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How to be a parent AND a writer. It's challenging, but also very rewarding.
As a mother of two and a full-time writer, I understand how challenging it can be to have two very intense careers and try to blend them together. Women are remarkable beings, capable of doing multiple things. They have the ability nurture a sick child and an infant novel at the same time.

When it comes to being a mother, there is more involved than making sure the children don't drown in the bathtub or burn themselves on a hot stove. Parenting includes house work, entertaining, educating, doctoring, supervision and management, social administration, courier services, dressmaking, hairdressing, sanitation monitoring, nutritional advise and chef... The list could go on and on. Only a mother could possibly understand everything that goes into the day to day living of raising little people.

Writing is an equally busy and time consuming career. As a parent, especially a single mother, it's impossible to disappear into the study for hours and surface with bags under our eyes, coffee-stained teeth, frazzled hair and a satisfied, although exhausted, smile on our faces. Writing time involves rare snippets between kissing boo-boos, getting kids to school, cooking dinner, and changing diapers.

Being a writer and being a mother require many of the same skills. The most important elements to make a successful mother/writer are imagination, creativity, intuition, patience, and understanding. It's also vital to have a fantastic sense of self-worth. Without it you will constantly find the family's slightest needs come before your writing. Understanding the value of what you do and being able to remember why you love it and why it's worth making sacrifices is vital.

A few tips to remember:

1. Develop a Routine!
If you have set times dedicated to meals, housework, homework, baths, and bed you are a huge step toward minimal chaos in your home and work life. Routine can go a step further than this and create a greater sense of calm if you also plan your writing times to suit your average day. I schedule a few hours each night, after tucking kids into bed, to write. This is the pen-to-paper (or words-to-screen) writing that involves concentration and focus. Research, planning, listing, plotting, chatting, character development, reviewing, editing, and short pieces can be slotted in at other times during the day but you need to have a set time dedicated to your writing regularly (daily if possible).

2. Be Flexible!
While you have a routine it's important to know how to bend the rules a little. Things are going to come up that you hadn't planned for. You need to be able to bend your routine and schedule to suit. If the school calls up because your daughter is sick you slot a doctor visit into your afternoon and adjust your writing tasks. If your three-year-old got creative while you both cooked lunch together and is covered in flour you need to fit a bath in before you eat. Raising children, without going insane, requires flexibility.

3. Learn to Prioritize!
Know that some stages need to be completed before others. Make sure writing is one of your high priorities but forgive yourself if you have to take the night off to attend your son's soccer game (you could schedule that in), or daughter's dance recital. Understand that changing a dirty diaper has an immediate deadline and your article due tomorrow can wait the few minutes it takes to change the diaper. Do the projects that are most important first and don't leave things to the last minute.

4. Keep Lists!
Shopping lists, project lists, idea lists, activity lists, school friends' names, books borrowed from the library, actions to take for this or that article, character traits from your current novel, markets, budgets... The list of lists can be fairly endless but they are a great way to stay present with every aspect of your life. As a mother you're going to be in multiple places at once in your mind. It creates a jumble to your memory functions. Lists help us keep information near to hand and jotting a list helps us remember.

5. Love what you do!
Whatever it is you're doing at any given moment, LOVE doing it! It's the only way to stay sane when you have to shift from task to task. Remember that everything you do serves an important purpose. Spending time with your children and your home reinforces a sacred bond and keeps you connected with the most important aspects of life. Every moment is precious, and no matter what you are doing, love being alive in that moment and know that every step is toward a brighter future.

The final thing to remember is to 'communicate'. Tell your loved ones what you need from them. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Share yourself, your dreams and ambitions, cry on a friend's shoulder when it gets hard, leave the kids with a baby-sitter and go out for a night on the town with your girlfriends, give your heart and mind to others with commitment and honesty. Tell yourself, others and the universe what it is you want with confidence. When you do, you'll find the world acting to accommodate you.

Being a writer and a parent is not impossible. You will learn more tips and tricks as you do it day to day. You will come to understand what works for you and what doesn't. Try everything and learn to adapt to the needs of your unique family.

It's challenging but also very exciting. You gain so much from sharing your life with children and with writing. You can touch the world, change people, create life and inspire others and truly love yourself doing it. Smile, stand up tall and proud, and truly realize how amazing and incredible you are. Live it, love it, and write about it.

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© Copyright 2007 Rebecca Laffar-Smith (rklaffarsmith at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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