Women’s time has been interrupted and fragmented throughout history, the rhythms of their days circumscribed by the sisyphean tasks of housework, childcare and kin work – keeping family and community ties strong. If what it takes to create are long stretches of uninterrupted, concentrated time, time you can choose to do with as you will, time that you can control, that’s something women have never had the luxury to expect, at least not without getting slammed for unseemly selfishness.
Quote above from The Guardian.
It takes a determined effort to be writer and a mother, especially if you also have to work (freelance or a regular job). Nurseries, schools and childminders still default to contacting the mother if there’s a problem: fathers are only considered if the mother is unavailable. Children sleep but not consistently and not always when it’s convenient to write. Older children may be happier to watch something/read/draw independently but still want a parent nearby or will interrupt when the programme’s finished/the book’s finished/a crayon snaps. Getting up early might work if children sleep in until 8am; not so doable if they’re still waking at 5am. Writing late at night’s fine if you’re an owl, but doesn’t work if you’re a lark or the day proved exhausting.
Not all mothers have access to a nearby, supportive network of friends and/or family who can make up the childcare gaps and that impacts on writing time. Many fathers still see their partners as household managers, simply because she’s a mother, even if she also has another job, and fail to appreciate how absorbing that role is. Sometimes it’s not possible to share parental duties with a partner. Every mother knows it’s impossible to write while being constantly interrupted, re-writing and re-organising mental to-do lists, remembering when games kit is required, when school friends’ birthdays are, friends’ food allergies, finding creative things to do because it’s raining again or because you really cannot face “Peppa Pig” for the 121st time.
How you do combine a selfless activity (mothering) with a selfish one (writing)?
- Don’t see it as selfish. If you’re a writer, you need to write and that means carving out time to write.
- Don’t get discouraged by a bad day. You might find today only had 20 minutes available so make the most of it and don’t set an unachievable goal. Setting daily goals might not be doable but weekly ones might allow for fluctuations in time.
- Train others not to interrupt. Don’t answer the phone if it goes during your writing time and the call isn’t urgent. Don’t answer the door to unsolicited callers.
- Encourage family/friends to make appointments rather than turning up at their convenience and expecting you to be available. If they don’t, treat them as unsolicited callers (they wouldn’t turn up at a work place so they shouldn’t turn up when you’re working).
- Don’t let those close to you persuade you your writing is “only a hobby”. If writing is important to you value it and prioritise it.
- Procrastinate usefully; it’s amazing how many press releases I’ve written because I’ve been putting off a review or how many reviews were written because I was putting off a poem or how many laundry items get ironed while I’m working out a tricky plot point or how many stories have been drafted while I’m gardening (if I didn’t procrastinate, the gardening would not get done at all).
- Learn to write on whatever’s to hand. We’re all guilty of preferring to write longhand in notebooks or to type straight onto a laptop, but mobile phones or scraps of paper are just as useful for first drafts or scribbling down an idea.
- Create a writing base: need not be a desk or room of your own but a stack of letter trays on a sideboard or a kitchen table drawer where you can quickly set up a writing space and keep notes/research for your current project in one place.
- Be adaptable: you may think you need a long chunk of time to write a novel or produce a pamphlet-length sequence of poems, but it’s possible to work a chapter at time or a poem at a time. A chapter, with a little editing, might work as a stand alone story. Each part in a sequence might work as a stand alone poem. These become pieces that could be published while you’re still working on the next section.
- Consider reviewing – it’s a good way of combining reading with study and if you get your reviews published, you’ll have something to show for your work.
- Children copy what they see. Happy mother = happy children. Miserable mother = miserable children.
- You’re not just a mother. Your children need to see you combine the roles you have so they see mother is not just mother. You also need to write: frustrating part of your identity doesn’t work. Writing will re-energise you.