Monday, July 9, 2012

Stealing Time

A year ago I had a fulltime day job, three small children and a writing schedule that was erratic at best.  So when I lost my day job, after the frustration and the anxiety subsided, I decided to make lemonade out of the lemons I had been dealt and embrace my new status as a full time mother and author.  The three things on my list that I wanted to do: teach my toddlers to read, find a new job, write and publish at least three books.

Last summer I was off to a good start, at least on the third aim.  I had collaborated with my oldest (then eight years old) and together we wrote the first of a series of children’s novels.  But the other two aims had not been met.  So at the start of the school year, I made an active effort to get things done.  Each day I ran my home like a preschool, teaching my then two and three year old (now 2 and 4) in a fun and interactive way.  I decided to dedicate a few hours each day to job search and even more hours writing.  And of course I wanted to be the best homemaker this side of heaven with a clean house and exciting healthy meals for the kids and hubby.
Boy, was I naïve!  When your toddlers are in daycare until 5 or 6pm and their bedtime is 9, you have no idea the amount of mess they can make throughout the day. Despite all my best efforts, I found myself cleaning four to five times a day, just to keep the house from disintegrating into an uncontrollable mess.  It’s not just the toys all over the place, but the drink spills, the crumbs, the cereal all over the house.  It is their mischief as they strip and powder themselves from head to toe, paint themselves and the walls in lipstick and ink, perform open heart surgery on their dolls, and give cell phones a bath when left to their own devices.  The demand on my attention was so great that I found less time to write than when I had a day job. 

After going crazy for a few months I decided on making a to do list.  It looked like this:
1.      Work out
2.      Teach the kids
3.      Find employment
4.      Write
5.      Do housework
6.      Help my oldest with her homework
7.      Put the kids to bed
8.      relax

What ended up happening was this: 1. Make breakfast, 2. Feed the kids, 3. clean up, 4. Chase them down for a bath, 5. Round them up to teach them, 6. prepare snack. 7. Clean up, 8. Make lunch 9. Chase them down to eat lunch, 10. Clean up….. and so it went on and on. By the time they got to bed, I was so tired I could not even write.
I found myself waiting for their naptime and asking: should I work out, write, do job searches, cook or clean? Sometimes I took so long to decide that they were awake before I had done anything.  My writing was more erratic than when I had a fulltime day job.

Sometime around January I finally found the solution. I decided to steal time. I incorporated them in my workout.  While I worked the treadmill, I had them jump their hearts out in an inflatable bouncer.  I did Zumba on the WII and they danced right alongside me.  I did Pilates.  Sometimes they did it with me; sometimes they did it on me.  They became my weights.
I ditched the formal teaching and used everything as a lesson.  They cooked with me. They cleaned with me.  We did colors, shapes, and numbers with each trip to the grocery store.  We did letters and letter sounds at the park.  The backyard became a hotbed of science lessons.  And when I got on the computer to write, they got on their little toy laptops and wrote too. 

The result?  I can’t say that I’m prolific by any stretch of the imagination.  But I’ve completed the second of the children’s adventure novel, and am almost finished a second full length romance novel.  Four in a year with the majority being done between January and now isn’t that bad.  What hasn’t happened as yet is the publication aspect.  And this summer, now that my oldest is at home and follows me around constantly talking  like an insect in my ears, I realize that I have to get back to the drawing board and find ways to steal time once again.  As for my home pre-school, well, even the public schools take a break during the summer.  Suffice it to say though, with my informal pre-school program both my two and four year olds are where they should be academically, maybe even a little advance.
How do you steal time?


Eugenia O'Neal said...

Finding time to write with one child in the house is hard! With three! Fugeddabout it!

Looks like you're on to something by making them a part of your activities, though. When my daughter was a toddler, I had a full-time job but I traded baby-sitting time with friends. That helped. Also, I gave up on the idea of full-length novels and just worked on novellas, instead. It's hard trying to balance everything.

Charles Gramlich said...

We only had 1 kid and he did enough damage. :)

Jewel Amethyst said...

Eugenia, I got the idea of involving them when at a writer's convention a seasoned author made the comment that when she wrote, her kids wrote.

Charles, for five years I had only one kid and I thought she did a lot of damage, then I got the other two... :)

Liane Spicer said...

You, dear Jewel, are a genius. I had only one child and I never quite understood how people with two, three and more manage to get routine stuff done, far less anything like working out and writing.