Posts Tagged ‘children’

Writing Around Life: Work/School/Kids

Here we run into the ultimate combination–work, school, and children.

(This is also our last official post in the writing around life series. If you think I should add anything, or you have any comments, please let me know!)

Now, this can be intense, but isn’t necessarily. As we discussed in previous sections, you’re probably not full time on work AND school AND kids. Most people are full time on one and part time on the other two. For example:

  • Person A works a full-time job, 40 hours a week. They’re also taking a continuing education course and have two small children at home.
  • Person B stays home with the kids. When they can, they do freelance or contract work from home, and they’re also taking a MOOC course (massive open online course) to see if they’d like a certain career.
  • Person C attends university working toward their bachelor’s degree. They also pick up a few hours a week at a coffee shop, and spends time with their older kids when they’re not in school.

There’s infinite combinations of this, but most people fall into one of the above categories. You are primarily a worker, a student, or a parent. That’s not to say you’re not also the other things, but that one category takes up most of your time.

There are a couple ways to fit writing in around your busy schedule, and they’re primarily things we’ve talked about in the individual work, school, and children sections. Ideally, you can carve writing time in or around your main responsibility, leaving you time to complete your secondary ones. If you work full time, you shouldn’t be sacrificing school or time with your kids for writing.

So, running with the working full time example, if you can get your writing done during your commute and/or your lunch break, then you’re free when you get home to focus on other things. Likewise, if you write during short breaks at school, then you can help the kids with homework when you get home and work after they go to bed. And if you can write while the kids are doing their homework or while they’re napping, then you’re free to work or do your class once your spouse or other child care arrives.

And remember–if you’re too tired to write right now, don’t beat yourself up about it. Yes, you can make time for writing. It’s not impossible. But if it’s not working now, give it a break. Situations change. Classes end. Kids get older. It’s all right to take care of yourself.

Be realistic about the time you have available. Realize that even a little writing adds up over time.

Thoughts about writing around everything, squiders?

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Writing Around Life: Work/Kids

Like some of the previous combination sections, squiders, we’re going to divide this into work part-time/kids and work full-time/kids. We’re also going to assume you have childcare worked out, whether a family member is watching the children or they attend daycare.

WARNING: Remember, check regulations and make sure all your work is done before attempting to write during work hours or using work resources.

Part-time work

The problem with part-time work is that it may not always be on a reliable schedule. You may work Tuesday/Thursday/Friday one week and Monday/Wednesday/Saturday the next, or find yourself switching between day time and evening shifts. This can make it hard to reliably schedule in writing, so you might need to find time as you can, or schedule a week at a time.

Several of the techniques we’ve discussed before also work here:

  • Work when your kids work
  • Use your commute (if you have one/use public transportation)
  • Ask the babysitter/daycare if they can keep the kids a little longer (if financially viable)
  • Try to have a night off once a week for writing
  • Work while they sleep

Full-time work

If you work 40+ hours a week, you probably don’t have a lot of time with your kids, so it can be hard to prioritize something that takes you further away from family time. Plus you may have a spouse to maintain a relationship with, or a house to keep up. So how do you stuff writing in?

This can be a good time to look at your writing goals. Do you want to eventually quit your day job and write full time? Do you want something to share with your kids? Is writing something you do for fun?

Once you’ve established what you want out of your writing, it can be good to break your goal down into steps. If you want to release self-published novels every few months, you’re obvious going to have to write more/faster than someone who has a single novel or memoir in them that is less concerned on speed.

And once you’ve broken your goal into steps and determined a vague schedule, you can begin to see how much time you need in a week. (I like to work in weeks at a go; others work in months or even years. Up to you.)

Depending on your goals, maybe you set aside a few hours every Saturday morning to work. You get some work done, and then the kids are up and you can do things with the family. Or, depending on how much energy you have, what your spouse (if you have one) is up to, etc., you can try writing for an hour or so after the kids go to bed.

Remember that you might have built-in time at or around work that you can use as well, such as your commute (if you take public transportation) or your lunch break.

Anything to add about working, having kids, and writing, squiders? We’re almost done. Next week we tackle the ultimate work/school/kids combo.

Writing Around Life: School/Kids (Older Children)

Good morning, squiders! Is it hot where you live? It’s hot here. Man, summer.

Today we’re going to be looking at how to write around both school and older children. Like last week with the younger children section, this will be divided into part-time school/older children and full-time school/older children.

