Finding time to write after having kids is hard. Finding time to write during the pandemic has been even harder. It is not an exaggeration to say the corona crisis has, at some point, brought the vast majority of mothers to breaking point. A study by Pregnant then Screwed suggests 78% of mums have found juggling childcare and work ‘challenging’. Which is a nice way of saying that most British mothers are, by now, climbing the walls. Or would be if they weren’t so exhausted.
Which is why this next bit is going to be annoying.
Because I believe the best way to get some time to yourself this summer holidays - hell, to SURVIVE - this summer holidays, is by getting up at six.
I have three children, aged eight, five and three. Throughout motherhood I have continued to work as a freelance writer, squeezing in writing whenever I can. My family and my writing are the two things that are most important to me. Yet learning how to successfully combine motherhood and writing has been a long, sometimes painful, process.
I have learnt, for example, that if I don’t find time for writing in the summer holidays, by September I will have lost my mind. As will most mums who don’t make time to do something outside of work, childcare or housework, for the forthcoming six week stretch.
And that is during a normal year. And as we all know, 2020 has not been anywhere close to normal. We have already had two-and-a-half summer holidays before the ‘usual’ summer holidays begin. Unless we start consciously making some time for ourselves now, the next six weeks aren’t going to be much fun for anyone.
I know 6am might seem like an appalling thing to do to yourself in the holidays. But by now, it’s my favourite part of the day.
The first thing I do is make myself a really good coffee, followed by a chai-tea chaser. I wrap myself up in a soft cardigan and light my favourite candles. It feels like I’m the only person awake in the world.
The house is QUIET.
At no other point is our household of pinging phones, five people and two dogs quiet. If any of my children wake up while I’m still writing, I give them a biscuit and sit them in front of the telly.
I don’t get up early at weekends - I’m not completely unhinged - but getting this quiet time to myself every weekday means everything. I am happier and calmer. I don’t just feel like a wife or mum. Writing is the thing that makes me ‘me’. And I’m a far more patient, peaceful and loving wife and mum when I get to do it.
And if I don’t want to get up early or I’m too tired, I don’t. But I know on the days that I do get up early, I feel much better. There are over 40 days ahead of the summer holidays, in which I can feel either better or worse.
I have written out my schedule as a free guide for other mums. If they follow it they will get three hours creative time to themselves a day. Which translates into two full days of creativity a week, with weekends off. I think that’s worth getting up for.
And it’s 6am isn’t even that extreme, compared to what other people are suggesting. A few weeks ago I watched a video by Julius Keiser, a physical trainer for mums. He recommends going to bed at 7pm… and getting up at 2am.