Doing what I do – being an artist, an indie business owner & a mama to 3 noisy kids – is big, hard, mentally exhausting work. I know I talk about slow a lot, and I do live it in my everyday life. But the reality is you need some tricks to get through being in the noise of mama and finding your way to being the artist. Don’t you think?
I’m still learning, and slowly on a journey of how to make it work best… but I thought I’d share what is currently working for me in the hopes it’ll help you too.
Having one kid or four kids, it’s all the same – ok it’s not the same at all, but what I mean is having kids is having kids, so it’s not a competition or guilt thing of saying oh she only has two kids, and I have five…. everyone has different journeys and one noisy kid might be more intense then three calm kids (wish I had the three calm kids!!). Anyway, what I’m saying is stick to your family, your mothering, don’t beat yourself up because you’re not doing what other mamas are doing – everyone has different skill sets, and different family set ups (including extra help or not from extended family).
So here goes:
8 ways to make the “balance” of mama & artist just that little bit easier (why 8? cause that's just the number I came up with right now):
- Be where you are – in your current season / situation. If no baby-sitting is coming and the kids are being crazy, there’s no way you’ll get that deadline finished without causing yourself a panic attack. Put aside your work for half an hour and be with the kids. Give them your full attention – that’s all they’re actually asking for. Do something super fun and high energy – running in the garden, having a dance party, watering the plants. Anything that gets your mood elevated, and the kids using up their crazy energy. Being outside does often help. Then you can (*fingers crossed) settle them down with popcorn and a movie, or reading books quietly and do some work.
- Be gentle on yourself. The reality and truth is that parenting is your number one job right now. For the next 10-15 years. Sorry, but it’s true. Realise that you’re not going to achieve every single thing that’s on your list right now – so look at your list and prioritise the most passionately important or (if this is more an importance right now) the things that are actually bringing in money compared to the dreamy things. Put those things on a next year list, and let them leave your heart for a little while. I promise you’ll thank me for it when you do that. This has been the biggest thing to free up my working creative self.
- Live in a messy house – ok, not really…. but when you have kid free time, DO NOT TIDY THE HOUSE. Do I have to repeat that?! Kid free time should be spent focussing fully on your arts practice or business work or talking with your partner or quietly sipping tea. Find a spot where you can’t see the mess and ignore it. How ever much you keep tidying, it keeps getting messy anyway; so do your work and then do a quick 15 minute tidy once the kids get back.
- Eat cereal for dinner, or toasties or pop corn or plain pasta with cheese. Not every night, but when it gets to that point where you simply can’t stop working (hello Muse thanks for finally turning up!) in order to make dinner for the family. Realise that one or two nights of not proper meals won’t kill anyone. Actually the kids will probably love it. If it’s happening too often, then you’ll have to look at ways to create simpler healthy meals that you can prep quickly and easily.
- Get real with yourself. Call yourself an artist, and then others will. If you walk around telling your friends and family that you’re not really an artist, then why should they value it. Be clear with family members what your creative practice means to you, and how important it is that you have child-free time. Even if you’re not bringing in an income – your art is valuable to your sanity as a person, which carries through to your mama-ing energy.
- Get the kids creative too. Set up a desk beside yours filled with easy to use paints, craft supplies, glue, etc. Make it help-yourself easy and allow (expect) mess. If you have to keep stopping to open a lid or fill more paint it will stop your flow. So choose activities that require minimal hands on from you. Three paint colours and a giant stack of paper, with a line to peg things on.
- Work out what your noisy & quiet activities are. For me, there’s some things I can do with kids climbing on me and demanding things of me – emails, packing orders – and other things I know that I need quiet time for. So I do what I can while the kids are around me, which gives me the space and freedom to do the other things as soon as they’re gone.
- Be prepared and organised. As soon as those kids walk out the door get working. (Yes, I’m telling myself this as much as you – I always want a nice quiet cup of tea before I settle down for arting). If my studio is tidy (sadly rarely) then I can jump into creativity straight away. I hate spending kid-free time simply tidying up yesterday’s mess.
I feel like I need to go into depth on a couple of these, as they’ve truly been eye-opening for me this past year in making big changes to how I work, which has resulted in bringing in more money for our family, feeling more fulfilled into myself and less head-in-the-clouds about everything. It’s given me focus and clarity.
I feel like we’re all bumbling along trying to make it work somehow, and fighting it. Whereas I don’t want to divide my mama and artist self, I want to make them a beautiful cohesive part of me. It’s not a balance, never will be – that much I know. It’s more like yin & yang : a little of this inside a big part of that, but it flows around and works because you allow it rather than aiming for balance.
I’d love to know how you fit mama-ing and creativity into your life, your soul, your mind & heart. Please give me any tips you have, as well as any scary things you keep coming up against. How old are your kids? Do they go to school or care? Do you consider yourself a full time artist or a hobbyist or something in between? I’m so curious about how everyone makes it work in different ways.