As I write these words, my husband is in the next room, singing ABCs with our daughter and putting her
to bed. It’s his night to do the song and dance of bedtime – which means that, while he gets that
treasured final snuggle of the day, my night gets to start a whole half hour earlier. As two naturally
introverted people with solo interests sharing a life and a child, trading off nights for bedtime routine is
just one of the many little gifts we give each other. We’ve learned how to thrive in the little circus we
call a home, and to support each other along the way.
When I was trying to decide what to write about for this blog post, I was doing dishes. I’m a firm believer
in the simple truth that the best ideas come through when your hands are wet. My kiddo was having
dinner, I was listening to an audio book (one I’d read before, so I wouldn’t be mad if I missed
something), and I was thinking about the scene I’d be working on during my writing sprint that night
before bed. Lo and behold, there was my topic: the art of juggling writing and parenthood.
You will notice that I use the word juggling here – not balancing. I am far from claiming to have a
balance in my gently chaotic circus of a home. But like many a circus performer before me, I have
become rather adept at juggling. I am a full-time working mom with a 4-year-old pixie of a daughter. I
am a wife, a writer, and editor, a daughter, a sister, a person who requires reading to stay sane – the
talent of juggling is required.
So, how do we do it? How do we juggle the joyful demands of parenthood with the engrossing passion
that is required for writing? It’s easy to say that you will make time for what matters to you. It’s true,
too, but it’s also an over-simplification. It implies that if you can’t make time, you care less. As parents,
that’s a rough road to walk down – because often, our own needs fall down a rung on the ladder, in
place of what our children need. And we should never shame ourselves about that.
Four years in, I have figured out a few things that help me to keep the balls in the air, as it were. Here
are a few tips, in case you, too, are doing the parent/writer juggle.
1. Lower your expectations.
If I could give one tip to new parents, it would be this – especially parents who are creatives.
Making tiny humans changes your life in a massive way. Your body and soul have to handle so
much new, so fast… and if you expect yourself to go back to the status quo right away, you’re
setting yourself up for disappointment, and possibly burnout. Accept that your life is different,
and your writing schedule will likely need to change as well. Don’t hold yourself to old patterns
that don’t work anymore – find what works for you now, in the life you’re currently living.
2. Find a writing time that works WITH your life.
“But Kear, I’ve always been a morning writer!”
Tell that to your kid who’s decided that they will now wake with the sun every day like a fricking
rooster. Similarly, the writing until 2:00 a.m. gig is a hard one for parents of young children to
pull off. Put some time and effort into finding what works for your schedule – try something
new. Don’t settle into what you’ve always done if it no longer works. And when you figure out
what does work…
3. Make your writing time an appointment.
How do you make time for a doctor’s appointment, or a lunch date with friends? You pull out
your schedule, find free space, and go from there, right? I have learned to treat my writing time
in the same way. Whether I’m planning on sprinting with my fabulous CP, or on my own, I plan
out my writing times like they are vital appointments – because they are. Whether you’re an
early bird who schedules 45 minutes before it’s time to wake the kids, a lunch break writer, or a
post-bedtime routine writer like me – make that appointment with yourself, and dedicate that
time. Write it in your calendar if that helps. If I schedule the time that I need to write, it feels
necessary. Parenting is tiring. The days of writing on nights I “feel like it” are long gone, because
most nights I feel like doing nothing but falling asleep! Deciding in advance makes things more
4. Your circus, your monkeys…
Oh, come on – I had to! But really, be clear with those monkeys. Tell your partner when you’ve
scheduled writing, and help them to understand that it is integral that you feel supported in
devoting the time you have scheduled to your writing. If your kids are old enough to
understand, let them know that Mommy or Daddy is writing for the next hour – it will be good
for them to see you focusing on something you’re passionate about.
5. Now that you’re done setting your writing appointments and warning your family, a quick
reminder: DON’T OVER-SCHEDULE!
Lowered expectations, remember? Just because you CAN feasibly fit two sprints into a day,
doesn’t mean you should. You need rest, relaxation, kid-snuggling time, reading time, family
time, partner time… you’re juggling a lot of balls, and if you add too many, you will drop them
all. Similarly, try not to overschedule in other areas, either. If I can’t find time in my schedule for
writing, I am likely over-scheduling elsewhere, and that will lead to nothing good for my mental
state. Which brings us to my next point…
6. Drop a ball or two when needed.
You may have learned to juggle, but you don’t need to make a profession of it! Learn to drop a
ball or two when the warning signs of burnout pop up, so that you don’t go dropping the whole
armload later. Personally, I like to drop the laundry ball. If that means my load of blankets gets
run through the washer 3 times before sitting in the dryer for days, so be it. Sometimes that
means we’re ordering take out or eating leftovers. And, occasionally, that ball is my writing.
When everything else in a day is top priority, and something has to go, it’s time to give myself
the gift of understanding, and reschedule that writing appointment. It is okay to drop a ball or
two. Really… I promise.
7. Taking a break is not failing.
Can I tell you a secret?
I did not write or read a single new word the whole first year of my daughter’s life. Not one.
Remember all that newness I mentioned before? I physically could not take in or put out
anything new. It actually hurt to try. And it wasn’t until a year into parenting that I found my
way back home to the written word, and realized that it was okay. That it was there to come
back to, and that taking the break that I needed didn’t harm me, or my art. So, if you need to
take a break, if life is too much, or your kiddos need more of you right now, or you just CAN’T –
take the time you need. Put that ball down for now. Give yourself the permission to pause… and
the promise that you’ll come back. Because the world really does need your story.
8. Remember that you make them proud.
When you feel selfish for focusing on your own passion, remember that your passion will make
them proud. You are a parent, and it is your job to teach your children to follow their joy, right?
Children learn by watching. They will model what you do. So never feel bad for allowing them to
watch you follow your own joy. Take pride in knowing that they learn from you every day… and
that they’re proud of you!
I’ve moved into my bed with my lap top. As I finish this article, I hear my daughter’s steady breathing
over the monitor, and the mildly violent sounds of my husband playing a video game in the office
downstairs. My cat is asleep on my legs, my dog next to me. I plan to read until my husband joins me,
and we’ll likely watch Criminal Minds (an episode we’ve seen at least four times) before bed. The house
is quiet - no more juggling required tonight. My own personal circus will start back up tomorrow, bright
and early, and you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Meet Kear Anne Simmons
Kear Anne Simmons is a writer from southern New Jersey, who is working on finishing her first complete novel. Complete, because she has started several throughout her life, only to discard them like loose socks who could not find their pair when she realised they weren’t the stories she was supposed to tell... at least not yet.
She is a mother to a sweet little pixie of a toddler, a wife to her video game-loving soulmate, and they all share snuggles with a cuddly black dog named Chance and a possibly part-demon but oh-so-lovable black cat named Jynx. When not toddler chasing, she can be found curled up writing or reading, hoping for a good thunderstorm. Find her on Instagram @kearbetweenchapters and on Goodreads.