One of the most exhausting aspects of being a new parent, especially a new mom, is wading through all the well-meaning advice. Breastfeeding, diapering, bathing. It never ends. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is do what you and your doctor feel is best for you and baby and ignore everyone else. Words have never been wiser.
Another difficulty is feeling like you must do it all. The baby toys, the baby gyms, the baby this and that until you have so little time for self that you seem to have lost self somewhere between the feedings. For writers and artists, this is especially true. Don’t give up artistic self. Instead, find a way to balance your art within the parenting. It is difficult, agreed, but one of the most important advocacies you’ll ever make for yourself. The first step is doing away with the Competing Parent Syndrome.
The Competing Parent Syndrome
You know who they are. The parents who use Facebook to illustrate how perfect they and their children are. The parents who are constantly saying, “Have you…? Oh you must.” The parents who will spend hours complaining about all they’ve given up for the sake of their children so they can be congratulated for it. Give yourself permission to mentally smack these competing parents upside the head and move on with your day.
Your baby will not miss IQ points because you took an hour to write your story or catch up on sleep or grab a long-needed shower. In fact, your baby may very well grow up happier, healthier, more adjusted and valuing their own passions and creativities, if mom and dad value their own and find a way to balance art within their lives. It is all about balance, and yes, mom and dad do get the short end, but they don’t have to go without completely. Teach your children to value self and passion by modeling this behavior for them from the start. Just do your best, and be diligent in valuing your art form and your practice of it. The thing to never do is give up your writing and self completely, as a means to proving how excellent a parent you are. This ‘parenting as martyr’ practice is most dangerous of all to young, budding, creative minds. Any educator worth their salt will tell you that creativity and art practiced/modeled in the home will benefit children’s academics and arts. It is not enough to throw crayons and paper at kids. Kids truly learn to value art at a young age when they see their parents valuing their own practices of art. Whether your child becomes a writer, a doctor, a Punk rock musician, creative modeling in the home, by mom and dad, will help their minds grow in all sorts of cognitive ways and multiple intelligences. So show your child how it’s done! Keeping your artistic self will help you be a better, smarter and more well-rounded parent for your child. And your child will adopt the same good habits and creative intelligences for him or herself.
*Of course, the first few months with a newborn are going to completely kick your ass. Hands down. You will be lucky to take regular showers and eat properly. Just ride it, be flexible, accept help from those you trust. You’ll get through it. Promise. It will get better. Make sure you return to a workable writing schedule as soon as possible. One way to survive the early months is to shift your writing focus to something intermedia and baby involved, because let’s face it, that is where your mind will be, no matter how serious a literary novelist you might have been prior. Just go with it. Let the shift happen. You’ll shift many times as you develop through your parenting years.
Writing Through Stress and Sleep Deprivation
One of the best ways for linguistic people to work through the stress of new parenthood is to write about it, BUT we have very little time to write about it when we’re new parents! Using some of the strategies in the previous lesson, try to find that time, wherever you can, keeping in mind that it is essential your family understands the importance and necessity of writing for you. If you treat writing as an essential part of your day or week, your support systems will be more likely to do the same. If you insist on your creative time, your support systems will be better able to understand. Don’t make the mistake of expecting your support systems to understand unless you explain this to them. Family, who are not writers, rarely understand the depths and breadths of the writing craft and needs. It is your job to explain it to them and insist on a fair and workable creativity schedule for yourself. If you aren’t informing and educating your spouse, mother, father, in-laws, babysitter, you can’t expect them to guess your needs and how important it is to you, your writing craft and your sanity. Do not ever underestimate the need to be creative. Once you are hooked on writing, painting, composing, etc., there is no going back. Having a baby does not change the creative need, it merely changes your ease and ability to practice your art form(s), which then can cause added tension, stress and sleeplessness.
If you find, at any time, that you become so sleep-deprived you are suffering insomnia, you can use this to your advantage. Why not use the time to soothe your body and read or write? Start a routine. When you find yourself up in the middle of the night and the baby is still sleeping:
- Make a warm cup of chamomile or heat some milk and cinnamon or whatever your comfort drink is. In moderation, a glass of wine can be a nice way to settle in with a book.
- Sit with a book or watch a film that will distract your mind for a while, keep your journal nearby, handy, so if a narrative inspiration strikes, you can pause the book/film and write!
- Remember, reading is an excellent way to invest in your narrative craft and development.
- Give yourself permission to turn to excellent films as a method of mindful distraction.
- Mind-body therapy is an excellent way to center yourself. Try a directed meditation video or app, such as Simply Being. Or the Ramones. Whatever centers you best. After you’ve completed a cycle, you will feel better, calmer, more open to sleeping or writing.
- If your day has been very hectic and calamitous, you’re having difficulty concentrating and feel your nerves on edge, consider giving yourself a twenty minute, thirty minute, hour breather. Put in some earbuds. Let your spouse take the baby, sit with some Mozart or a meditation track and lose yourself in your writing. Insist on this time. Knowing that you can find a little time to yourself, amongst the craziness of new parenting, can lessen the stress a good deal. If you can write, great. If not, don’t beat yourself up for it. Give yourself permission to simply imagine and think about narrative, take a few notes. The imaginative time is as much a part of the narrative craft as writing the first draft.
Most of all, try not to beat up on yourself if you are not writing. Instead, talk with your support system about options for finding a little more time. You can’t do it all, but you also need to pay attention to what your mind and body need, and for writers, that is time to read, write and revise. We’re hardwired for it.
First Person to Third Person PoV Writing Exercise for Parent Writers Who Are Having Difficulty Concentrating.
When you’re having difficulty concentrating, even if you do have a little time to write, consider the following revision exercise. It will help immerse you back into your narrative and voice, without forcing fresh material before you’re ready.
- Choose a first person narrative that you have already written. This can be fiction or essay.
- Take all the first person pronouns out of the narrative.
- Rephrase each sentence just enough so that it makes sense without the pronoun usage, but don’t change the narrative any further than that (unless, of course, you’re inspired then go with it!)
- Now, notice how your narrative reads as a subjective (close in) third person. It is technically still written from first person point of view, but with the elimination of pronouns, the narrative takes a much more fluid form. In this form, you can take the narrative anywhere you like and you will likely know your characters and settings more deeply.