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NaNoWriMo: How to survive November with kids

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If you’ve read my bio (or have been around awhile) you know I have five children. Meagan is 13, Owen is 12, Brenna will turn 11 on November 8, Nora is 7 1/2 and Jack is 3. That’s quite a bunch. I’ve been doing NaNo since 2005 and I’ve won four times (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012).

In 2010 I did it with a 10yo, 9yo, 8yo, 4yo and a 4 month old. Yes, I completed NaNo with three school age kids, a preschooler and an infant. How?

Well, I guess it’s all about preparation. And I’m not just talking about outlining your novel. It’s about prepping your family for your needs during the month.

I’m lucky to be a stay-at-home-mom so I don’t also have to juggle a job. But I have a house to keep clean, laundry to do, cooking and dealing with the everyday crazy that comes with five kids. If your kids are younger it will be much more of a problem to find time to write. But now might be the time to give in a little and let that TV babysit entertain the little rugrats. It won’t rot their brains, I promise.

If they are older, like my kids, you’re in luck. It’s time to teach them to fend for themselves (if you haven’t already, an really you should have by now). They should learn to cook a few small meals on their own, microwave leftovers or be prepared to eat PB& J. They can also occupy themselves with whatever it is kids do. Or, even better, get them involved in NaNo’s YWP (Young Writer’s Program). My almost 11yo and 7yo daughters are both doing YWP this year. It’s their 3rd year which means they started in 3rd grade and kindergarten. They both won last year.

My other advice is: let it go. The apocalypse won’t begin if you don’t make a homecooked dinner every single night. Or if laundry doesn’t get done and folded on time. Really, put those kids to work. My kids start folding clothes at 3 and by 4 are putting them away. And the world won’t end if the toilet is a little icky (although it feels that way). Just let your family know how important NaNo is to you and that you will be writing and you do not want to be disturbed.

So here are my tips:

  • get that novel outlined before November (or at least have a solid idea of what you are writing if you are a pantser)
  • teach the older kids how to cook for themselves, make sandwiches and expect them to help with any younger siblings
  • make sure the kids know how to do laundry if they expect clean clothes
  • TV isn’t the devil. Use it as a tool to keep some peace in the house.
  • find the best time to write for you–if that means getting up and hour early or staying up into the wee hours of the morning so be it
  • If your kids aren’t infants, young toddlers (I’m talking under 2 here) expect them to be able to do things on their own–trust me, the more you expect of them the more they will rise to the occasion. if your kids are younger, nap times are your friends.
  • if you’re working… I guess my advice is the same except keep a notebook handy at work if you can and scribble bits of your novel on your lunch break or whenever you can.
  • at home put a “do not disturb” sign on your bedroom door and lock it… write, write, write
  • and the big one: your kids do NOT need your 100% attention at all times. I know that seems to go against today’s parenting trend but it’s true. Did your parents spend every waking moment with you? I’m guessing not and you grew up fairly normal. November is their month to show how mature they can be, to test out being a little bit more responsible. It won’t hurt them and it might just make them feel a little special.

I’m sure my advice isn’t practical for every situation. My kids are much more independent than many kids today because I’ve been raising them like that since they were babies. My 3yo is perfectly fine to entertain himself for hours and if I ask him to not bother me he’ll go do something else (for 10 minutes, rinse and repeat, lol). My older 4 kids are capable of feeding themselves and the 3yo and taking care of the house. And they are used to taking care of each other (as I have always expected it). They know in November I’m crazy writer mom and don’t have time for silly things like eating and scrubbing toilets.

But really what it boils down to is finding time for yourself and making it work for your family. Be firm about your intentions to write and don’t let them walk all over you.

 

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