8 Parenting Tips from Janet Fitch (Author of White Oleander)

For those of you who don’t know who Janet Fitch is, she wrote White Oleander (which was made into a movie starring many actresses you know) and Paint It Black.

I’ve also seen Ms. Fitch speak at the L.A. Times Festival of books.  In addition to being one of the best writers I’ve ever encountered, she’s extraordinarily kind.

Most importantly for this post, Janet is also a parent. Like the rest of us, she had to learn how to balance parenting with everything else.

Here are my eight favorite tips from her post on being a writing parent – I recommend you click the link to read all 23 tips.

Shout out to Reetta Raitanen: Huge thanks for including Janet’s post in your last “Links Feast!”

1. Give up on cleaning.  Triage your precious spare time.  First, write (or whatever it is you need to do). Next, take care of anything animate–kid, spouse, dog. Only then, turn your attention to the inanimate, and only when you absolutely have to.  Give up gardening.

2.   If you have help for a few hours, leave the house.  It will remove the temptation to do the laundry or wash the dishes.

3. Find a mother’s helper babysitter. This is a junior high kid who can use a few bucks and will keep your toddler amused while you’re home.  Be prepared for your child to love that kid more than you.

4.  Encourage young artists. Art projects are a godsend.  “Draw me a spaceship, honey.”  There’s five minutes, ten if you’re lucky… Get them to include details, like rivets and eyelashes.  Don’t forget to expand the assignment.  “Draw me the inside of the spaceship.” “Draw me the controls of the spaceship.” “Draw me the planet the spaceship comes from.”

5. Bedtime should be inviolable.  Make sure there’s an early enough bedtime that you can see your spouse for an hour, and then go to work for an hour or two. Even if you have to go to bed after your spouse. Suck it up.  You both wanted to be parents.

6. Deflect guilt.  Embrace the concept of the Good-Enough Mother.  Keith Richards left his kids with Anita–by comparison, you’re mother of the year.

7.  Dads get more respect. Accept this sad fact.  My daughter’s friend had a work-at-home songwriter father. She would look at the closed door of his studio and whisper, “Shhh, Dad’s working” like he was doing open heart surgery. On the other hand, my own closed door was opened fifty times a day with requests like “Mooooommmmmmm, will you pin this?” or “Mooooooooooommmmmm, why does Daddy have a penis?”

Ergo, if you can possibly get out of the house to work, do so.  Even if it’s just into the backyard.  In the treehouse. With the ladder up.

8. Got Discourse? Make sure to have intellectual conversations with adults on a daily, or near daily level.  Facebook isn’t enough. You have to keep your vocabulary above the high school level, and talking to four year olds all day isn’t going to help.

Like I said, there are many more tips at Janet’s blog – click here to read the rest.

What parenting tips do you have for getting more done in the small blocks of time left over? Do you work at home or outside the home? Did your concentration skills improve or hit the skids when your kids came along? We love to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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19 Responses to 8 Parenting Tips from Janet Fitch (Author of White Oleander)

  1. Dawn says:

    Love this! (And I loved White Oleander, too!) Even when your kids are older they STILL have a habit of interrupting when you are hard at work. For me, the best thing is to get out of the house. I either visit the local Starbucks or hole myself up at my husband’s office for a while. An added bonus to this is that I also seem to spend less time on social media when I put myself in a “work place”. Obviously I haven’t been heeding my own advice lately as my writing has been close to nothing…. So, I’m off to find a secluded spot for working! 🙂


  2. Marie Trout says:

    I think we are all parents the best we know how. I love hearing/reading what works for others (so thanks for the post). Then I see what resonates, and choose what might work for me and mine without judgment. Leaving the “shoulds” out. Parenting is a continuous journey of discovery. What might work today might change tomorrow. This is ok! As we parents walk, stumble, fall, run, fly – here’s to doing it with eyes, ears and heart wide open!


  3. Great insight here. I love #4 especially. 😉 My favorite tip my parents implemented is don’t put ceilings on dreams. If kids respect and embrace their passions, the world is their oyster—and many people benefits. (Sorta like putting the mask on us before wee ones on planes. ;))


  4. tomwisk says:

    Love the humor. I know that moms have to amuse the little tykes while dad escapes, er, goes to work. This should be mandatory reading before the first child appears.


  5. Don’t expect interruptions to stop when they are grown. I have to say though, now that my nest is empty, I miss them all and am glad I opted in to being a mom. 🙂


  6. Jess Witkins says:

    I love author Janet Fitch and her book White Oleander. These tips are great; I’m not yet a parent and I agree with many of them. Art projects are a wonder. Used them for babysitting myself. That and scavenger hunts. Kids can create worlds while making scavenger hunts. They have to collect the prizes, write coded clues, them plant them everywhere. Great activity.

    Linked this on FB, want my sibs to read!


  7. emaginette says:

    One moment reading and I immediately felt like a better parent. 🙂


  8. S. J. Maylee says:

    Loved White Oleander, wonderful book. Thanks for sharing, I’m def going to her post.
    Since my oldest (about to turn 6) turned 1 I’ve been working from home. Just when I have my balance skills perfected, they change the name of the game and I start over. My youngest (turning 3 next Sunday) just realized he loves puzzles, and with his growing attention span, this is a very good thing. I work in our dining room right in the thick of mom can you… I really don’t know how I get anything done. It’s a mystery.


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  10. Julie Glover says:

    #6 and #7 are awesome. I used to listen to parenting programs that would say, “Don’t ever allow the TV to become a babysitter,” to which I fired back, “Then what is it for?!!!!” Yes, you can get out of hand with screen time, but putting my child in front of Blue’s Clues for a half hour edutained him and gave me 22 minutes of time to get stuff done. In fact, I would also like to thank Bear in the Big Blue House, Goin’ Wild with Jeff Corwin, Kipper, and Maisy for watching my kids. Good tips, Jenny.


  11. Love this! Also love the movie. I, too, feel pretty good about my parenting skills. Another parenting tip that I have tried to follow is to set a timer and play for 20 minutes on the ground with my two little ones. When the timer buzzes, I resume my adult activity. My kids look forward to our special playtime. I do too. Another comment/observation is that we “supermoms” need to recognize…we are HUMAN. Wonderful post as usual.


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