Making time to write is hard when you’re a stay-home parent. My own kids are teenagers—busy, busy teenagers with jobs and social lives and cell phones and their own agendas. If I wanted to work on a novel, they’d probably be thrilled to have me out of their hair. But I remember when I first started freelancing. One child was a toddler, the other an infant, and the only way I could work was to get up at four in the morning and hope for a couple of productive hours. The rest of the day was hopeless, but I had those precious two hours each morning.
If you’re a writer with children at home, you can do a certain amount of work each day without stashing your kids at daycare or plopping them in front of the TV (although a half hour of Nick Jr. can be a life-saver). Here are a couple of tips I learned along the way.
First, make your writing career a family decision. Announce your goal to the family, get their input, brainstorm together for ways you can get some writing done each day, and delegate chores if possible. When a child feels they’ve contributed to the plan, they’re much more likely to cooperate.
Take advantage of family, friends, play groups. Would Grandma like a few hours of kid time each week? Can you trade days with a neighbor? Or host a play group one day in your home, and the next week you’re free.
Structure your child’s day. If your kids are home full time, create a schedule and try to stick to it (at least until the next developmental stage comes along). If they know that after breakfast, Mom or Dad is going to sit at the computer while they build a LEGO tower nearby for half an hour (you can use a timer), they are less likely to protest or interrupt.
Kids are also more likely to let you work if you give them your undivided attention first. Set up an activity, sit down with them for 15 minutes, and interact positively; then casually announce, “Great job. You guys finish illustrating your castle stories, and I’ll sit over here and work on my boring old grown-up story.”
Make your work space off limits. Respect your children’s personal spaces, toys, or treasures, and teach them respect for your own space. Remind them that your desk is for work and your computer is not a plaything (except of course for Farmville and Mafia World on Facebook, but they don’t have to know that. Nobody has to know that).
Older kids love to be “in charge.” Make clear chore charts depending on age, and put the kids in charge of picking up toys, sweeping the kitchen, feeding the dog, or watering a few plants.
You’ll have to be realistic. Depending on your kids’ ages, you may only expect to work an hour or two each day. But if you are organized and can provide structure to their days—and if you schedule plenty of quality one-on-one time—the little darlings are more likely to respect your need to write.
An added bonus: With a structured day, your children will do less lolling around, whining about being bored, and when they have free time, they’re more likely to enjoy it—sometimes independently!