This post is going to be divided into part-time school/young kids and full-time school/young kids. In this case, young kids essentially means any child who is not also going to school full-time, so infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers.
This is a tough combo, no way around it. Young children need almost constant supervision, and it’s hard for them to advocate for themselves, so you need to make sure you trust whomever is watching them while you’re at school. Cost can also be an issue, since you’re probably not working (if you are, please see the work/school/kids combo section).
But, for the sake of this book, let’s assume you have a child care option that is working for you that allows you to attend school. So we’re going to look at the time you have outside of school where you have to balance non-classroom course work (such as homework and projects), watching your children, and hopefully getting a little writing in.
NOTE: It’s okay to let writing fall by the wayside if you have a hard semester. School is finite. It ends eventually. Your children are only young once. You will have to be the judge of this, of course. If you have time to spend an hour or so a day playing MMORPGs or catching up on your favorite television show, you have time to write. If you run around all day and crash once the kids are in bed, then you might not.
For both part- and full-time students, short breaks are your friend.
Long breaks between classes aren’t the best time to try and fit writing in because they’re better for other things. You can take the kids home and feed them lunch. You can run errands. You can meet with groups and get homework or projects done.
Short breaks are golden because you can’t do anything else, but 10-30 minutes is more than enough time to think through that plot snaggle, write a couple hundred words, outline the next few scenes, and so forth.
Some of these strategies depend on the number of classes you’re taking at a time. I tend to take a single college-level course at a time, which generally means that it requires two hours or less of work on any particular day. Adjust as necessary to your situation.
- Add half-an-hour on to your child-watching situation
Depend on who’s watching your child and how much you’re paying (and whether you can afford any more), see if you can add an extra half hour on. Maybe your mother-in-law is perfectly happy to watch little Susie for a bit longer while you camp in the lobby of your school and get some writing done. 30 minutes isn’t a lot, but it adds up over time, even if you can only do it once or twice a week.
- Get a night out
See if your spouse or a family member is willing to watch your children one night a week for a few hours on a regular basis. This has the added benefit of getting you out of the house as well as giving you the opportunity to write (or do school work, as necessary).
- Exchange time
Perhaps you have a friend who also needs some child-free time to get some stuff done. Maybe she can watch your kids on, say, Thursday, or whenever you need it the most, and you can repay the favor on Fridays, when you don’t have class and your classwork is done for the week.
- Work while they sleep
Sleeping children are the best. I wouldn’t recommend trying to burn both end of the candles (i.e., staying up late after the kids are asleep AND getting up early to work before they wake up), but doing one or the other and also working during naps can be a great boost to productivity.
If you’re on campus all day and have full-time child care, you’re actually ahead of the game. A full-time day care provider typically charges by the week, so the actual hours your child(ren) is at day care don’t matter as much. Even if a relative is helping you out, you’re probably on campus all day and can spend breaks between classes as you see fit.
Of course, school should always be the top priority, and sometimes you may find yourself inundated with work that needs to be done. But it does tend to balance out. Very few courses keep you super busy all the time. Make use of your small breaks when you can.
If you’re not on campus all day, or if you’re doing online school where you have more control over your schedule, try out some of the techniques listed in the part-time section.
Anything to add, Squiders? Thoughts on writing while doing both school and having young children?