Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Writing With Kids

These birds are all saying, "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom."  BTW - their dad is probably sitting right there next to them.  (If you're a mom, you get that!)

As you know if you've followed my blog for any time, I'm a mom and a writer.  If you're a parent, you know that having kids makes everything a little (okay, a lot) harder.  Things like picking up and going to the movies with my husband now take days of advance planning.  We need a babysitter.  The kids need to be fed before we leave.  We need to get home at a certain time.  We need to give Grace her seizure meds before we leave. 

This is a lot of work.  Then, to top it all off, when we finally do get out of the house, we spend the first 30 minutes talking about the kids. 

Often, we'll be half-way through the movie and get a phone call that says we need to come home.  Right! Now!  Like the time the dog ate (and then threw up) our son's starfish.  The boy was inconsolable.  (No, the starfish wasn't alive, but that was the year he was really into starfish.  He carried around dead starfish everywhere.  Really.) 

It's the same with writing.  I sit down to write and suddenly someone is hungry (and incapable of reaching the Pop Tarts that I've placed on the bottom pantry shelf for just such an emergency.)  Someone needs their shoe tied, or their nose wiped, or to tell me that their friend across the street just said the "F" word.  (That was yesterday's crisis.) 

Obviously finding the time to write is difficult.  Sometimes I want to pull my hair out and scream, and yet, even with all of this chaos, I'm a much better writer now than I was ten years ago, before I had kids.  Some of that is time, but most of it is that I found my voice when I became a mother. 

I'm not a Hallmark Mom.  I'm not crafty or sporty.  I'm exhausted all the time.  I drive a mini-van, but I do not have little stick figure family decals on the back window.  (If I did, one of the stick figures would be sitting on his brother's chest, pummeling him, and another one would have the earbuds from her iPod surgically attached to her ears.)  Our family is loud.  And messy.  We do not have it all together. 

And yet...I didn't realize the depth of love I was capable of feeling before I became a mother.  I know, I know.  People tell you this all the time, but until it's you and your child, you don't believe it.  Having kids changed what I wrote about.  It changed my voice, and I hope for the better. 

This is what I try to remember on days when finding time to write seems as impossible as convincing my youngest son to close the door when he uses the bathroom. 

What about you?  If you're a mom or a dad, how has parenting changed your writing?  How do you fit writing into your schedule now? 

Most of all, how do you stay sane? 


  1. the birds' dad is not just sitting next to them, he's saying 'honey, honey, honey."

    I just opened up my WIP after a long time of letting it simmer, I'm full of ideas and ready to go and both kids - at the same time and as if they'd planned it - come up to me and try to get on my lap. They're asking for different things, one is hungry (she just ate a snack, her chocolate-milk mustache still in place) the other is so bored she's going to die of it. It's like they can SMELL me writing and want to help me stop it anyway they can. Are they in cahoots with my inner editor? I'll never know. I try to throw things at them that they can do (paint! play wii! play fairies!) until whip out the nuclear option: "If you are so bored, go clean your room!" That scatters them like mice.
    One thing I do take comfort in - J G Ballard was a stay at home dad. He wrote at home and took care of his kids. Sure, he had help, but he did it. And I just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 - the afterward from Ray Bradbury was very human and talked about having to write the book while his kids surrounded him, asking him to play. Very often, he played.
    I guess I'm saying 'sanity' is a relative term. You just never give up. Good luck and (like me) dream of September!

  2. I have 3 young kids (1, 3, and 5). It's really hard to get work done on my book, which is frustrating because I'm so close to being done with revisions. They go to bed at 7, so theoretically I have a few hours to work in the evenings. Realistically though I'm exhausted by then and I don't have much left to give to my manuscript. I've been working on this novel for longer than I'd care to admit, but I guess slow and steady wins the race.

  3. I have 2 boys, aged 4 and 3, and, as you're probably well aware, they have boundless energy. They aren't happy to sit and colour for an hour while I write. They need to run, jump, climb and generally build (and then destroy) things. Make a mess. Be very loud. That sort of thing. I can't write while they're around and have to wait until their bed time, but I'm so tired by then I can't think straight never mind write anything intelligent. But I am definitely a better writer for having had kids. Before, I couldn't write until I was 'inspired' and everything had to be perfect before I could move on - what a luxury! Now I am super speedy. First drafts do not bother me. Writing a pile of gobbledy-gook does not bother me. Writing ugly does not bother me. I know I can edit later. What matters is that I have a 3 hour window during the day and maybe 1 hour at night, so I know that I have no choice but to make the most of that time.