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  • Writer's pictureClaire Bentley

WHAT CREATIVITY LOOKS LIKE WHEN YOU HAVE CHILDREN

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Parenting can be described in many ways: wonderful; challenging; exhausting; entertaining; exhilarating; overwhelming; and so on. However, I will eat my hat, gloves and scarf if any parent has the word ‘easy’ on their list of adjectives.


When you add a creative career to the mix (or any career for that matter) the challenges multiply.


The purpose of this post is to moan about the frustrating gauntlet of juggling parenting life and creative life.


Maybe you can relate to these scenarios, and maybe you could add scenarios of your own!


For practical tips on productivity for creative parents please see the posts below, or sign up for my newsletter to gain access to my free Productivity for Parents guide:


GETTING UP EARLY TO WRITE


Many would agree that one way to increase productivity in pursuing a creative passion is to get up early and work on that passion before doing anything else.


I’ve tried this multiple times since becoming a parent. My hand flies to the side of my bed to turn the alarm off, I grab my dressing gown, and tiptoe downstairs to make a coffee. I open my laptop and start typing in my manuscript-


“Muuuuuummmmyyyyyy!”

Drawing of me typing at my laptop at 6.01am. Child wakes up and calls 'Mummy!'
6.00am sit down to write; 6.01am child wakes up

I freeze, fingers hovering over the keyboard. Then I curse. Then I wait for the inevitable voice of the second brother (who of course was woken by the first), then gaze wistfully at my hot coffee, knowing it will have gone as cold as my keyboard by the time I’ve dealt with the boys.


This happens every time I get up early to write. Not only do I not get any writing done, but I’m tired and miserable for the rest of the day because I got up stupidly early for no reason.


STAYING UP LATE TO WRITE


The best strategy for each creative parent depends greatly on their delightful child and how much of an a-hole that child is (kidding. Sort of).


Generally, staying up late works better for me than getting up early. A benefit of having early-riser children is that they (usually) wear themselves out by bedtime. However, even this is no guarantee of uninterrupted writing time.


It's evening and I'm typing on my keyboard. Child calls me, then chooses from a list of options for being awake: thirsty; bad dream; can't sleep; need a poo; fell out of bed; *vomits*
My children have many options for disrupting my evening writing sessions

If they don’t want to sleep then my angelic children will use any strategy they can to urinate all over my writing time (metaphorically and, in some cases, literally).


WRITING PLANS WRECKED


On three separate occasions during 2022 I arranged a full weekend day for Daddy to look after the boys so I could disappear for some serious writing time. Every single time one of them has been ill and my writing day has been cancelled. I worked out that, so far this year, I have lost ONE THIRD of my total writing time to family illness!


I never know when or how it will happen, but as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, multiple creative sessions will be t-boned by a sick or injured child. A few weeks ago my one year old projectile-vomited at 2am with no warning and I lost two working days because of it. A full day of solo childcare is exhausting. Doubly so when it’s unexpected and when your child is as grumpy as you are.


TECHNOLOGY IS IN CONSTANT DANGER

A laptop with a drink being spilled over it, a toy hammer being wacked into it, crayons drawing on it, and a child's sticky fingers approaching the keyboard
My sons have tried really hard to destroy my laptop

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my sons have made multiple attempts to destroy my laptop (both accidental and intentional).


I thought all was lost when my one-year-old managed to empty an entire cup of coffee over the top of my laptop. Luckily the lid was closed and my wonderful resilient computer lived to be beaten by toy hammers for another day.


Yes, I keep multiple backups of my work!


SO LITTLE FREE TIME


As a parent there may be a small amount of time each day in which you are free of parental responsibility and you can fill that time however you desire!


The trouble is, that free time has to work really hard. This is also the only time when you can shower. Or exercise. Or order the food shopping. Or renew the car insurance. Or get any cleaning done. And so on. For ever and ever.

