In an earlier post I mentioned that I began writing last year when my children finally needed just a little less constant attention. As they moved out of toddlerhood I gained some mental space to devote to doing things that required actually thinking and creativity. After five years of parenthood and three years out of the workforce, I missed using those parts of my brain and I was hungry for a way to stretch my mental muscles, if you will. Writing was the perfect way to celebrate the return of my brain. Hey, brain!
However, kid phases don’t move in a linear fashion. It isn’t like children just suddenly get less labor intensive at age 3 and it’s all smooth sailing from there. Wouldn’t that be nice? But no, they don’t. This week, for example, my almost four year old LOST. HER. MIND. Constant whining, clinging, temper tantrums, and rebellion. She got her first really bad report from her preschool teacher. Euck. It was exhausting. For me, for her sister, and for her, really. We were all tired, cranky, and just over it.
So what’s a person to do when they have discovered a new hobby, or starting writing, or whatever, and they still have to figure out what to do with those little people?
I’m not an expert and I recognize that all of these suggestions come with a level of privilege, so my apologies for that. As much as I wish I could personally babysit for everyone out there so that they could find some “me time” I can’t, so this is what I’ve figured out so far. I’m a stay at home mom, so these are somewhat specific to that, but some also apply to working parents.
So, what’s a parent to do?
Babysitters. Duh, right? Pay someone to watch your kids while you find a quiet coffee shop to write, or draw, or read. Simple, but it can get expensive. Prohibitively so, especially if your hobby is, in fact, a hobby which by definition isn’t really bringing in income. For these reasons, I don’t generally use babysitters to find time to write. If I ever get paid for it, you bet I will, though!
Preschool! If you can afford it, look for part time preschools in your area. I never thought I would send my kids to preschool at age two. Truly. That sounded insane. Why would I QUIT my job, lose my income, to be a stay at home parent, and then send a two year old to school. Whut? Why would a two year old even need school? Well, by the time my oldest was nearing her second birthday and I was super pregnant, the idea of sending her to a sweet little preschool for two mornings a week from 9-12 sounded AWESOME! We did the same with my other daughter, starting with two mornings a week, and that was when I became a new woman. A few hours a week to run errands and write made a huuuuuge difference in my life. Worth every penny. And the girls blossomed in their school. They made amazing friends, learned valuable social skills, and absolutely loved their teachers.
Family. If you have a spouse or a partner, when Saturday morning rolls around, say, “Have fun going out to breakfast with the kiddos! Buh bye! Bring back a bagel for me!” then shove them out the door.
Extended family. Got grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc? Give them a call. Tell them you’d love a quiet hour to yourself. Tell them the kids will pay them in watercolor paintings and sticky kisses. Or do what I do and record your kids talking about how much they miss their grandparents or their cool uncle on your phone and send it to the person being discussed with a “aw, look how cute!” message. Works EVERY time!
Friend swap. Do you know other parents who could use a free hour? Suggest a kid swap. Once a week you add their kids to your posse while they have some kid-free time, then the next week they watch yours. The kids get a play date, the parents get some free time. Bonus- it sounds counter intuitive but depending on ages, sometimes adding more kids makes watching your own kids easier (for short periods of time, at least) because they’re so happy to have playmates that they let go of your leg for a while.
MMO/gym daycare. Google Mom’s Morning Out in your area. Some churches/gyms/rec centers offer inexpensive drop off child care once a week or once a month. For me, the lifesaver is a gym with quality childcare. Granted, the gym membership doesn’t come cheap, but my gym provides up to 2.5 hours of childcare each day. EACH DAY. The kids play with friends, have a snack, and climb around in a play structure while I get some exercise, take a quick shower, and park myself near an outlet to do some writing. It’s not the smallest line item in our family budget, but it is by FAR the cheapest part-time childcare around if you use it regularly. Fun for everyone and the kids and I get a respite from each other, which we all need sometimes.
Put them to bed and get to work. This is my least favorite, if I’m honest. By the time my kids go to bed I want pajama pants, a couch, and mindless TV. I also find that if I write before bed I don’t sleep well. I have lots of dreams, and wake up a lot. I *do* wake up with even better plot ideas, but I need sleep, so I don’t do this often.
So that’s that. I applaud every one of you who are writing or creating, and especially those who are doing it while wrangling children. Both are challenging endeavors but totally worth it.
Have any other suggestions to make multi-tasking with kids easier? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment.