With the advent of technology, more and more people are able to work from home. In fact, I think the vast majority of writers work from home. Sure, some of us have day jobs that require putting on real pants and leaving the house, but all our writing generally occurs at home.
As you can imagine, working from home does have its perks (see above, about real pants), but it also has its challenges. A big one? Children.
I think we can all agree that children are wonderful blessings, but sometimes, especially in the early years, those wonderful blessings can alter our to-do lists somewhat. And by “alter,” I of course mean “put those to-do lists in a blender, forget the lid, and turn it on.” Sometimes they do this literally, especially if they’re anything like my kids.
For years, my dedicated writing time has been a couple hours in the early afternoon. When my children were little, I could sometimes (with quiet trumpet fanfares and a chorus of hallelujahs) get all three of them to nap at the same time. My boys, Yakko and Wakko, have long since outgrown their naps, but Dot still naps more days that not, so during the summer, if I want to get anything accomplished, we have to have Quiet Time.
During a recent bout of frustration, when my writing time was interrupted—yet again—by a fight over Minecraft, I was reminded of a particularly challenging day years ago, when Dot was a Certified Squishy Delicious Baby (she’s four now), so my boys were probably four and two. As is my wont, I documented this day, and was (miraculously) able to dig it out of my computer files.
If you’ve got young kids, or remember what it’s like to have them around, some of this will probably seem familiar. Editorial notes in italics.
12:20 Put Dot in her crib for her nap. (Sigh. Sometimes I miss Squishy Delicious Baby Dot.)
12:30 Finish feeding boys lunch.
12:35 Read boys stories, put them in Quiet Time. (I cannot believe there was a time when this only took ten minutes.)
12:45 Eat half my salad and answer one email while microwaving lunch. (Silly Past Amanda. You eat WHILE they’re eating. Don’t wait until after).
12:48 The recently potty-trained Wakko announces a Need to Pee and heads for the bathroom.
12:51 Check on Wakko, who is Quiet and In The Bathroom (never a good combination). The Need to Pee seems to have been a bit more dramatic than first assumed, and unfortunately it was not a Complete Success, if you get my drift.
12:52-12:57 Clean up, supervise hand-washing, etc.
12:58 Dot wakes up and fusses well before her nap should be over. (I do not miss this particular aspect of Squishy Delicious Baby Dot.) Leaving Wakko with instructions to finish washing his hands and return to his room, I go to Dot’s bedroom to perform the standard Rock and Comfort Ritual.
1:03 Attempt to return Dot to her crib. She voices her objection. Sigh and repeat Rock and Comfort Ritual.
1:08 Return Dot to bed without further objection. Leave Dot’s room to discover Wakko in the bathroom playing in the sink. Inform Wakko, for the eight billionth time, that this is not an Approved Quiet Time Activity, and that he should return to his room. (Dude. He still does this. Not even five minutes ago, I had to tell him to quit playing in the bathroom sink.)
1:09 Sit down and have two bites of salad.
1:10 Yakko announces, from the basement (where he used to spend Quiet Time), that there is also a Need to Pee. There is a bathroom in the basement, with a functional toilet and everything. When reminded of this fact, Yakko responds that there is a spider in said basement bathroom, so he absolutely will not use it. Faced with the choice between a Child Upstairs and more clean-up, I allow him to come upstairs. (This post was written, like, four years ago, and they STILL won’t use the basement bathroom. That was one very influential spider.)
1:11 Yakko uses bathroom, washes hands, and returns to the basement.
1:13 Dot fusses. I decide to wait until she’s serious and start scarfing down the leftover pasta bake that is my lunch.
1: 15 Wakko announces another Need to Pee. This time, I elect to supervise. Success! He returns to bedroom. Hearing blessed quiet from Dot’s room, I continue scarfing lunch.
1:21 Finish eating lunch. VICTORY IS MINE. Time for productivity. Attempt to engage Creative Juices.
1:24 Hear an odd noise that I cannot immediately identify. On further investigation, I discover Wakko, pantsless and wearing a crown, jumping on his brother’s bed. Remind him, for the eight billionth time, that jumping on the bed is also not an Approved Quiet Time Activity.
1:26 Creative Juices clogged by disruption. A few minutes of procrastination is necessary to re-start the flow. To the Internet!!
1:30 Reading something funny online, I giggle. Yakko, from the basement, hears the giggle and wants to know what’s funny. I attempt to explain, which results in more questions and more explanation and MORE questions and MORE explanation, after which Yakko informs me that it really wasn’t that funny in the first place.
1:33 Wakko comes in needing help removing his sweater.
1:34 Okay. Dot is quiet, boys are occupied. Time to Get Serious and Be Creative.
1:40 Ominous Thud from the boys’ bedroom. Activate House of Wen Ominous Thud Threat Detection Protocol, which states that if an Ominous Thud is not immediately followed by a scream, it can be ignored. (This protocol is still in effect).
1:41 Another Ominous Thud.
1:43 Hearing no scream, and no further Ominous Thuds, I resume Attempting to Create.
1:49 Yakko asks if he can come upstairs and be done with Quiet Time and commences whining when the answer is no.
1:50-1:53 Attempt to Create.
1:54 Ominous Thud #3. I go to the boys’ room and inform Wakko that jumping OFF the bed is ALSO not an Appproved Quiet Time Activity.
1:55-2:02 Attempt to Create.
2:03 Yakko asks, again, if he can come up. Again, the answer is no. I tell him he has 30 more minutes, but if he’s quiet, I’ll consider letting him come up early.
2:04-2:14 Attempt, once more, to Create.
2:14 Dot fusses. Creative juices finally flowing, I opt to wait a few minutes and see if she’s serious.
2:15 Yakko asks if he’s been quiet enough to come up early. I relent, thinking he’ll just play computer games, and if Dot’s not serious, I might still be able to get in a few minutes of Creating.
2:19 She’s serious. And thus endeth Quiet Time.
I think this is the part of the blog post where I’m supposed to say something Wise and Profound, but all I can come up with is, yeah. Having kids at home all the time is hard. Especially if you’re trying to accomplish something in addition to keeping them alive and fed and entertained and reasonably happy. But I don’t think that the fact that it’s hard necessarily means that one should stop trying to accomplish something over and above all the kid stuff. I know God calls some to set everything else aside during the Small Needy Kid Years, and if that’s what He’s calling you to do, then by all means, listen and do it.
But some, He calls to just keep going, and that’s what He did with me. My priorities got a serious adjustment when I had the kids, and every day it’s still a challenge to make time to write. Some days all I get done is a paragraph. Some days it’s just a single sentence.
But the cool thing about creativity and perseverance, especially when God is in it, is that He takes those paragraphs and sentences and snippets of time and blesses them. Because if you string together enough sentences and paragraphs, you have a book. And then, if you keep going, you have another one. And another one.
So whatever your calling is, whatever your life looks like right now, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep doing the next thing. Keep proceeding through whatever doors God opens for you, and the ones He closes, rest in the assurance that whatever was behind those closed doors wasn’t His best for you.
And remember that kids aren’t this little and this needy forever. This, too, shall pass.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tell Wakko to stop playing in the bathroom sink.