I recently blogged about managing writing alongside a full-time job (Writing around Full Time Employment). It is one of the greatest challenges facing an aspiring writer but undoubtedly another is balancing writing with family life. I have two young children who, above any tangible gifts, desire time with their parents.
In addition to spending time playing princesses with my daughter and brainwashing my son to follow the same football team as me, there are countless other activities they are engaged in which all take time out of the writing schedule. In addition to that, occasionally my wife would like to do things like have a conversation.
There is an impact on the family when you embark on a journey such as writing. If you have any two jobs, it is clearly going to result in another area suffering. Unlike balancing writing with employment, there are no easy hints and tips one can absorb to make everything better. Each family unit is not the same, the requirements of each are different.
I have listed some guidelines which may or may not be relevant to you within your family.
- Above all else, remember family comes first. Of course, you can give and take elements of your responsibilities, ensuring that you do give yourself the opportunity to write, but when both feel incredibly urgent, your family has to come first. Don’t feel guilty about leaving your writing mid-scene, there are sometimes where the family needs nothing else but you.
- Ensure that the family knows what you are doing. If you disappear off for hours and they look across and see you on your laptop, the assumption might be that you aren’t doing anything important. Let them know about your goals, your dreams. It is good for children to understand that you should have goals and that you have to work to achieve them. Keep your family involved in your journey, update them on your progress, make them part of the journey.
- Don’t use the family as an excuse to not write. You are welcome to spend every minute you have at home just playing with the children, and they will undoubtedly be grateful for the time – but you will not get any writing done. When I was young, I was very comfortable with independent play. Don’t assume you need to be there at all times, you can have some ‘you-time’ so make sure you take it, and make sure you use it wisely.
- Don’t wait for the children to not be children before you pursue your dream. It doesn’t matter how old they are, there will always be something stopping you from writing – if you allow it to. Don’t lose the next 20 years waiting for a time that will probably never exist.
- Use your family as motivation. Outside of any financial gain that may or may not be gained from your writing endeavours, there is a skill in writing well and it is something that your family can be proud of. I picture my children in fifteen to twenty years’ time being able to hold a book with my name on it and think, ‘my Dad wrote that’.
- My wife is incredibly supportive with all of my extra-curricular activity. When I went through a phase of stand-up comedy, every night I would recite the routine in front of her to tweak the performance aspects and she would, despite being the butt of most of the jokes, be brilliant in giving feedback and aiding my improvement. The same with writing, she really does want me to achieve my goals. That said, she doesn’t always appreciate the fact that I am not available due to writing and striking the balance with still being there as a husband is important. She doesn’t ask for a lot, in fact much like the children, it’s just about making time.
Overall, there isn’t a right answer in how to balance family with writing, but balance it, you must. How do you make sure you are being a responsible parent or partner without impacting on your writing?