In this case, older children includes children who are going to school on a full-time basis, so essentially ages 6 and up. The nice thing about older children is that they begin to be self-sufficient to some extent. Even a 6 year old can dress themselves (though admittedly, not always appropriately for the season/occasion) and can probably get themselves simple snacks. (They probably still need help tying their shoes, but oh well.) By the time you get up to the tweens and teens, your kids may only need you to make them dinner and drive them places.

NOTE: All children are different, and all have different needs. You know your own children best, so use your discretion when applying techniques. ‘

Like last week, this section assumes that you have a childcare solution for when you are at school.

The biggest thing you can do, no matter if you’re in school part or full time, is to work when they’re working. Homework starts early these days. Even kindergarteners may have the occasional 15-minute assignment they need to do at home, or they may need to practice reading. Working next to your kids accomplishes a couple of different things:

  • If they need help, you’re readily available
  • It somewhat counts as family time, even if you’re not directly interacting
  • It helps the kids work because you’re setting a good example
  • You’re getting stuff done

And then, when everyone’s done, you can all go off and do fun things, and your schedules are (hopefully) in sync.

Part-time students

Again, how these strategies will work for you depends on how many classes you’re taking at a time. One or two is generally the most doable when also having to take care of your children, but you know what’s right for you.

  • Utilize the time while your children are at school

The average elementary school student is in school for about six and a half hours a day.  Even if you’re using several hours of this a day for schoolwork (homework, or doing online coursework) you can still probably set an hour or so aside to work on writing or other creative projects. It can help to differentiate school work from creative work–perhaps an hour before the kids need to be picked up, you go to a cafe or a library and work there, then get the kids on the way home.

  • Make use of childcare

If financially viable, you can use after or before school programs to get in a little extra time. After school programs are often less than $20 per afternoon, and you can get 3 or 4 more hours of work. Used once a week or even every other week, this is still a decent amount of extra time to get things done. Likewise, if you’re already using childcare (if your classes don’t correspond with when the kids are in school), perhaps you can add on a little extra time by dropping the kids off a little earlier or picking them up a little later.

  • Set a dedicated writing time once a week

Even when life is crazy, there should be an hour or two a week you can claim as writing time. This should be some time when someone else can watch the kids (or while they’re at school) and should be as consistent as possible to help build a habit. By having a dedicated time, you can make sure you’re making at least a little progress.

Full-time students

Unfortunately, a full-time college schedule isn’t as consistent as a K-12 schedule, so you may be taking classes outside when your kids are at school. Again, these techniques assume you have childcare in place.

  • Work during breaks on campus

You may have short breaks on campus that aren’t long enough to work on school projects or head home. These can be great times to get a little bit of creative work done. Make sure you’re carrying a notebook or a laptop or a writing instrument of choice with you. (Not too hard, since you probably have some for schoolwork anyway.)

  • Set a writing time at the beginning of the week

Since college schedules aren’t always consistent (you may need to go to office hours one week, or meet extra with your group another, for example), you may not be able to set a time each week for writing. But you can look at your schedule each week and block off time you know you’re busy (it also helps to block off homework time) and choose an hour or so for writing. Things may still happen, but having it on your calendar makes it more likely to get done.

As mentioned previously, school comes first, and it does end eventually.

Thoughts about writing around school and older children, squiders?

Writing Around Life: School/Kids (Younger Children)

This post is going to be divided into part-time school/young kids and full-time school/young kids. In this case, young kids essentially means any child who is not also going to school full-time, so infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers.

This is a tough combo, no way around it. Young children need almost constant supervision, and it’s hard for them to advocate for themselves, so you need to make sure you trust whomever is watching them while you’re at school. Cost can also be an issue, since you’re probably not working (if you are, please see the work/school/kids combo section).

But, for the sake of this book, let’s assume you have a child care option that is working for you that allows you to attend school. So we’re going to look at the time you have outside of school where you have to balance non-classroom course work (such as homework and projects), watching your children, and hopefully getting a little writing in.

NOTE: It’s okay to let writing fall by the wayside if you have a hard semester. School is finite. It ends eventually. Your children are only young once. You will have to be the judge of this, of course. If you have time to spend an hour or so a day playing MMORPGs or catching up on your favorite television show, you have time to write. If you run around all day and crash once the kids are in bed, then you might not.

For both part- and full-time students, short breaks are your friend.

Long breaks between classes aren’t the best time to try and fit writing in because they’re better for other things. You can take the kids home and feed them lunch. You can run errands. You can meet with groups and get homework or projects done.

Short breaks are golden because you can’t do anything else, but 10-30 minutes is more than enough time to think through that plot snaggle, write a couple hundred words, outline the next few scenes, and so forth.

