As a homeschooling mom of five children, the most common question I'm asked is: How do you do it all? How do you manage your large family and have the time to write?
No I'm not super woman (although there are times when my kids expect me to be!). Yes, I do get plenty of sleep (most nights!). And no, I haven't hired the TV to babysit my kids (at least not often!).
Over the years, I tried many different tricks and techniques in order to gain (or maintain) writing time in my schedule. Here are 10:
1. Take advantage of kids' downtime. When my younger children were taking naps, I used every minute they were asleep for writing. As tempting as it was to clean, pickup, or even take a nap myself, I knew I had to make the most of that quiet hour to write uninterrupted. When my kids got a little older and didn't need naps, I still required afternoon rest/reading time for an hour. It helped give them a needed break, but also gave me a block of uninterrupted writing time.
2. Pay older kids to "babysit" younger children. As my writing career began to swing into full gear and I needed more writing time, I discovered that I could pay my older children (who were in elementary school) to "babysit" my little ones. I would assign them each a child to play with, give them a time limit (like an hour), and then pay them a couple of dollars when they were done. It not only gave me more writing time, but it helped teach my older children the value of working hard to earn money.
3. Involve the whole family in household chores. As Moms we often think the entirety of the housework falls on our shoulders. But I'm of the belief that whoever lives in a house needs to help in the upkeep of that house. Therefore, over the years I've gotten my kids involved in doing laundry, cooking meals, handling yard work, etc. When everyone pitches in, we all have more free time for the things we love (including writing).
4. Bring the laptop along to activities and write while waiting in the van. Since my kids have so many activities that I drive them to, I often sit in the van and write while I wait for them. Without the distraction of the internet, the van is actually a great place to get concentrated writing done.
5. Schedule larger blocks of writing time when husband is home. This has probably been one of the biggest ways I've been able to add more writing time into my schedule. Even in the days before publication, my husband realized the benefit of supporting my mental health by giving me extended time away from the kids which I used for writing. Those larger blocks are sacred writing time. No browsing blogs or Facebook. Writing only!
6. Hire a college-age student to take the kids out a couple of times a week. I did this one summer when my kids were younger. I paid an hourly wage to an older girl who could drive and had a car for the purpose of getting my kids out of the house. She took them to parks, the pool, the library, to get ice cream, and basically anywhere to allow them to do things while I worked.
7. Rise and shine before the rest of the family. (Or be the night owl.) When I'm particularly crunched on time during the day, I schedule writing time in the wee hours of the morning before the household awakes. Again, that writing time is sacred. I don't dilly-dally responding to emails or anything else. During the uninterrupted time I simply write.
8. Set work hours and teach children to respect that time (works more for older children). As my children have grown older and can occupy themselves without constant supervision, I've had to teach them to respect my work boundaries. I usually explain my "writing hours" and expect them to respect that time. For example, I won't drive them to a friend's house or take them to the store until I'm done with my work time.
9. Involve grandparents (or other relatives) when possible. I'm blessed to have my mom live in town nearby. She often offers to assist when she knows of specific needs. But I've also had to learn to ask for help, and that's not something that comes easily to me. Over the past couple of years, we've worked out a system where she comes to my house once a week (and helps homsechool) which frees me to write.
10. Outsource work that can be done by others. I had a hard time letting go of work I thought I should be doing. But in the end, I've found that it's more profitable for me to pay someone else to do their "specialty" so that I can focus on mine–my writing. Obviously, I didn't come to this point in my career until I had a steady income. But moving in this direction has helped free up even more of my time.
What other advice do YOU have for finding more writing time?