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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nanny Nook - Writing with Children

Today, resident nanny Elizabeth Hawksworth gives tips on how to write when you've got children underfoot.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and Glo-Worm has finally gone down for her nap after an hour of her screaming and me rocking her, trying to get her calm enough to relax and go to sleep. Why is it that babies always fight sleep, especially when you have a deadline? I slide my laptop closer to me on the oaken tabletop and pray that the squeak of the antique dining room chair can’t be heard a flight above in a certain baby’s room, or that the sound of the keys isn’t as deafening as it seems to me. And I write, losing myself in the moment . . . until fifteen minutes later, I hear the unwelcome sound of a baby’s cry.

Why, why, why?

I’m a writer, but I’m also a nanny, and this is simply a snapshot of a day in my life when I’m working fulltime with children. It’s the best job in the world, and it’s also the worst job in the world, some days, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. For every naptime where the baby wakes up multiple times in an hour, I have days of cuddles, smiles, and fun. And while it can be frustrating, I love getting to play all day and watch kids learn. Glo-Worm was my full-time job last summer and I still think back on my time with her with a smile.

But working with kids does make it hard to get writing done. On a whim last year, my friend Anne from
The Belle Jar Blog convinced me to resurrect my old nanny blog that I’d made for the parents of my charges, as a way to keep them abreast of the things their kids were doing and learning with me. It was a blog read by maybe six people, but it was greatly appreciated and I found I had a niche in offering my advice and experiences as a child care worker. I started blogging every day during Glo-Worm’s naptimes (with her parents’ permission – I never attempt to freelance or write without the permission of the parents I work for) and found that I was developing quite a following. Suddenly, my little blogging hobby was something I wanted to spend more time on – and juggling writing with my day job got hard.

When writing with kids around, it’s hard not to resent it when you expect a certain time during the day to be completely yours. Naptime is my break as a nanny, and I got used to scribbling down posts and stories for my writing contest within the bare hour or so that Glo-Worm’s naptime afforded me.

However, my day job WAS nannying – and therefore, Glo-Worm came first. I started when she was 11 months old and continued until she was nearly 17 months old, and her sleep was something that was ever-changing and required my full attention.

There were times I hit post on Wordpress, even though I wasn’t happy with the post, because I had a deadline to get a guest blog up. I’d edit quickly and feverishly with a baby on my hip, trying to juggle a bottle or a toy while skimming over my posts. Many of my early blog posts from that time are probably riddled with mistakes or errors that I just didn’t have time to get back to. Teething, hunger, or just a persnickety baby meant that I needed to focus 100% on Glo-Worm.

There were times that I finished a blog post with a sleeping baby on my chest, or when I was bottlefeeding Glo-Worm just before her nap. Could the post have waited? Sure, but I didn’t want to wait!

Writers who are also mothers or primary caregivers of children become great multi-taskers – and I have known many who have breastfed and wrote, or baby-worn and wrote, or even played board games and wrote! It’s not ideal, but in a day where time seems to slip by without you even realizing it’s flying, you take your opportunities where you can, even if it means multi-tasking. I was always responding to the baby’s needs first, but if she wouldn’t nap on her own that day, I still needed to eat and take downtime, even if it meant holding her in my arms to sleep!

Where my life differs from a full-time parent is that I get to go home at night. A lot of my writing took place when I was exhausted and could barely see the screen. My ears would be ringing with Glo-Worm’s angry screams, my arms would be aching, but I still needed to write, because I had to release tension and creativity in order to be able to relax. I think it helps me to be a better nanny when I’m able to take time to release frustration and anger and sadness in my words. I was able to let go of the frustrations of a teething or sick baby and return fresh in the morning, ready to give my all to Glo-Worm once again.

There are many ways to juggle writing and children. I love both of my jobs (and my new one, as a social media specialist!), and one often inspires another. I love telling stories to children or taking inspiration from their learning and growth. I’m lucky that I get to pursue all of my interests and passions – even if it means that they take place at the same time.


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