Part-time students

Some of these strategies depend on the number of classes you’re taking at a time. I tend to take a single college-level course at a time, which generally means that it requires two hours or less of work on any particular day. Adjust as necessary to your situation.

  • Add half-an-hour on to your child-watching situation

Depend on who’s watching your child and how much you’re paying (and whether you can afford any more), see if you can add an extra half hour on. Maybe your mother-in-law is perfectly happy to watch little Susie for a bit longer while you camp in the lobby of your school and get some writing done. 30 minutes isn’t a lot, but it adds up over time, even if you can only do it once or twice a week.

  • Get a night out

See if your spouse or a family member is willing to watch your children one night a week for a few hours on a regular basis. This has the added benefit of getting you out of the house as well as giving you the opportunity to write (or do school work, as necessary).

  • Exchange time

Perhaps you have a friend who also needs some child-free time to get some stuff done. Maybe she can watch your kids on, say, Thursday, or whenever you need it the most, and you can repay the favor on Fridays, when you don’t have class and your classwork is done for the week.

  • Work while they sleep

Sleeping children are the best. I wouldn’t recommend trying to burn both end of the candles (i.e., staying up late after the kids are asleep AND getting up early to work before they wake up), but doing one or the other and also working during naps can be a great boost to productivity.

Full-time students

If you’re on campus all day and have full-time child care, you’re actually ahead of the game. A full-time day care provider typically charges by the week, so the actual hours your child(ren) is at day care don’t matter as much. Even if a relative is helping you out, you’re probably on campus all day and can spend breaks between classes as you see fit.

Of course, school should always be the top priority, and sometimes you may find yourself inundated with work that needs to be done. But it does tend to balance out. Very few courses keep you super busy all the time. Make use of your small breaks when you can.

If you’re not on campus all day, or if you’re doing online school where you have more control over your schedule, try out some of the techniques listed in the part-time section.

Anything to add, Squiders? Thoughts on writing while doing both school and having young children?

Writing Around Life: Children (Older Children)

Howdy, squiders. Last week we talked about young children. This week, we’re going to discuss older children. The break between the two isn’t exact, but I’d put it somewhere between 7 and 9–old enough that you can trust the kids to not strangle themselves on the curtains the moment you turn your back, but not so old that you can rely on them to take full care of themselves.

The biggest difference between younger and older children are the amount of direct supervision they require. With an older child, you can have them do homework in their own room without worrying about the consequences. You can trust them to complete simple tasks or chores without worrying about the house burning down. They can probably even get themselves a snack and a drink without dire consequences.

Of course, children all develop at different speeds. Trust your instincts when it comes to your own child(ren). If something seems too advanced, don’t do it.

So, assuming you have an older child (or multiple older children), how do you get your writing done? Well, the good news is that the kids aren’t necessarily the distraction here. The bad news is that their activities might be.

(There are many schools of thoughts about how many activities are the proper amount based on children’s ages and other assorted things, none of which we will discuss here. Every family and every child is different, and hopefully your family will work together to make sure no one is either bored or overworked, and that the bank is not being broken on activities nobody actually likes.)

If your kids are in their late teens, the good news is that they are probably fairly self-sufficient. As long as you check in with them periodically and include them in family things (and feed them), they’ve got their own things to do and their own way to get there, in a lot of cases. If your teens are home a lot and enjoy interacting with you, first of all, congratulations on winning at parenting. Second of all, set aside a time and a place that is your writing time/place, and make sure everyone in the family is aware of when/where that is. Your teen is welcome to your attention outside that.

If your kids are in upper elementary or middle school, here are some strategies for being present and also getting some writing done.

Work together

Kids have homework. Nobody likes homework, but we all struggle through anyway. Consider instituting a family work hour, whenever works best, such as right after school (that way homework is done before fun things) or after dinner. While the kids are doing their assignments, you can write (or, in theory, pay the bills or other boring but productive things that need doing). That way everyone’s working together, which can help provide motivation for actually getting things done.

It can also help to break this up into two or three sections–after a period of time, your brain needs a rest to get back to peak proficiency. This can also depend on the age of your kids and the amount of homework that needs doing. A third grader might be good with two half-hour sessions, whereas a ninth grader may need two hour-long sessions. I wouldn’t recommend going longer than an hour at a time.

It can also help to have everyone stay at the table until the time is up even if their work is done, though this is a determination you will need to make for your own family. Children who are done with their homework can work on hobbies, such as drawing, or they might earn time on a game or electronic device.

Providing a steady, expected time for work can help everyone get into the proper mindset and help them get things done in a timely fashion.

