Mother vs Creative Professional [The Balancing Act]
May 13, 2016
An event pops up on my Facebook feed - an amazing-sounding discussion for artists and designers! With some fantastic panelists! Here in Sudbury! Tonigh.... Oh. Well, I guess I won't be attending. No time to get a babysitter for my very young children. Maybe next time.
Finding the balance between being a mother and being an artist/designer is challenging. It seems often as though the maternal requirement outweighs the professional, and one is left to lament the missed opportunity. Chances for inspiration or invaluable motivation are lost, and it is often difficult to cultivate creativity oneself without an external push.
As a practicing designer/illustrator and mother of two, I have often felt this disappointment in my professional career. Listening to colleagues tell tales of how wonderful a lecture was, how rejuvenated they felt after a great presentation, it becomes more obvious that I have missed something. But there are solutions [well, maybe not solutions... if you don't have a babysitter the night Steff Geissbuhler is doing a lecture, that's too bad] to the issue.
Here are some ways to keep yourself motivated (some related to having kids; some are just good creative practice) :
- Get your kids involved in your professional world. Kids can be surprisingly inspirational when they are given the opportunity. For younger children, open up a book of art or design and look through the pictures. Or better yet, bring your kids to a gallery - pay attention to how they react to seeing the work; it might inspire you to remember how you saw it for the first time and spark a revitalization of passion. For older children, ask their opinion about a piece of design that you might be working on. What do they think of the colours? How do they think it could improve? The lateral responses might be just what you need to jolt a stagnant concept back to life.
- Do some exercise - with or without kids. The release of endorphins can stimulate creativity, and allow you to focus on the next professional task to tackle. You can wait until the kids are securely planted in bed for some much needed personal time, or workout with your kids (upside: the whole family is healthier, and kids go to bed with less struggle).
- Watch online discussions and presentations. If you can't go to the party, bring the party to you. If you need that human connection (you would like to actually contribute to the conversation once in a while), try organizing a group of fellow designers/artists who you can host in your home in the evening while the wee ones are snug in bed.
- Make it work around their schedule. If you have particularly young children, nap time is go-time. Before the nap begins, make a mental note of what needs to be accomplished in that brief time. Do not allow yourself to sink into that super comfy couch with a blanket! Make the best of this time - send off that client quote first (maybe you'll get an approval before nap time is up), apply a coat of primer to your canvas so it has time to dry on the kitchen table, then work on the digital rendering of an illustration to get it a little closer to complete for the deadline. Efficiency and time management are crucial aspects of the balancing act. Once the little ones awake from their naps and ready to play, you will be too, satisfied with the amount of good work accomplished.
- Prioritize external professional development. You won't be able to attend EVERY discussion, event, show, presentation, performance, etc. Even without kids, this is unrealistic. It is important to gauge how influential or meaningful the event will be to you, and to not get bent out of shape when one opportunity is missed. But when attending those events you feel are a high priority, be sure to be present. Fully. Find a trustworthy babysitter so that you can be immersed in the message and benefits of the event.
- Create opportunities to work concurrently. "Alright, let's put this game away, it's drawing hour!" The perfect time to get out your sketch book to work on thumbnails. You might inspire them; they might inspire you. Either way, you're getting some good, quiet work done.
The balance between mother and creative professional is achievable, as long as you can make compromises with your time. Having children may limit the places you can go once in a while, but they should never limit your abilities. Work out a system so you can do both - this not only allows you to pursue all the things that you are passionate about, but it also leaves a positive impression on your children by giving them the opportunity to be influenced by a hard-working and motivated, as well as loving and nurturing parent.