Balancing Writing and Parenthood

An essay examining what to do in terms of writing while parenting is taking up most of your time.

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Since having a child, I am starting to wonder more and more whether being a parent, especially a new parent, can be balanced with being a writer. Before I had my baby, I had the luxury of going to as many events as I liked and immersing myself in the life of a writer. Conversely, now I barely have time to shower with a certain someone crying every hour.

The first thing that I realised was that it was important to still be reading. I’m always amazed at how many poets I meet tell me they don’t read poetry, or authors who say they don’t read fiction; often, even if they do, it’s probably not enough. In fact, no amount of reading is enough as a writer. Most professional writers will tell you to read as much as you can—good writing as well as bad writing. Therefore, while you’re cooped up indoors with an infant whilst others are out selling books and performing at events without the time to read, rest assured in the fact that you are still enriching your practice through reading.

With reading comes writing. Write, even if you don’t think what you’re producing is good, then edit, and write again. Write after extensive reading. From my own experience I can say it takes at least two years to write a small, quality pamphlet of poetry, never mind how long a whole collection or a book takes. Writing something will take that long regardless of whether you’re going to events and promoting yourself, so actually produce that work that you want to get out there, as it won’t write itself. Often I’ve seen people get so absorbed in promotion, attending events and living the writer’s life, that they actually stop writing and start running on steam. Remember that the most important part of being a writer is actually writing, and now that you’re at home you have a chance to do so.

Another thing that you can do is plan. Plan what you would like to do when you have the time, then you will have the advantage of knowing exactly what events and opportunities you’d like to take advantage of. Alongside this, you can also submit your work to journals and competitions. If you were to do this for your whole writing career you would have a limited career, but if you’re doing so while planning to get back out there one day, it’s good to have a publication history behind you, and each time you get published it’s an encouragement to keep going.

If you can, stay in the loop to an extent. You can’t by any means do everything you used to, but if you can get childcare at six months from a parent, even for a night, perhaps you could make the odd event or reading. Be selective with what you do: if you’ve only got one night free, go to the night that would be most beneficial to you; the one that you really want to go to.

Finally, it’s okay to let other things slide. For me, I’ve had to relax with the housework, which has freed some time up. Remember, what you’ve done so far can’t go away or be undone; you’ve already set up a foundation in the writing world. Don’t lose patience. You can never get back the precious early moments with your child, but you can always pick writing back up. As well as children, people have all sorts of constraints on their writing, but nothing can stop you being a writer.

Setareh Ebrahimi performs regularly, and is a poet working in Faversham, Kent. She is the author of In My Arms from Bad Betty Press.

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