Writing

The Writing Parent: Work-Life Balance

I am a man who likes to stay busy, and what I deem as 'busy', I've heard a lot of other people refer to as 'too busy.' I work two jobs and have anywhere from two to seven different creative projects in the works at one time (at the time of writing this blog post, I am in the middle of editing one novella, about to start writing another, working on the game mechanics behind my own card game, as well as fine-tuning the mechanics of my second tabletop RPG), and I still get random ideas and thoughts pertaining to starting even mroe projects.

And on top of all of this, I am a husband and a father of two. All things I've listed here demand my attention, and all to varying degrees. I honestly cannot remember the last time I genuinely felt bored. I simply don't let myself get there.

So how does one balance all of this? It's tricky, and I'd say that I probably fail at it just as often as I succeed. Because balancing all this work and family and play isn't a one time thing. It's not like I can set the scales, work out a schedule, and BOOM, it's balanced from here to eternity. It's a daily struggle, a shifting experience that changes sometimes by the hour. And it, in itself, involves a lot of work, stress, and over-thinking on my part.

My daughter's behavior is a constant roller coaster. She's always on a 9 on the emotional scale, just like her mother, only unlike her mother, she doesn't yet understand how to handle such a personality. One minute she is tenderly kissing your cheek and wants nothing more than to nuzzle into your shoulder, and the next minute she screaming at you from the floor because she wanted spaghetti for supper. It's a fight with her; a fight to keep her calm, a fight to keep myself calm, and a fight to maintain a fair and firm parenting style. I enjoy playing with her, helping her with her homework, and generally being around her, but at the same time the creator-side of me is constantly checking the clock for when I can sit down and write, or develop a game, or blog. For when I can create.

I feel guilty for having these feelings, this dual-natured drive to both be there for her and engage her, but also to be on my own and working. And this guilt hit new heights when I heard my daughter was having behavior trouble at school, too. Suddenly, my fears as a parent and my feelings of inadequacy rushed back into my mind, and I immediately began asking myself "what can I do differently? Where did I go wrong? Am I not good enough of a father?"

These questions are normal for me, and I need to recognize that they are real worries I have about myself, but I also can't let them drag me down into anxiety and solitude. That's not what my family needs from me. I know my daughter needs more from me, at least I feel she does. Why else would she be acting in such a way, if not because things aren't properly aligned at home, with her parents? I understand that there are many different reasons for this, but I also know that I need to be doing what I can in order to keep my family happy, healthy, and strong.

If I didn't work at either of my two jobs, this wouldn't be nearly as big of an issue. My days would be much easier to segment into work time, family time, wife time, writing time. If I didn't work at 4:00 AM at FedEx, I could write well into the wee hours of the morning. If I didn't work during the day at Target, I could write while my daughter was at school. But sadly, I am a man of two day jobs, and as such I have to be comfortable with sometimes less than a couple hours of writing time a day.

And that's all it comes down to. Obviously something has to be sacrificed in a busy schedule like mine, and there's no question about it; it has to be my writing. That, while still essential to me as a person, is the least essential thing on the list. I will still write, I need to write, for myself and my family, but I have to be content with that amount only being sometimes a handful of minutes a day.

Balancing day jobs with home jobs and family is tough, indeed. There's no doubt about that. And as much as I love my creative work, I need to keep my family first, until such a time when my writing takes off and becomes a steady source of income, or my kids are older and more independent and on their way out of the house. Until then, I'll write for 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, and be content with that.

Hell, at the very least, I should be able to push out a lot of words in 15 minutes if that's all I get for a while!

My wife has been a real trooper, an amazing woman who has taken on the burdens of home life with a 3-week-old and a 6-year-old while I am at my jobs. She goes to bed early, and while I probably should be as well, I instead use that time to either write, work on the website, or get some other form of creative content out there. I need to be more available for her, more than I already have been. She deserves that at the very least.

Don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying I am a bad father or husband. I think I do decently in those regards. But, as my old saying goes, I am nothing if not a work in progress. I need to keep a critic's eye on myself, my habits and my behavior, and see where I need to improve.

So you can find me here, writing during nap time.