So I’ve just tucked my little angel into bed, chatted to my toddler monster and am about to start my work. It’s 7pm on a Friday night. Oh how times have changed.
So let me set the scene for you, cause right now I’m right in the thick of it. First off; I live in Sydney recently rated as the 2nd most expensive city to buy a house. But we are one of the lucky ones, we’ve got a two bedroom apartment to call home. Next is the little people. Two little cherubs aka Milk Monster (5 Months) and The Kween (or so she thinks Miss 3).
Let’s break that down, that’s lack of funds, lack of space and lack of time. But if you, like me are an Artist of any sort, maintaining a creative practice is vital to keeping a sense of self through the myriad of emotions and changes that motherhood can bring.
It’s time for change
Embrace this time. It really doesn’t last long and it’s a great opportunity to change the way you view your practice and what it means to you to be an artist. Maybe you want to use this time to change direction, experiment with new ideas. There’s a great resource run by Artist and Mother, Lenka Clayton called “An Artist Residency in Motherhood” that can help you re-frame this time not as a sabbatical from your practice but that the journey of motherhood can enhance and be the subject of your creative practice.
I decided that instead of looking at all the reasons why I should dump the brushes, I needed to approach my work differently. I still loved to paint, I just couldn’t necessarily be leaving large canvases and oil paint lying around with limited space. I took the skills I learned during my time as a graphic designer and started making smaller illustrative style work that I could do from my dining table, out of the reach of little grabby fingers and work that can be easily stored away. I also felt the need to add a huge dose of humour to my work – if I don’t laugh I think I might cry!
I experimented with watercolour, a medium I had not used much previously but thought, given that I may have to drop what I was doing like a million times a day this seemed like a good fit. It dries quickly, and if the paint dries in the pan who cares? Just add water.
Find your tribe
I know, I know. Buzz word of the moment right? Often following an Artistic journey can be a solo endeavour but throw in motherhood especially first time and that can make you feel extremely isolated and disconnected from both your creative self and from the life you led pre-baby. There can still be quite a stigma in the art world as Marina Cashdan writes in her article “You Can Be a Mother and Still Be a Successful Artist”. If like me you’ve just been chipping away at a bit of a practice and don’t feel like you belong to that world anyway, then maybe you want to view how you promote yourself differently. I have always felt that the world of galleries and professional arts can be pretty closed off so like so many others I’m joining the growing tribe of ‘do it yourself’. Circumnavigating the idea that you have to have gallery representation in order to be successful isn’t always true especially in this online world. Establish a website with a direct mail list so you can talk your customers directly, get on the social media bandwagon and join the growing tribe of Biz Mum Facebook groups, online support and Instagram accounts for inspiration, business tips and in general just a group of women who get the complexities of following your passion and raising babies.
- Image courtesy of mumswithhustle.com
Learn to #naptimehustle
The hardest part about being a Mummy Artist is not being able to follow an idea or thought as it comes to you, as you may have once done pre baby. Having little people will seriously test your resolve, but for me it did something magical. It uncovered my ‘why’. Why I am an Artist in the first place. I didn’t realise how much I needed a creative release until I didn’t have one. I must admit, at first I drowned in the frustration of not having any time. But I just needed to take some serious tips from my tribe of mums running businesses to learn some serious #naptimehustle. This is the time when your sweet cherub’s eye lids finally close and you run like the wind. On my good days I can make coffee, answer emails, and complete an artwork before those first murmurs happen. (On a not so good day – I faff about, get my pencils out and sit down and that’s it).
So want to know what my #maptimehustle looks like?
- Have a childcare plan. What does that look like for you? And everyone is different. You may look at long daycare one or two days a week. You may have family/friends/babysitter help to come at set times. I definitely recommend having a conversation about how you will manage your time, and when also. Will you look to start care at 6 mos? 12 mos? This is entirely about you and baby. You may find you become a baby-wearing convert and take baby along for the ride. For me, my eldest is in daycare and my baby will be at home for at least 12-18 months.
- Use your set times wisely. Are there tasks that really take more mental energy than others? Then focus on doing those when you have help. I use a 3 rule. I pick my TOP THREE tasks for the week and write them down. Then I work out my three tasks for each day, one of which is always one of the TOP THREE. (It’s ok to have your number one priority on your list as: Survive the day!) It means that you focus your time on the top three things and then if you have time you fit other smaller tasks in. These don’t even have to be about your practice but also about your life as Mum. It’s important to only choose three – you don’t want to overload yourself and you want to ensure that it’s achievable. Trust me, small wins are a huge boost when you are starting to feel the walls cave in.
- If you have a social media presence get yourself some tools to help take the stress and time out of maintaining it. Use the schedule for posting to Facebook function, use scheduling apps like PLANN to pre load content for your Instagram, hold back some artwork to ‘release’ during those first few months of having bub home like limited edition prints. If you run a blog on your website invite guest bloggers to submit content for you.
I am 3 years into what I see as a 5 year journey. I’ve just had my second baby so I have set myself a plan and some goals for this year and then I’ll reassess at the end of the year to see where I’m at. I’m using this time to experiment, have a think about what I’d like to work on next and to learn about running a small business including marketing on social media, something of which I didn’t know an awful lot about prior. But this really doesn’t have to be an either or, nor is about being a superwoman and trying to ‘do it all’. The more that women continue to make their own path with regards to having a family the more it pushes against those long held prejudices.