Whether you are a writer or not, all of us can sometimes struggle finding time to do the things we want. I am an author, but this is not my first priority, no matter how much there are times I would love it to be. I have a family, and a big one at that.
In 2012, I met my partner. Was it love at first sight? Not at all. What you need to understand is that like many of us out there, I have terrible taste when it comes to picking a partner. This led me to be adamant that I was in no way looking for romance. I had my family and my writing, and that was enough for me. To top it off, my three children and I were living in the homeless unit at the time. That was an experience and a half which I may discuss at a later date.
So when I got that text off my now partner of two years, I wasn’t in a position to embark on anything other than friendship.
Did I care for him then? I suppose I did, but in no other way than friendship (we had been spending time together for a few months now as he volunteered in the unit).
Suffice to say, I finally moved into a temporary house which was sparse, dirty, and damn cold, yet still, I could barely contain my excitement…after all, I would finally have my own room away from my eldest son’s snoring which was so loud I could almost see the room shaking, let alone the bed, and the screams of other residents in the unit (I never believed that a human being could emit such a high pitched sound). Once free from that place, my partner and I took our relationship to the next level.
So where does this big family come from? My partner came with four wonderful children, two of who lived with him. After a time, we took the plunge and moved into his two and a half bedroom house. I call it a half bedroom as there genuinely isn’t space to swing a cat in there (not that I would ever attempt such a thing).
So life began, and to be fair, things were great for a while, until the day I was dreading and looking forward to came, the day my stuff came out of storage.
You should know, I moved into the unit from a large house, larger than I could afford right now. So up turns this huge truck and we all start unloading. The kitchen filled up with boxes, then the dining room, then the lounge….and the truck was still half full. I had never fully realised how much stuff I had, and have vowed to never collect so much again.
It took three days before we were able to sit on the sofa again, and a further three days before I could see the lounge carpet. The kids were happy, though. They had all their toys back. And the dog (a crazy springer spaniel who has an obsession with lights), he had great fun jumping all over the stuff, and much to my distaste and despair, urinating on a box of my clothes (he was still a pup at the time). I thank god that we had actually moved in together a few months before as the stress might have killed us. After 22 moves in my life, I finally understood why they were traumatic.
Thankfully, we managed to laugh about it, though this was pushed to the limit when the washing machine flooded the still full kitchen floor. This breakage was quickly followed by the carpet cleaner breaking down. A disaster, right? Not for us. Within minutes we had rigged up the broken carpet cleaner to the washing machine. We had to stay near ready to suck up the water from the bottom of the washing machine, but I worked. This is where my partner learnt a valuable lesson –
- A problem is only a challenge to overcome –
This is a philosophy I live by, no matter how hard the problem is.
Hopefully you get the gist now, with seven kids (two of them we have part time), the crazy springer spaniel, and a tiny house we can’t all fit in, writing is often a challenge.
So how do I overcome this?
First things first, I keep the children informed about where I am in the writing process. They all know (except the dog who doesn’t care as long as he has a light to chase), that they are less likely to annoy me if I am in the editing phase. Quite often, I can pick this up and put it down, which gives me the time to run off and get that drink needed, or deal with the latest argument.
I also explain to them my goals. I have found that this helps them as they share my dreams.
If I get a good day of writing in without too many interruptions, I remember to thank them, and let them know how much I got done because they left me alone.
I give them input on the book cover. The chances are, I will not use anything they put forth, but they still enjoy the process of being involved.
Bribery works, even if it is as simple as, ‘let me work for two hours and we will play a game after’. I need to be careful with the promises, though. There have been occasions that the time allocated reaches an end, but my mind still has loads to say. It makes for a very distracted mum.
Routine! This is probably the most important aspect. Children, like adults, like to know what is coming. I tell them how many hours I will be working for, and the times that they are allowed to approach me. Be warned, this doesn’t always work, but it helps most of the time.
It must be said that it doesn’t matter how many things I put in place in order to work, they are children, and as many parents know, they suddenly need you the moment you become busy. It’s like picking up the phone. The kids can be deathly quiet until that point, but the moment you press the call button, at least one of them come running into the room, usually screaming about something.
Then there are the problems that you can’t predict.
We were given a pillow filled with micro polystyrene balls. It was very popular in the house, and was fought over many times. My middle son was the most persistent, and finally he won custody of it.
Everything was great…until last week, when my son decided that he wanted to know what was in his fantastic pillow. So in all his wisdom, he created a small slit in the casing. Suffice to say, within one day the house was filled with tiny polystyrene balls. Writing for the day was cancelled, and I spent the next few hours with a hoover while chuntering loudly about what had possessed him to do such a thing. I didn’t just need to hoover the floor. There were also the skirting boards, the walls, the ceiling, the toilet (that was fun to hoover, especially as the boys seem incapable of aiming inside the toilet), the doors, the bath, and every toy he owned. The poor hoover eventually gave up the ghost as the filter was blocked.
As much as I encourage an inquisitive nature, this was a time I cursed it through clenched teeth. Three days later, the hoover fixed twice and the wheelie bin filled with balls that flew off when the lid was opened, I finally gave up on getting every tiny speck. We are still finding them now, and will most likely be doing it over the next few weeks, or months.
This leads me to wonder how many other people suffer from the curiosity of their children. Do you settle yourself down to work, whether it is writing or some other task you wish to get done, only to spend the day cleaning up after the children or pets…we can’t forget them as they are merely children which you can’t send to bed at night? If so, how do you overcome this?