. What matters is finding YOUR right path as a writer and as a parent, and it sounds like you did just that. 🙂

  5. Hi! Thank you so much for this post! It’s refreshing and motivating. I have 2 kids, 4 and 2; the older one is at school all day, and the younger one is home with me. I run an online business from home, and am thankful for naps and early nights 🙂 I’ve learned to write in short spurts, and personally motherhood has taught me to be resourceful with the little bit of time I do have. I’ve actually written a post (below) on the similarities between motherhood and starting a business, and I found it’s quite possible to thrive when you know not to expect too much, appreciate little time slots and celebrate small victories, and give yourself a slack now and then. Good luck, everyone! https://elenamutonono.com/2016/12/01/run-business-motherhood-struggles/

    1. Thanks Elena! Good on you juggling business and motherhood: sounds like you’ve found a great way forward in fitting business around your little one, and in being patient and gracious about doing so (something I could certainly do better on…!) 🙂 Good luck with wherever the next couple of years lead you!

  6. Great reminders, Ali! Thanks for sharing. I’m a dad of seven children from 10 years down to a four-month-old. So, to say the least, it’s often difficult to quiet my mind to write. Thankfully, I have a supportive wife so that makes it much easier. I have to keep coming back to the fact that if writing is what I’m meant to do, then it needs to happen no matter what. I definitely feel for the single parents out there who are writing and parenting all alone. If they can be successful with that challenge, the sky will be the limit!

    1. Oh my goodness, I can only imagine what that must be like …! I think having a supportive spouse does make a huge difference (my husband is fantastic). Good on you for carving out the time to focus on your writing.

  7. Great post. I started writing poems once my children arrived – my son now 3 years and daughter 4 months are my inspiration! I write between midnight and 2am feeds (bad habit I think). My poems are therefore short and my blog called ‘these words came tumbling out’ says it all. Oddly as I’m on maternity leave I find my mind has more space as I’m off work. It’s definitely about finding the right time, and amount of time that works ! Poems.sketch31.co.uk

  8. Hey Ali,

    Oh – I can totally relate to what you are saying – currently a mother of a 7 yr old (super mischievous) toddler and a 3 month old new born.

    Life dramatically changes after the first kid, and it does one more time in a more dramatic manner when the second kid arrives lol!

    My writing was zero during the first month after my second kid was born. But then I tried to fit in my writing whenever I could, during the day.

    It is really challenging to sit down even for a few minutes to write (between breastfeeding, rocking the baby to sleep, changing nappies and taking naps while the baby sleeps) – but I saw that I did at least 5 small sessions of writing a week.

    I was not so rigid with daily schedule, but I focussed on more of a weekly schedule and had goals. It did work and it gets better 🙂

    Cheers,
    Jane.

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