With summer upon us, it seemed like a perfect time to share how to write with a kid “underfoot”. As a part-time work-from-home mom, I get so much done during the school year but when summer comes around it can feel like all bets are off.
First off, I admit that I spend less time playing with Legos, than my kiddo would like. I also repeat the phrase, “just give me five more minutes” frequently.
While entranced by Pokémon or some other insufferable cartoon I’m able to get a few more words in. In these moments, diverting my attention to a new activity (writing) saves my sanity.
And finally, at the end of the day, there
is that glorious time from 7:30-10:00 p.m. after my son has gone off to dream town when I can watch Modern Family or write. Truth: Occasionally T.V. wins. Sometimes having kept my kid fed, clothed and alive for another day is enough and writing will have to wait for another day.
The good news is that my son has now been well trained. He knows that after a long morning of being “present” with him at the duck-park, indoor play gym or library, I may try to write.
Another thing that helps me is that I’m not a perfectionist. Nothing
I do is perfect but it seems to be good enough. I write in run-on sentences and don’t edit enough in first drafts. But if Anne Lamott thinks a bad first draft is okay that’s good enough for me. Sometimes I start sentences with But and And, use clichés while throwing caution to the wind.
As we speak, my son is pulling out my laptop power cord.
Is he trying to tell me something? He must need a refill of Goldfish crackers.
The end goal is that I’m trying to teach my kiddo that Mommy needs time for stuff she thinks is fun, too. As much as I loved those inflatable slides at Pump it Up Junior, I find writing much more satisfying.
Here is a quick action plan for you writer moms who need to know how to write with a kid underfoot:
Write During Nap Time.
It seems like a no-brainer but the time flies and it might be used up with silly tasks like housekeeping or laundry. If your kid is too old for naps you can make them have a one hour “quiet time” where they have to play in their room or outside. Kids dig routine so once they’re used to the plan they’ll know to expect it each day.
Use Screen Time.
Set aside one hour each day when the kids are awake and let them do something like watch TV or play a video game. You will all be on your screens together and you can get some writing done. I can usually knock out 1000 words in an hour but anything is better than nothing.
Give Yourself a Break.
Sometimes writing can really feel like another job, a miserable slog. It’s okay to let yourself off the hook now and then. Where we live, summer is a time we force ourselves outside as much as possible so if you aren’t wanting to write, you can sit outside and read while the kids play. To paraphrase Stephen King in On Writing, to be a good writer you’ve got to be a good reader too.
Find a Mom/Writer Friend.
If you find another mom nearby that would like a spare hour or two you can arrange a swap with her. A friend of mine has done this and now has two hours to herself each week. Of course, she also has another day when she has to watch her friend’s kids so you have to decide if it’s worth the commitment.
Write a Story with Your Kids.
I was surprised at how much fun I had when I invited my son to help me write a picture book. He drew pictures, suggested character names and story ideas. And even if it isn’t published worthy, you can print it out and have a special project that you worked on together. If you want to create something that’s more like a real book, Lulu.com is a site that makes it easy to transform your work into a real book. It might even ignite a love of reading and writing in a kid who’s shown no interest in these areas in school.
So what are some of your favorite tips for getting your writing done with kids around? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Melissa Uhles is a Freelance Writer and mom who has authored three books under her pen-name MJ Greenway. She writes under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest where sometimes her son and husband pop in to check on her.
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