Writing and taking care of small children are two not-entirely-compatible aims in my life, how about you?
Take today: I got up early, started to write… The kids started to ask me for things and I started saying, ‘In a minute,” and “hold on” and “Just ‘shhhhh’ a minute, would you?”
I was getting frustrated with them, they were getting frustrated with me, and no-one was getting what they needed.
Something had to give. So I came up with a technique that has been working out really well…
So it’s the summer holidays here in the US and that means fun with the kiddies for we stay-at-home parents.
Which is all great, of course, but sometimes you still want (NEED!) to get some writing done. It can be incredibly frustrating to try to write and take care of a family, especially if you have small children at home with you all day. But it can be done.
I know some people can get up early or stay up extra late, or write while their spouse watches sports. That’s not me. Or if it is, everyone else wakes up early too!
Take today: I got up early, started to write, got all inspired and came up with tons of great ideas. The kids got up and started to ask me for things and I started saying, ‘In a minute,” and “hold on” and worst of all “Just ‘shhhhh’ a minute, would you?”
Oh, the guilt. I was getting frustrated with them, they were getting frustrated with me, and no-one was happy.
Something had to give. So I came up with a method, that has been working out well.
Getting Stuff Done With Little Kids In The House
My sons are 5 and 7 so they can’t be left alone (or together) for too long. They can, however, be set up on different floors of the house (or different rooms if you don’t have floors) with whatever toy/activity has captured their attention recently.
Today, for us, that means the eldest has a project making his own versions of Pokemon cards, while the 5 year-old makes a massive
messHot Wheels track in the basement.
They both inevitably needed help, sometimes at the same time, (leading to more ‘just a minute’s and frustration). Finally I struck a deal with them.
I took the time-out clock (a kitchen timer) and set it for 10 minutes. They agreed to leave me alone until the timer rang so that I could get some writing done. When the timer rings, I go and check on each of them and ask if I can help or see what they have been doing.
I get what I want (writing time) and they get what they want (an attentive, engaged parent).
Then, depending on how things are going, I negotiate another 10 minutes.
KEYS TO MAKING THIS WORK
-Pick a time of day when the kids’ energy levels are right (that might be ‘high’ or ‘low’ depending on their personalities. When you know they can concentrate on their favorite activity for a while, pounce!
-Work to an outline. I’m not sure that trying to do any brainstorming or really creative work could happen in 10 minute bursts, but writing a paragraph or two of a piece that I had already outlined worked brilliantly.
-Stretch the sessions to more than 10 minutes if it is safe or makes sense or if you find the kids can handle it.
-Sit where you can hear them (I’m in the dining room, and they are in rooms with doors open, where I can hear frustrated whining winding up or, worse, suspicious silences)
-Be willing to stop after two or three sessions. You can’t push this too far. Try to remember that they’ll be out of your hair entirely one day (if you do your job right) and that even these long summer days will be over sooner than you expect. Take some time to enjoy the kids — secure in the knowledge that at least you got a few things accomplished today.