Friday, May 20, 2011

Parenting and Writing: Five Tips to Help Get More Writing In

"Mommy, I'm bored. Will you play with me?"
"Mamma, I'm thirsty."
"Mom, can we go shopping?"
"WHAAA," which translates into something like, "My diaper is dirty, Mommy!  Come change it NOW!"

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  Maybe your title is actually Daddy, Nanna, Auntie or Uncle.  Regardless, if you're here, chances are you're a writer, too.  It's these very questions and those like them that sometimes make it challenging to work at home and be a parent at the same time.

As a writer and mother of four children I usually get one of two perspectives from friends and family.  The first is, "Well, you are a stay-at-home-mom so you have lots of time to do the things you enjoy."  Hmm...No comment.

Yet other more perceptive people may ask, "Wow!  You have four children!  How do you find the time to write and keep up with everything in your life?"  Unless I'm in one of those incredibly rare moments in my life where I feel I've got it together, I reply by saying that I really don't keep up with everything.  There is always something that suffers, and that for me it's choosing what is ok to let go for that day.

Despite that, there are some things I try to do to help me stay as productive as possible.  The following are five tips that enable me keep it together enough to make me feel as though I've accomplished something good for my day.   

(1)  Prepare your children for their day and for what you need to get done.  If they're dressed and ready for their day, fed, and they've even had some one-on-one time with you reading a story or playing with some toys, then they're more likely to allow you to spend a few minutes on your writing.  Usually my girls understand when I tell them "Mommy's going to spend some special time with you, but then I need to work for a little while."  Most of the time they are content with that because they know what to expect, and their physical and emotional needs have been satisfied for a while.

(2)  Make lists and stick with them.  Are you familiar with the "handy dandy notebook" that Steve or Joe use on Blues Clues?  Well, I have one of those, but instead of writing down clues, I make lists.  I work far more efficiently on everything in my life if I have a list going of what I need to accomplish.  That list includes house related chores, errands, appointments, and all things writing related.

The list motivates and focuses me, but there's one critical element regarding list-making that keeps it useful: I don't put too many things on it at once.  I keep it simple and limit the number of things to do to five or six items.  Once I cross everything off, then and only then do I add more.  I find that if I put too much on at one time, it's counter-productive and overwhelming.

(3)  Utilize nap time as efficiently as possible.  I don't mean your nap (although a quick 20 minute nap can rejuvenate the most exhausted of caretakers), but rather your kiddo's nap.   I know that my writing time is extremely limited.  This is not the time to be checking up on my friends on Facebook, reading email forwards, or surfing the web (unless it's writing related).  Instead, try to decide what the priority is for the day and then focus a specified amount of time working on that project.  It is wonderful how much you can get done in a focused period of time. 

(4)  Multi-task, multi-task, multi-task.  When I work on house chores, I try always to be as efficient as possible.  My children are young, so tubby time still requires my presence.  This is when I try to quick clean the bathroom.  It's amazing how quickly I can get the sink, mirrors, and toilet cleaned as they sit, splash, and play in the tub.  While dinner is cooking, I fold and put away laundry or vacuum the floors.  Ask yourself what you can easily slip in while you have something else going.

(5)  Get your children involved in housework.  This is actually one of my favorites.  It took me a long time to realize that I can't do everything on my own and that it's ok to have my children help.  I'm not depriving them of playtime by having them work.  I'm instilling a good work ethic, teaching them how to do things they otherwise would not know how to do, and helping them to understand how families work together to get things done.  If I'm not doing all the chores by myself, then I can spend that much more time on my writing.

There are lots of solutions to managing our families and the other responsibilities we have in life.  What do you struggle with and what have you found that works?  


Betsy Henning said...

Wonderful ideas, wonderful post. I really should have read this before fiddling around on facebook! For my penance I'm making a manageable list -- not too many things on it. First on the list is a 20 minute power nap!

Thanks for the inspiration and motivation.

Lisa Vella said...

Oh Betsy, you are so funny! Right now I'm thinking a power nap sounds might-y tempting! LOL. No such luck for me though. My girlies are all napped out for the time being! Instead I shall go multi-task and make it look like I have it all together!

Love You and talk to you soon!

Kimberly Ben said...

These are great tips, Ashley - especially with school ending in a couple of weeks. I've already forewarned my kids that they'll be taking on more household chores this summer. ;)

Lisa Vella said...

Thank you, Kimberly! My three-year-old especially loves to help out with chores...when it's convenient for her, of course!

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend!