Summertime living is not so easy when you’re a stay-at-home writer mom. You’re
caught between a rock (writing) and a hard place (children). At the moment, I’m writing
this post with two children sitting on a couch in front of my desk. One daughter watches a My Little Pony video whose characters, God Bless ‘em, love to scream in high-pitched voices throughout the entire story. Daughter number two is playing Webkinz, which requires a play-by-play announcement of how her creature is feeling/eating/wearing every three minutes. And lengthy descriptions of the prizes she wins. Somewhere nearby a dog also resides. I only know this because of the smell.
What’s a mom to do? At seven and nine, I can ignore them only for so long. I don’t want to look back on their childhood years as a blur of glancing over my computer screen at the back of their heads (which is what I’m doing right now). I also have the attention span of an adult flea. I find myself wondering if Pinky Pie Pony is going to escape the
clutches of whatever thing is making that God Awful Sound instead of wondering how my character Cherry Tucker is going to escape the God Awful Mess she’s gotten herself into.
I know there’s many of us out there. Counting down the day until school restarts and then handing ourselves a whopping pile of guilt for entertaining the thought of wanting time and space from our little darlings. They don’t care about our deadlines. They want our attention right now.
Now some of you scoff. I know what you’re going to say. I grew up in the seventies when kids were kicked out of the house by eight a.m. and we didn’t see our mothers until dinnertime. If we were lucky, she’d throw a cookie out the door somewhere around three o’clock. Where I lived there was no community pool. No community nothing. I’m
from a farming village. I had a bike, a sister, and a yard. My kids experienced this
freedom when we lived overseas (and I started writing again). I gave them a watch and
sent them on their merry way with orders to be back at dinnertime. They went to the
local park with the neighborhood kids.
Those days are long gone here in Suburbia, USA, where I now reside. So new ideas?
We can start with headphones to drown out the cries of Pinky Pie, but they don’t stop
the visual assault of children practicing somersaults in front of your computer while you
try to describe the perfect murder.
I joined a 5 a.m. Club through a friend when my writing day started at eight o’clock after
I waved goodbye to the children. This will work for some better than others. I am
attempting to begin writing at 5 a.m., although I generally hit the alarm until 5:30 and
actually get up somewhere closer to seven. Which gives me thirty uninterrupted
minutes. When I do get up at five, I spend a lot of time staring at the computer screen
before I remember to actually turn the computer on.
If you are able to get up early and think coherently, hop on Twitter. Lots of people are
up. Ask to do a writing sprint (like #1K1H or #amwriting) for support from fellow writers.
Nothing like a little competition to induce your muse.
Not an early riser but a good night owl? Again, hop on Twitter and ask to sprint. I also
don’t usually think coherently at night, but the few times I felt on my game I did this and
was able to crank out a good word count.
Taking time out to show them how to play one game, do one craft, how to use the vacuum... I operate on the teach a man to fish axion. However, I often forget that a few minutes of my attention can buy thirty.
The girls are participating in a few camps. Camps can be expensive and the ones they attend are only three hours at a time. The first camp I spent about thirty minutes driving and then wasted precious writing time catching up on email when I returned. Second camp, I parked myself in a nearby Starbucks and refused to sign onto the internet. Amazing how no internet produces word counts!
I can’t afford a regular babysitter. If you have wee ones, hire an upper elementary student (4th - 6th grader) to play with your kids while you’re locked in a room. That age might not handle a big emergency, but you’re within shouting distance. The fun of a “big kid” will distract your little ones from bugging you. And elementary school students will be pleased with five bucks, unlike their older siblings who want eight dollars and up an hour.
Libraries are great for kids who will enjoy perusing the shelves for new books. Some
libraries have programs with planned entertainment. You can haul your laptop with you
and spew some words while your kids play the library’s computer games and look for
new books. Mine are not so good about independent book searching, but maybe this
will work for you.
Any other ideas out there? How are you keeping your kids occupied without guilt? My
heroine, Cherry Tucker, clamors for me to finish book 2! Her first mystery, PORTRAIT
OF A DEAD GUY, releases August 28.