(NOTE: This can be attempted with younger children, though the results are mixed. Younger children often don’t have the focus or attention span to work on something for any sort of significant amount of time, and may need regular help, which can break your concentration.)

Write around activities

Older children have sports, dance, theater, choir, tutoring–you name it. And you probably drive them to a lot of it. Some activities require parents to be there and be present, such as helping with a scout troop or working as the assistant coach. Other things you just drop them off and pick them up an hour later. And yet more things you sit on the sideline, watching 500 attempts at baskets.

This is a personal judgment call, but if you’re spending soccer practice staring at your phone willing the time to go by faster, why not spend that time writing instead? If you could drive home for an hour between drop off and pick up for swim team, would that time be better spent if you went somewhere local and wrote instead? And even if you do decide that watching your kid is the best use of your time, you can still have writing materials with you for when things get slow or if an idea comes to you.

Many of the general tips work here, as do some of the ones for younger children, such as working before they wake up.

Other thoughts on writing around older children?

Writing Around Life: Children (Younger)

Oh man, squiders, nothing kills your writing productivity like having small children. You’re exhausted, you can’t pee without there being crying, and if you avert your eyes for a second, they’ll have scribbled all over the couch with a marker that came from who knows where. (You would have sworn they were all up high.)

WARNING: Do not leave your children unattended!

Small children (we’re talking mostly under 5, though some of these techniques may also work for older children who are less mature) are equal parts stupid and inventive. Taking your eyes off of them, even for just a minute, can sometimes be disastrous, which explains why most parents of small children always look like they’ve been run over by a bus.

That’s not to say that you can’t get any writing done around your children! You certainly can! It may not be as much as it was before children, but it is doable. It is more doable if you have a spouse, friends, or family that are willing to watch the kids periodically so that you can escape.

Write while they’re sleeping

Little kids sleep a lot. It doesn’t always feel like it, because some children do not like to sleep for decent periods of time or on any type of schedule, but they do. Even a 5-year-old should be getting somewhere between 10 and 13 hours of sleep a day, whereas a 2-year-old needs closer to 12-15 hours. The average adult should be getting 7-9 hours. So, in theory, you’ve got at least two hours where you’re awake and they’re not.

This isn’t a perfect plan–depending on sleep patterns, you may need a nap yourself during that time. If you have more than one small one, they may not sleep at the same time. And there may be other things that you need to do during that blessed naptime (showering, chores, a quick workout, a mental health check, etc.). But if you can manage it, even a few days a week, this is a great time to write because you know where they are and you’re relatively sure they’re not getting into trouble.

Write while they’re watching television

This won’t work for the youngest children (experts recommend no screens before the age of 2), but there are a lot of great, educational shows out there for preschool age children, and you can let your kids watch 1 or 2 a day without feeling too guilty about it.

Again, though, don’t leave your kids attended! I recommend sitting at a nearby table with a laptop or a notebook. That way you can see the kids and what they’re up to, and you can get a little bit of work done.

Designate a writing night

Basically, you get one night a week where you get to write and someone else (probably your spouse, but if they’re not available for whatever reason, a relative, a babysitter, the drop-in daycare, etc.) watches the kid(s). This guarantees that you have a least one time a week where you get to do some writing. (Also, it’s lovely because you get to be child-free for an hour or three and sometimes that’s really necessary.)

I’d recommend leaving the house, especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent, because being home all the time can do a number on your psyche. I prefer coffee shops, but you could also meet a writing friend somewhere, go to the library (depending on how late your local branch is open), or hit a restaurant that doesn’t mind people parking for a bit.

Join a parent group

Some parent groups will provide daycare once a month for a small fee (somewhere between $5 and $15 per time), while others have programs where one parent will watch a number of children (maybe four families worth), and then the next parent will watch all the kids, and then the next, etc. You will have to watch all the children yourself in that sort of scenario, but you will also get some time to yourself, though how often and how regularly depends on the group.

In general, however, a parent group can also be useful for general support and mental health, and talking to other parents, some of whom might have older kids and have some more experience, can be helpful for figuring out how to get time to yourself. Make sure you find one that is supportive (some groups unfortunately got bogged down by people who adhere to a certain type of parenting and are loudly opposed to any other techniques, or may be full of people who are determined to hang on to everything bad about parenting), has other parents with children about the same age (good both for discussing issues and for playdates), and provides a mix of activities that work both for you and your children.

And remember, your kids are only little once. There is good mixed in with the bad, and if you’re not getting as much written now as you’d like, well, it’s only a few years until they’re in school and have interests of their own.

Thoughts about writing around little kids, squiders?