“How do you find the time to…?”
I’ve been asked this question quite a bit over the past few weeks – on Instagram in relation to my reading habits, and by a couple of different people at the recent Tamar Valley Writers Festival when discussing my writing.
I have three children; two I home-school (in grade 4 and 2 respectively). The youngest is an active toddler, at the stage of getting into anything and everything the moment my back is turned, and ever so full of mischief. We also have a large garden (mostly neglected, but still somehow providing us with an abundance of tomatoes and potatoes and apples), chickens, a sheep, a cat, a dog, and a goldfish (the animals are the children’s responsibility for the most part: feeding and collecting eggs are fairly easy chores, after all).
When I’ve been asked how I manage my reading/writing with such a menagerie, I tend to laugh it off, giving one of two ‘joke’ answers: that I neglect the children, or else bribe them with screen time. The latter is sometimes true – though screen time is usually a reward for completed school work and chores, so it fills two purposes (a reward for completed tasks, and giving me some free time for my own work). Other times I have a self-imposed deadline to meet and I need to finish something – so movies are a great way to entertain the kids for an hour or so. Even the toddler will sit quietly for the duration if Mary Poppins is playing – (well, except when she gets up to dance along with Mary and Bert and the chimney-sweeps). And I don’t only distract them with the screen. With around 4 acres of land – around half of which is bush – the older two have no problems entertaining themselves for hours at a time, and if I can align that with a toddler napping there’s plenty of time to make progress on whatever I’m working on.
But to answer in the above manner excludes two very important reasons why I can achieve so much reading/writing. The first is the most important of all – my husband. His support and encouragement has been a great motivator – along with his willingness to back up his words with actions by taking over the homeschooling/child care/housework on the days he doesn’t work while I hide away for the day to write/research/edit, and even whole weekends so I can attend writers festivals.
And the other important thing is making the most of what time time I have available. When I’m hanging about waiting for my kids outside dance or aikido, I’m reading, or editing, or working on my author platform, or jotting down story ideas. If I know I’ve only got a short space of time to myself, I make sure I use it in the best way possible (and yes, sometimes this means an afternoon nap if I need it).
But I think there is another factor at play here too, and I think it’s summed up best in a quote I found on my twitter feed the other day:
“Motivation comes from being committed to the path you are on.” Jeffrey Shaw
And there’s another quote that works here too: