I often get asked: how do you do it? And while I’d love to claim that I’m being interrogated about something cool, like being an undercover superhero or a secret pop star, mostly what they’re asking about is: how do you have a full time job, manage your family, and still find time to pursue a writing career. I have a few joke replies involving time travel, no sleep, or dimensional portals, but the reality is that it’s a question of juggling priorities. And it’s not ever easy, but sometimes it’s incredibly difficult.
|Not pictured: my life.|
For those who saw my post on Tuesday, they will already know that this week was a difficult one for my parent-work-writing balancing act. I already expected a challenge, being in Toronto for Ad Astra on the weekend, back late Sunday night, then flying out to Denver for RWA Nationals on Tuesday. In the thirty-six hours I would have at home, I knew I would have to get everything ready for my trip, manage setting up things at home so that my husband could single-parent more easily for the week, and get most of my regular day-job tasks for the week done in a single day.
That level of crazy difficult, I was prepared for.
What I was not prepared for was my son badly burning himself on his leg (through an accident that happened in a fraction of a second) and needing to take him to various doctors’ appointments. In the spirit of being honest, I could have not gone to the appointments. My husband was also there and is more than competently able to manage, but I wanted to be there to hear the prognosis and know what was going on. So it wasn’t really an option to not go.
It left me with a real dilemma for my planned trip. Being physically with your child when they’re hurt is one of the big parts of parenthood. As much as it has earned me some judgmental whispers, I made the decision to still do the trip because I know my son will be cared for by many people who love him just as much as I do. (In fact, he’ll probably enjoy it more because his grandparents don’t enforce the screen-time limits, especially when he’s not feeling well.)
This is how the priorities balance and this is how I manage having a full time job, being a primary caregiver and writing/promoting my books. Most of the time, the family takes priority and I do what I need to do to make sure that the household is running smoothly and that the kids are taken care of. But I also have to keep in mind that they don’t *always* need me. I’ve set up my life to make sure there are opportunities to pursue my own goals, particularly in terms of my writing career. Not always long opportunities (I’ve had to teach myself to write in 45-90 minute bursts) but there are usually at least 2-3 in a given week.
The trick is actually taking them. It’s very easy to get swept up in a list of things I should be doing. Because there’s never enough time to get everything done and both my day job and my home job are demanding. There are still plenty of days where I feel guilty for sitting down with my laptop to write or for taking a few minutes to check Facebook or Twitter. I have to remind myself that my own goals are important too, not just the work I do for other people.
So that’s the secret. Somewhat boring, especially if anyone was hoping for time travel tips. It’s a question of making sure that in a world of no, I sometimes say yes to myself.