Writing, for One


planting seasonThis past week, Eldest was at sleep-away camp for the first time, Youngest was with my parents, and Middle stayed home, and attended day camp. In other words, I had one week (probably the only one this summer) where I had daytime hours, sans children, to write.

I finished my next article for ArtsATL, and then started completely rewriting my outline for my next novel, Finding Om.

Which leads me to recount a flurry of opinion pieces that came out over the past few weeks. First there was this essay, where the author claimed that for some writers, the key to being a successful writer depends on having only one child. A flurry of disagreement abounded by big name writers such as Zadie Smith and Jane Smiley. Smiley remarked that the key to writing successfully with children was to have adequate childcare, not having less children.

Initially, I agreed with both Smith and Smiley– I didn’t feel that I could blame my own lack of writing productivity on my children, but on lack of childcare.

Then, two things happened. First, Emily posted this thoughtful essay to Facebook, and then I had a five-day period with only one child. A five day period, where I got a ton of writing done.

Here’s the thing: Adequate childcare is the key to any parent’s success in a career. But the more children you have, the more difficult it is to find adequate, affordable childcare.

If you work and have three children, chances are you have to do at least two different summer camps to accommodate their age differences. Which means you might have two different drop off and pick up locations, at different times. If you have three kids, you have narrowed the range of babysitters who can sit for them. (There are a few young teens we know who would be fine watching my kids if I had only two, but three is pushing it.) Also, it’s a lot to ask grandparents to watch all three kids. One or two is fine, but three is a lot for anyone.

At the beginning of the summer, I hired a woman to help me for three hours a week. Not three hours a day, three hours a week. She showed up exactly four times. I haven’t heard from her since. In a panic last night, I dropped another $375 on a camp. For just one of my children.

Thus, I’ve rethought this whole issue. Because finding adequate, affordable childcare often depends on the number of children you have to find it for. It’s challenging enough to do this for one child. But add one or more to the mix, and it’s very, very difficult.

For the next two weeks, all three of my kids will be home. There will be no camps to speak of. Wish me productivity… and sanity.

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6 thoughts on “Writing, for One

  1. Since we’re in our “just us two” stage, we discuss this a lot. Working to pay for child care is going to be a fruitless cycle. Then the option will be to stay home and try to go writing done. I can only imagine how tough the balance can be with any number of children in the house.

  2. I think you’re ahead of the game, Suzanne, because you’re realistic about what issues you will face. I really wasn’t!

  3. I wish you productivity and sanity!! Having written with at least one child always hovering around me, as the years have gone by and failures accumulate, it gets harder and harder and I get happier and happier that I had all of my kids!!!

  4. I agree. But ultimately, the issue isn’t about being happy or unhappy about the number of children one has. It’s about how difficult it is to work with more children to take care of.

  5. I think for me this is definitely related getting published. If there are deadlines and contracts, the # of kids and time becomes very relevant. I find for me, that since there is no contract per se i.e. I’m writing in the hope that I’ll someday get published in which case I inadvertently put less pressure (importance?) on my writing versus about how much time the kids are taking up..
    That said I’ve been writing for over twelve years now– I know exactly how much time I’d have to devote to books and writing if I wasn’t the cook, chauffeur and private tutor as well as every other role us parent-writers (writer-parents) have to fulfill– however it took me a good many years to get to this realization.

  6. And I think that is the main point of the last piece I linked to. The more kids one has, the more stuff a parent has to do to get it done.

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