A 'free time' box is shown. Multiple items are trying to fit into the small box, including a showerhead, a book, a laptop, cleaning equipment, paperwork, shopping basket, sleep, knife and fork, and a heart to symbolise romantic and social relationships
So little free time; so much to do

As hard as I try, there are many days on which I just can’t protect my writing time from the other demands of life and self-care. Productivity advice tells us to treat our creativity time as sacred. But when that small slot of free time is having to do triple duty and fit in all the other things we struggle with when our cherubs are awake and demanding snacks, it’s no wonder we look and feel frazzled (and can’t remember when we last had a shower).


The ’spinning plates’ analogy is a good one to use. If I religiously protect my writing time evening after evening, then sooner or later all the other plates (cleaning; self-care; relationships etc) start to wobble and fall. If I take time to get the other ‘life’ and ‘family’ plates spinning again then my writing and business plates are in danger of crashing to the floor. I feel like I can’t keep any of the plates spinning for any length of time because to do so means neglecting the other plates. It is a difficult balancing act.


COMPARISONITIS

As creatives we are constantly warned of the dangers of comparing our art or our progress to others in our field.


We are all at different stages of our careers and our lives, and no two creatives are dealing with identical life, family and health circumstances. It is useless to compare apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes. We are each on our own unique journey and, ultimately, our race is only with ourselves.


The thing is: I know this in theory.


In reality I compare myself anyway.


I don’t do it all the time. However, in those moments when I haven’t been able to write for two weeks because every member of the family had a stomach bug, I sit and ponder all the story ideas in my head and wonder if I’ll ever have time to write them all. I wonder how other authors manage to write as much as they do and publish as many books as they do. Indie authors who publish a novel every two or three months are performing literal magic in my opinion: I don’t think I could publish that fast even without children.


I don’t know why I compare myself with others: their circumstances are not my circumstances; their brains are not my brain. But I’ve noticed I’m more prone to doing this when I’m feeling unproductive and stifled by the complexity of daily life.


HEALTH GETS WORSE


We’re creatives, so of course we’re all tortured souls huddled in our basements while nursing multiple addictions (or so the cliché goes).


Before children I had a healthy(ish) lifestyle. I went for long walks, ate (mostly) healthy food, and restricted myself to one cup of coffee a day.


It has been five years since I last had a decent night’s sleep or a full day off from work and parenting. I adore my children and I love being with them, but that doesn’t change the fact that every day is relentless and exhausting, and I can’t make it to bed time without copious amounts of caffeine and sugar.



A small coffee cup and small ice cream symbolise my caffeine and sugar intake before children. A much larger coffee cup and ice cream symbolise my intake since children
Relative amounts of caffeine and sugar I consumed before kids versus after kids

Long walks were fun when I could leave the house moments after deciding to do so. It was just me and my thoughts, and I could plan stories and scenes while enjoying nature.


Now a long walk means two hours of topping up my sons’ food and drink levels, searching the house for their shoes and coats, getting them to stay still long enough to put on said shoes and coats, and being further delayed as we leave the house because big bro needs a wee and little bro has done a secret poo during the shoe-hunt.


Family walks are fun once we finally get out of the house, at least until they start filling their pockets with ‘beautiful rocks’ (pieces of gravel) and ‘magic wands’ (sticks). Then they moan because the extra weight from the rocks and sticks is making their legs tired. But getting out of the house is such a logistical nightmare that a lot of the time I just can’t be bothered.


Yes, I could be healthier. Yes, I have a mum-tum that may never go away. But at this stage in my life I don’t have the energy or willpower to do anything about it. This stage of my life is about survival. It’s about enjoying the good moments and getting through the bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


BEFORE YOU GO…


Are there any other unique challenges you face as a creative and a parent? (contact details below).


Please feel free to comment on the article and/or contact me if you have any questions!


Socials: @cbentleywriter on most of them!




Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/clairebentley

I welcome respectful and friendly discussion on the topics I write about, including if your opinion differs from my own.


Disclaimer: generative AI

I do not use generative AI to produce or inform my blog, my images, or my fiction. All of my content is generated by the chaotic firing of my own (human) brain! (I have access to some images through my Wix subscription). I do not consent to the use of my content, images, or fiction to train generative AI models. Please contact me to discuss permission and compensation if you wish to use my content in this way.







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