Since I started blogging again, my thoughts have turned to how to find the time in my busy life in which to write. You know, in between all those other things that stay-at-home parents do, like watching Dr Phil (*see my previous blog post) and painting miniature daffodils onto our fingernails. As luck would have it, I was hard at work scrolling through my Twitter feed recently (follow me at _nataliaclara) when I came across a tweet with a link to a fantastic article on how to schedule writing time into your busy modern lifestyle. The premise of the article was that you divide up your waking hours into half hour-long blocks, fill in the “non-negotiable” activities – such as showering and eating, presumably – and then use all the blank spaces to schedule in your “desirable” activities. You know, learning Japanese, kayaking, rescuing abandoned puppies, that sort of thing.
Game to give anything a go as long as it involves spreadsheets and NOT ACTUALLY WRITING, I drew up my own weekly schedule. My day starts at 5am, when my littlest angel, Squeaky, wakes for a feed before resettling for another hour or two of sleep. 5.30am to 6am is reserved for knocking back as many coffees as I can before his elder sister, Bubba, wakes up. My personal best currently stands at seventeen. 6am to 8.30am is largely taken up with the usual morning tasks, including (but not limited to) making, serving, and tidying up after breakfast, packing a bag for the day if we plan to go out, discovering and removing a piece of toast from between the couch cushions, and chasing Bubba around the house in an attempt to get her dressed. Which, most mornings, is like trying to put a straightjacket on an octopus. So far, so ordinary.
But as I progressed through my day, the waters became muddied. I mean, was I supposed to include everything I do as a parent of two littlies? Every bottle feed, every nappy change, every time I spend twenty minutes sponging projectile vomit out of the rug? The problem with parenting babies and young children is that so much of what we do is so mundane and repetitive (sorry) that it barely deserves a mention – that is, until we actually sit down and analyse our day, wondering where all the time goes. “What do you do all day?” is a phrase stay-at-home parents hear far too often. Well, gee, when you put it like that, not much, I guess. I picked peanut butter out of my kid’s ear and put all the crayons back in the box for the umpteenth time. Oh and, you know, I ate a sandwich while wandering about the house looking for the remote control (if you’re wondering, it was in the pot plant. For some reason, the remote control is always in the pot plant). I didn’t find the time to rebalance my share portfolio, or train for that fun run I stupidly signed up to three months ago, or write. So, yeah, not much.
But back to those blank spaces in my schedule. Um, what blank spaces? For, while my day begins at the bum crack of dawn when Squeaky’s sweet, melodic chirrup gently awakens me from my slumber, it also ends at around 8pm when I fall asleep in front of My Kitchen Rules. Yes, you read right. My day ends an hour after the cherubs have been put to bed. Not are asleep, mind you. Which is why 7pm to 7.30pm on my schedule is reserved for Sitting Out The Back With My Husband, Inhaling Wine And Pretending We Can’t Hear Our Children Screaming. I mean Self-Settling.
All right, I tell a lie. I found one blank space on my schedule. One break in my week when I am not getting the kids fed/dressed/undressed/bathed/into or out of bed, doing household chores, ferrying the kids to swimming or dance class, or checking my Facebook feed. Which is a legitimate thing if you’re a writer, so don’t start on me. That hour (or two, if I’m experiencing a lucky break) rolls around every Wednesday afternoon, when Bubba is at daycare and Squeaky is (hopefully) having his afternoon nap. I’ve motored through the day’s chores during his morning nap, you see, and now find myself with the delicious prospect of nothing to do except make myself a cup of tea, power up my laptop, and write. Bliss. Er, yeah, except not. Because last week Squeaky decided not to nap at all in the afternoon. And the week before that, I spent this precious hour not writing, not thinking about writing, not even Tweeting about how much writing I wasn’t doing. Instead, I wasted the only hour to myself I get every week updating the kids’ baby books. For those of you without kids, baby books are those delightful albums in which parents lovingly inscribe every momentous occasion in their offspring’s early years, accompanied by meaningful and not at all out of focus photographs. Which was all very well with my first child. Bubba’s book is nearly complete. Every time she burped, or did some other very clever thing no other baby in the history of humanity had ever done, I would whip out the baby book and fill in the relevant section. With the date and time and everything. Unfortunately, once your second kid comes along, your priorities change. Now, when Squeaky burps, I’m more worried about removing half-digested mango from the couch, the floor, our clothes, and the dog. So, when I pulled out his baby book the other day, I was dismayed to find that it was nearly bare, hence the hour spent gluing in out of focus photos and making up the dates of when he first did stuff, because frankly I couldn’t remember.
Anyway, my point is, I had an hour to myself, and I didn’t spend it doing what I felt I should have been doing. I didn’t spend it doing anything remotely writerly at all. Because, if I’m honest, it was nice to switch off and do something absorbing, but that didn’t require me to think a great deal. Which, if you’re a parent, you’ll agree can be quite nice.
Since then, I have ditched my weekly schedule and instead found the perfect solution to my lack of writing time woes. This blog post was composed nearly word for word in my head over the space of two days while I did other tasks that didn’t require a great deal of brainpower. Such as chopping fruit for the kids’ breakfast, shopping, having a conversation with the hubby (only joking, dear). Then it was a simple matter of typing it all up as quickly as possible in one of those rare, sacred moments when Both Kids Were Napping At The Same Time. For the foreseeable future, I think that’s how all my writing will have to occur. So, if you bump into me at the shops and I’m wandering around with a vacant look on my face, or you’re telling me about your day and I’m nodding vaguely and saying “I totally agree” at the wrong moment, you’ll know that I haven’t lost the plot, I’m just hard at work creating literary magic. Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.