On motherhood and creating space for creativityPosted: May 1, 2013
How do you find the time to write?
After questions of sleep habits, and diaper bags, it’s the question I’m asked most frequently. Between sleep deprivation, chasing one son while soothing the other, and the other seemingly endless tasks that can quickly eat away at a day, many moms find that their writing takes a back burner.
It could just be me, but as I talk to more women I’m beginning to suspect that it’s the nature of being a stay-at-home mom. You prioritize and reprioritize but somehow taking the time to hone your creativity is on the bottom rung in terms of importance because it’s something so exclusively and unquestionably yours. When your main role is to be the caregiver, it’s easy to forget to care of yourself. And taking time to create, as any creative person knows, is as much a part of self-care as showering or brushing one’s teeth.
With two little ones under three, it’s not as easy as it once was to find the time and mental bandwidth to write. But, slowly but surely I’m on my way. So how do I manage to create the time and space to ensure that I write? Here are five tips that work for me and may be of benefit for you:
1. Write when your child is sleeping. The laundry, the dishes, the phone calls to return; these are all different forces that will beckon you when you see your beloved baby dozing away in the swing while the toddler is tucked in for his nap. It is tempting to take that chance to catch up on all that remains undone but if you value your writing, let all that go. Sit down and write. When my first son was a newborn, I wrote when he napped and for one hour in the evening when my husband came home from work. Following this simple rule, I completed the first draft to my second manuscript in six weeks.
2. Allow for a ‘less than Martha Stewart’ home. As I write this, there is dust gathering on the nightstand, sheets not perfectly folded, and toys scattered across the living room [and pretty much every room in the house]. While I do make sure the floors are swept, and the counters cleaned- I know I must accept my home is a living organism in which there will always be something to upkeep, fix, or dust, and if I spend my time devoted to perfecting it, my creativity will suffer. It’s not easy for me as I do enjoy an always-sparkly home, but I have accepted that while my children are young, this house will never be showroom ready. If I want to find time to write, I must let go of perfection.
3. Get help, and then get out: If I ask my husband to watch the kids while I write upstairs in the guest room, I never succeed. I’ll hear a cry- or a giggle – and instantly hit the stairs to see what the problem is, or the fun that I’m missing out on. Instead, I now hand over the kiddos and head to a coffee shop where I won’t be distracted by wanting to help when I know they are in capable hands. This is not quite so easy these days with exclusive breastfeeding, but once the little guy can go for longer stretches, it’s critical to get out and take that time for myself.
4. Make the most of the time when you can’t get out: Some days- and weeks- when you simply can’t sneak away to a coffee shop, as is my case lately, and the nightly writing isn’t enough- don’t be afraid to take advantage of snippets of time. The biggest hindrance for most people who feel they have a novel in them – but can’t seem to complete it – is the illusion that there needs to be a wide expanse of time within which to write. No. The ten minutes you’re waiting for the baby carrots to steam while your little one is distracted by a plastic bowl? Write. The five minutes your toddler is sitting at the table mesmerized by the sticker book? Write. It all adds up.
5. Use what you have at the time. I write on my laptop. In my moleskine journal. On the same notepad I use to scratch out my grocery list. Behind envelopes that carried bills and credit card offers. Because I am not always near a computer when an idea hits. I use what I have and I write. There will be time to record thoughts permanently later, but I take advantage of the material around me when I have an idea that I don’t want to lose.
There is so much about motherhood with young children that is important and so many moments we must fully focus on and drink in because they are fleeting. But life? It’s also fleeting, and if we want to write, the time is now. Pursue what you love, not just for yourself, but for your family. They too benefit when you are fulfilled and happy. It worked for me, and it can work for you.
When do you find the time to write or pursue your own endeavors – creative or otherwise – when raising a young family?
Aisha Saeed was born and raised in South Florida. She is a teacher, attorney, and writer. She recently completed her first two novels. In her free time, Aisha enjoys traveling, reading, and blogging at Aisha Saeed. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and sons.