How to Carve Out Writing Time as a Parent in a Pandemic

The following is a guest post by Laura Desiano, whose poetry appeared in issue 17 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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In December 2019, my second child was born, a daughter who spent nine days in the NICU while her lungs caught up with the rest of her chunky 9 lbs 4 ounces. Thinking back at what, at the time, was the most stressful in my life, I now know how fortunate we really were. I knew my daughter would come home with no lasting health issues. Now with the Covid-19 pandemic, an American reckoning over racial injustice, corrupt government at every level, there is no end in sight.

When the lockdown began, I was suddenly staring down the long barrel of life stuck inside with two small children. What’s worse, I was barely out of the fourth trimester, those early postpartum months when a mother is still very sleep-deprived and riding waves of emotions. How would I find the time and energy to keep up with what little writing I was already doing? The sad truth is, I stopped writing completely.

In fact, this essay is one of the first things I’ve written in months. And it was two weeks late. I’m not trying to be clever either. It’s hard to write as a parent, and it’s an almost impossible task while caring for two children around the clock. At first I tried to jot down a few lines here and there in random notebooks and the backs of envelopes, whatever was handy. But soon even that ended as the needs of my family outweighed my creative time. Daily life overflowed with cooking, entertaining my children, and never-ending piles of dirty laundry and dishes. 

I’m not the only parent-writer who is experiencing this either. After polling a Facebook group of female-identified writers with children, a majority of them have written little to nothing since the pandemic began. Some could not balance homeschooling with work. Some writers said they needed silence and space. Some just had no energy, and therefore little inspiration to even draft a poem, essay or story.

Not all hope is lost, though. Parents are nothing if not creative problem solvers. Some writers converted small space like large closets or second bathrooms into a room of their own. Others have tried a new genre, which lowers the stakes and allows for a more forgiving mindset. I have had much more success writing short romance stories versus poetry. Lowering the bar is also common: even if you just write one line a day on your phone’s notes app, you could have a poem in a week. My partner plans to rent an Airbnb near our very small apartment where I can be alone to rest and write once he goes back on paternity leave. With all the money we were saving in airfare this year, it is worth the investment. 

If the world needs anything right, it’s words. Writers are our truth tellers, our story weavers, our poetry creators. And if we truly value diverse voices, we must hear from parents. Our’s is an essential voice if we are to avoid similar tragedies in the future. We need writers to bear witness and help us heal, and without parents telling their stories, the literature stands to lose too damn much.

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Laura Desiano’s poems have been widely anthologized and published in journals such Tiny Spoon, Drunk Monkeys, Voicemail Poems, Pedestal, among others. Her chapbook Braiding the Storm was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 (as Laura E Davis). A 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, Desiano is a freelance writer in San Francisco, where she lives with her partner, son, and two withering houseplants.

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