How to Find Time to Write as a Parent
Most people might assume that once they become a parent, there is no time for writing. And if they manage to find some spare time, they are too exhausted to make any headway on a draft. I used to think the same thing. However, I have surprisingly made the most progress in my writing after becoming a mother.
This might sound crazy to some. I am a mother of the most determined two-year-old you’ve ever met, as well as a six-month-old baby who still likes to nurse at 4 a.m. Surely I had more time to devote to writing before I dedicated my days to caring for my little ones. And even if I could find time to write, there is no way I could possibly have the mental energy to slave away at my computer at the end of a long day…right?
Despite how impossible it sounds, the year I gave birth to my second child is the same year I wrote more than any other year of my life. I even won NaNoWriMo for the first time. However, that doesn’t mean it was easy or that I magically found hours of free time. I had to find what works for me through a lot of trial and error. And whether you’re a stay-at-home-parent or not, these tips can still be useful for anyone who feels like they don’t have the time or energy to pursue their writing dreams.
#1) Keep It Fun.
The first thing I had to do was change my mindset about writing. I love to set lofty goals for myself, and with that came some frustration when I didn’t meet them. Because I wanted to meet those goals, I’d often think things such as “I have to write” or “I should write.” This line of thinking made writing feel like a chore. And as a mother of two littles, my to-do list of chores was already miles long! Adding another chore was simply not motivating. I found that I procrastinated writing more than ever when I had that mindset.
So, I had to change the way I thought about my writing. I knew that in order to write at the end of a long day when all I wanted to do was collapse on the couch with a book or turn on the TV that I had to make writing fun and relaxing. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t have goals to reach; it just means that I let myself make it fun. I have special snacks or other tools from Scribbler boxes that I use. I create a cozy writing space by making a mug of hot apple cider and lighting a scented candle. I change my thoughts from “I have to write” into “I get to write.” Thoughts are powerful, so I learned to use them to my advantage.
2) Have an Extremely Doable Minimum Goal.
If I thought I had to write 3,000 words every day, I’d never finish any drafts. Why? Because sometimes if my goals are high enough, I won’t even try if I feel like I will fail anyway. To combat this endless cycle of goal setting and failing, I made goals that I wouldn’t be intimidated by. I had to write something every day. Of course I had a word count that I would love to reach, but as long as I at least had some number to add to my word count, then I was allowed to stop working and do something else.
The trick here is that just getting started is usually the biggest hurdle to overcome. Once I started, even on days that I was sure I’d just write 50 words and call it a night, I would almost always end up doing more. I just had to get into it in order to feel motivated to write. As a parent, this is especially helpful. If my toddler is having a meltdown and thoughts of working on my novel later are too overwhelming, I can tell myself that I only have to eek out one short paragraph at the end of the night.
#3) Prep During the Day.
Any parent knows that free time is precious. Those hours while children are napping or after they’ve gone to bed for the night are practically sacred. That’s my time. So if I was dedicating that precious time to writing, I would get frustrated wasting an hour staring at the blank screen, unsure of where to start a chapter or how to fix a plot hole. If I was going to work hard to find time to write, then I needed to use that time productively. I then learned that I can write more efficiently if I start thinking about the story more often during the day.
I learned that there are a lot of moments during the day that I can’t physically sit down and write, but my mind is free to daydream about characters and the dialogue that needs to happen. It’s free to worldbuild and brainstorm fixes for plot holes. I found that when I use those moments–such as nursing the baby or doing dishes or keeping an eye on my toddler at the playground– to prepare my mind for that writing session, the words flow more quickly when I start a writing session, leaving me more motivated to keep going.
#4) Write in Small Spurts.
Even though longer writing sessions were the goal, I couldn’t always count on them happening. Sometimes the kiddos didn’t nap at the same time or the baby was fussy in the evenings after the toddler was put to bed. In those instances, I started to find time to write in little spurts during the day when I could. If the toddler is happily eating lunch and the baby is chilling on his play mat, maybe I could squeeze in a few paragraphs. When the baby is napping and the toddler is playing by herself, I could sneak some more. 100 words might not seem like much, but those 100-word sessions add up and lessen the load later. Even though a longer, uninterrupted writing session is ideal, any parent knows that you can’t count on that. In order to parent and keep up with your writing goals, you have to work whenever and wherever you can.
#5) Use Children as Motivation.
In the end, when all else fails, I use my children to motivate me. I go back to my vision for my life. I remind myself how much I want my babies to see their mother following and achieving her dreams. I imagine them growing up seeing my books on our bookshelves. I think of them learning to pursue their own goals for themselves and never give up, because their mother taught them to persevere, even when it was hard.
Writing is hard. Parenting is hard. It’s all too easy for parents to lose themselves in the tantrums and sleep regressions and never-ending household chores. But being a parent doesn’t automatically mean your own dreams have to disappear. You were someone before you had babies, and that person deserves to live too.
You can meet your writing goals while parenting young children.
Don’t give up–you’ve got this.