A friend recently asked me how I keep up with my writing while taking care of my kids and spending some time with my husband. The simple answer is that I just don’t know. Some weeks are better than others, and in the end it really just becomes a balancing act.
This past week was not my best. The kids have been sick and I had a couple of guest posts scheduled, so I basically checked out for a few days. I had an article on nightmares and night terrors all mapped out and ready to write by last Friday, but then the weekend came and I wanted to have some family time before my husband went out of town for the week. So that’s still pending…
This conversation really caused me to sit back and think about how to approach my writing so that I have time to do it all.
I’m a hands-on mom. I truly enjoy playtime with my kids. I’m often seen sitting on the floor engaged in whatever interests them, or outside pushing them on the swings or digging for bugs. It’s what I do. It’s why I had kids. This free playtime is so limited. When they go off to Kindergarten, the real world begins. But for right now, they get to run the show (and I get front row seats).
So how do we make it all work? I’m the lucky one: My writing is done at any time, whenever I have a chance. I don’t have to clock in and out, and if the kids are sick I can just check out for a few days. If I decide to take on a few clients, I can do that on my babysitter days. In other words, I’m flexible. The downside, of course, is that my writing is constantly taking a backseat to just about everything else. I find myself up long past my self-imposed bedtime, eyes propped open as I feverishly finish my latest article. This, naturally, is followed by fatigue the next day. And the cycle continues.
I often hear people talk about creating a writing schedule and sticking to it. If there’s anything I love, it’s a schedule. But with limited childcare, a schedule can be hard to keep. So here’s how I find (or try to find) my balance:
Time limits: I no longer write past 9pm, even if I’m in the middle of something great and really want to finish it immediately. Limits are important.
Phone-free Sundays: I’ve taken to leaving my phone in the media station on Sundays. It’s the one day of the week that I can count on my husband to be home, I don’t want to spend that time checking Twitter or blog stats. I want quality family time on Sundays. If there’s some huge crisis somewhere, my family will be able to track me down. All other texts, calls, email, and Tweets can be answered on Monday. It’s very liberating!
Post on a schedule: While I might now always write on the same days during the week, I always post on a schedule (until everyone gets sick, anyway). I post on Practical Parenting on Mondays and Thursdays, and Mommy Moment on Wednesdays. The guest posts happen when they happen. Having a set posting schedule removes the pressure for me. And if it doesn’t happen one week because my family is more important…it’s just not the end of the world!
Exercise: One thing I’m not good at is taking time for me. I am the person who puts everyone else first. I found a way to sneak in exercise during my daughter’s TV time, when my son is sleeping. I used to sit next to her and “watch” while checking email, but then I found it hard to get any exercise. I need it. I need it to sleep better, and I need it to take care of me. So now I jump on the elliptical during Bubble Guppies and try to work on me for a change.
Eat right: Eating well and being a mom don’t always go hand in hand. I’m guilty of calling a V8 “lunch” and living on Special K because it’s quick and easy and requires minimal clean-up. But unhealthy eating leads to fatigue and crankiness, this much I know. So now I turn to pre-cut fruits and veggies for my quick snacks, and sit down as much as possible to eat something a little healthier. I can feel the difference in my energy level. If only I can kick the candy habit…
Date nights are sacred: We don’t always go out for a “date night”, truthfully we enjoy cooking together more, but we do try to put the phones away and shut the laptops. Nothing is more important than time spent together, especially since we don’t see that much of it.
Prioritize the kids: If I had a full-time job, I would be writing an entirely different article. But I don’t, so I have the luxury of focusing on my kids first every day. I don’t have meetings, deadlines, or limited sick days. When I first started all of this writing, I felt pressured to keep up and write almost daily. As I’ve found my place in this online world, I’ve learned to step back and focus on my family first. I can wake up and assess my day before making any decisions about what and how much to write. I can play, read to my kids, cook, and take care of me, and then write between 7-9pm.
I love this new world that opened up just because I dared to create a blog and hit “publish”. I love the connections I’ve made, reading other blogs, and the opportunities that seem to keep coming my way. But I don’t ever want to look back and feel like I missed something important because I was glued to my phone or just couldn’t close that laptop. So I continue to work on finding my balance; on finding time for me while I continue to be the best mom I can on any given day.
How do you find your balance?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete.
Katie has a parenting advice blog at http://practicalkatie.com/ and can also be found on Twitter.