How do you find the time to write? It’s a question I’m asked fairly regularly given I work a 7 day fortnight, care for 2 preschoolers, run a household and publish a blog.
The question is phrased differently depending on who’s asking. My new sister-in-law, freshly arrived from Japan, looked mildly horrified when I told her I worked outside the home with small children. Working mothers are still fairly ground breaking in Japan. Another friend looked at me vaguely hopelessly and said ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ My employer even asked, on my application to undertake outside work (yes, that’s a thing) how I intended to make the working hours of my second job fit around my primary employment.
Here’s what I tell people when they ask how I find the time to write:
I write instead of watching TV.
I write instead of doing housework.
I write instead of staring out the train window on the way to work.
I write instead of sleeping.
I am able to justify stealing time to write because my husband and my Mum are incredibly supportive of what I do. They also look after the boys for an hour or two at a time just so that I can bash out a few words on the computer.
The practicality of this has taken a while to iron out. I’m writing this post on my Samsung tablet while on my way to work on a train. I had to shut down a Lego game app to get to my writing app, the tablet is precariously balanced on my knee on top of my handbag and the predictive text is driving me nuts because it keeps putting spaces where they shouldn’t be and changing ‘into’ to ‘I to’ for reasons best known to itself.
Fitting in creativity around the nuts and bolts of life is difficult at the best of times. We all have to work, eat, sleep, maintain relationships and households to varying degrees. Think back for a moment, though, and remember when you had large slabs of time on weekends and you’d faff about trying to decide what to do next? Read a book, see a movie, work on your quilting project, practise dance steps, go to a life drawing class? The free time was there, you just had to decide how to fill it.
When you have small children the impediments to finding free time expand exponentially.
The joy of preschoolers is such that their laughter, chatter, playfulness and constant needs leak into every waking moment of the day. If you stand still to contemplate the greater meaning of life they’ll tug on your arm, wanting a biscuit, help making a play doh snowman or an answer to the burning question of why do you need to kill a cow to get spaghetti bolognese, yet they can live through milk and cheese extraction?
I’m reading a fantastic book at the moment called Motherhood & Creativity: the divided heart, by Rachel Powers, a Melbourne author. It’s a fascinating series of interviews with successful creative women who are also mothers.
The one thing that struck me about all of their stories is this: not a single one of them managed to be creative while actively caring for their children but every one of them credited motherhood with inspiring and enriching their art.
The other common thread was family support. Most women had partners with whom they shared the care of their children. The man (or woman) in their life often had creative pursuits of their own that they were trying to wedge in around playing Lego, walks to the park and endless episodes of Peppa Pig. Single mothers found other ways, such as requiring potential creative employers to be child-friendly or moving to be near supportive family.
When I’m writing regularly I’m a happier, more energetic parent. Finding the time to write takes me away from my children from time to time but it gives them back a mother who is excited by life. I no longer see my creativity as a selfish indulgence but as something that is a part of my me that I can share with my family and be proud of.