In our lives as parents we can be over-burdened with the many demands on us: work, schools, children's changing needs, and so on. The effect is that cannot relax; If our mindfulness had a barometer it would plummet. Instead, we are trapped in scheduling, worry, and an over-committed life. There seems to be no room for the life view of Henry James: "A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost." Everything is lost on us during these over-burdened times because we have to serve our many responsibilities, but beyond that, we lose the capacity to make a pause. We are not able to "turn off" our minds, partly because the buck stops with us, but partly because we are not in control of our own minds, we cannot turn off.
This is a difficult circumstance and we should be kind to ourselves and others in it. But there is another kind of parent-writer difficulty that is in some sense the reverse of this daily struggle -- it is the time when all these everyday problems and concerns dissolve. Actual problems remain, but in ourselves we feel unable to grab hold as we used to. For a writer who suffers under a mountain of obligations it may seem a cruel fate that a Dark Time is not the balm to a Busy Time. Now it seems the opposite problems appear: Where there was anxiety, there is lethargy. Where there was business, there is emptiness.
The Dark Time is a common problem for writers, while The Busy Time is a common problem for parents. If you are caught in between these two poles as a writer-parent here are some guide posts that I've used in my own practice.
1. Learn to Listen
A common mistake is to give a person in a Dark Time a "positive band-aid" -- or to give ourselves one. A real salve though has to go deeper. Because listening to ourselves and others uses the heart, it feels expansive. A positive band-aid, on the other hand, can feel prickly and contracting because we have to use our mind to keep applying it and "make it true". For writers, listening can also allow inspiration to come in the back door, since we are story-sensitive creatures.
Another common tactic to drive-away a Dark Time is willpower. To be kind to the ugliest parts of ourselves truly frees the creative spirit. While we can force ourselves to be productive, when we practice self-kindness and teach ourselves to love our very-human flaws, our work is free to flow where it wants to, not where we want it to go.
The greatest thing about a Dark Time is it is like an artistic cleansing fast; A Busy Time is like being kings at a feast. It's rich and abundant, but can make us sick. As parent-writers we dwell in this paradox. Learning to use both skillfully is as much part of our art as wordsmithing.