I’m in my third and (hopefully) final year of my Master’s. I work part-time as a medical receptionist. In recent months, I went through the roller-coaster of selling a home, buying a new one, and moving twice in the process. Coronavirus has put strain on my schedule and my mental health. I run a household. And the biggest responsibility of all: I have an adorable and wicked-smart two-year-old. I wanted to share some wisdom I picked up along the way, to maybe give some hope to some newer parents out there who are writers or other creatives.
Investments in your writing are investments in your child. For many months I struggled with mom guilt. I felt that time I spent writing or on schoolwork was time I was stealing away from my daughter. I felt guilty over time she had to spend with her grandparents while I was doing 12- or 14-hour days at my summer residency. I felt guilty putting pressure on her dad during evening literary events, or weekend coffee shop sessions. I felt guilty that my writing endeavors weren’t producing an income to support her (*cough* they still don’t). Then I felt guilty that I wasn’t writing enough. But over time, I came to realize that pursuing my interests—even a few minutes a day or a couple nights a month—charged my batteries. If you’re like me, writing is necessary for your soul. No one is at their best when they’re stressed all of the time. That goes for being the best parent you can be. With that in mind…
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Now, there are plenty of moms out there who have it harder than I do. Some who work full time, some who are single parents, some who have multiple kids. Regardless of your workload, a support system of some kind is necessary when you are a parent. For me, that means asking for help from my (thankfully, very willing) parents (before coronavirus), and communicating with my husband on evenings I need him to fly solo. (Sometimes I fly solo too, because my husband needs time for himself.) It also means, because my husband is not a writer, that I need a community of writers who I can connect with, discuss writing with, and get my literature fix with.
Block out time and space for writing. This might take some experimentation. Ideally, this should be at a consistent schedule. Some people may find mornings work best, some on lunch breaks, some after their kids have gone to bed. Some people on weekends at a Starbucks after breakfast, but before they have to give their kid a boob for afternoon naptime (my preference).
You don’t have to write every day. Some people will insist that real writers write every day. If you have read a significant amount of craft books (which you definitely should), you’ve probably heard this multiple times. It is a lie. Writers write. They keep writing. But insisting you need to set aside that time every time the sun comes up during the busiest and possibly most stressful time of your life is nonsense.
Accept that some days you might not be able to block out that time to write. Life happens. Kids get sick. They have, like, 56 events in one week. Your main support person has to work late. You have to work late. You don’t feel like it (completely valid reason, as long as it isn’t every day). Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon for one day, or two, or a week, or a month.
But keep trying anyway. Some days, all I manage is a few words edited in a poem on my phone right before I fall asleep. Some days, it’s ten minutes to draft a stanza in my kid’s pediatrician’s waiting room. Some days, it’s rewriting an opening line of a short story in the bathroom with my kid banging on the door while my husband is definitely available.
Your words are valuable, and someone out there needs to hear them.