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.
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.
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.
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.