Six artists share the ways they sharpened their creative practice and time management skills while raising a first child.
Life’s greatest adventure, raising a child, changes everything in immeasurable ways, but nothing is felt more tangibly than the reprioritization of time. As challenging as navigating a first born can be, artists have been doing it forever. So, we asked several reputable artists for advice on how they handled the balance between parenting with creative time. Some share practical time management hacks and creating with their children while others focus on the parenting philosophies that have driven their success.
I struggled a lot the first months (years) of parenthood because I was hanging on to the illusion that I was the master of my time. As soon as I relinquished that control things became easier.
As a parent you are no longer in control. Your deadlines are no longer your #1 priority. I had to learn very quickly how to manage my time. Projects that normally would take me 8 hours to finish I had to accomplish in 90 minutes. My finished pieces I was working on could no longer be “perfect”, instead I had to settle for “good enough”.
As an artist, this feels like a betrayal of everything we’ve come to know about what it means to make art. But on the flip side the spectrum of emotions that I was experiencing in my life broadened exponentially. Fear, anxiety, frustration and yes joy, love and fulfillment were taken to levels I didn’t know were possible. It was as if my life before parenthood was in black and white and all of a sudden I was seeing in color for the first time. And I was able to channel all of that into my work. My subject matter became much deeper, more personal and richer, and I owe that to parenthood.
My only advice to expecting parents would be that when things get hard, and you don’t know if you can handle it, just know that it’s all temporary. It will pass. The baby will eventually sleep through the night. There will come a day where you won’t be relied upon for everything every second of every day. Whatever dark feelings or frustrations you’re experiencing are very normal and will not be there forever. Every year will get better than the year before. Know that you’re not alone, all parents have been through it, you just hang in there.
JENNY LIZ ROME
Parenting has acted as both creative fuel and a creative road block. Most times, this is happening simultaneously. Before I became a mom, I was able to create whenever I had a surge of inspiration. Morning , afternoon , or middle of the night; The day was mine! Now that I have an extra human (soon to be humans – plural) to worry about, my time to create is limited to specific studio hours.
Over the last 3 and a half years i’ve had to learn how to store creative bursts to be used later. The best habit to get into is always having a little sketch book handy, or something you can sketch or jot down creative thoughts into. This way, your overtired and overused new parent brain won’t fail you later. Believe me , i’ve lost more the one idea to “mom brain”.
Having a child has definitely taken away some of my creative time, but it’s also helped me be more intentional about the time I do have, and more passionate about my work as well. A child not only sees everything new, but helps us see everything new at the same time, they make us want to be better people, and hopefully better, less cynical, artists. I want my child to see me caring about and enjoying the work I do.
I think it’s important to keep enough of our independence so that we maintain who we are, and let our children get to know us as humans as well as parents.
Instantly, after my first kid came out, my life was flipped upside down. From sleep deprivation to new anxieties and struggling with postpartum, I felt that I had to give up a lot of my time and energy away from my creative work and into my son. I was also adjusting a new identity of being a mom and it wasn’t something that I instantly accepted and embraced.
But I realized the ways I wanted to engage with my new human was to create with him. Whether it was spreading a large canvas and having my toddler scribble everywhere, to closely observing his creative decisions to stack the different colored blocks, I realized that my toddler was an artist like myself!
I also had to rethink what materials to use (since not having a separate studio, i was not comfortable using certain tools and paints that might harm my son), how fast I produce my work (because now my production time is super limited) and bringing in a new collaborator with me, my son. With new limitations and a whole new world of processing my journey as an artist mom, I started to create things I have never created before.
To new artist moms (and dads) out there on addressing your ever-changed lives, bring your child into your creative process. Our kids are natural artists and they can teach us a thing or two. Also, bringing your child into your process doesn’t mean creating things that are for kids.
Motherhood is TOUGH as can be, so telling those stories, being even more vulnerable and processing your new identity with your art can enlighten and healing to you and to others.
HOLLIS BROWN THORNTON
I’ve always associated creativity with time, basically trial and error. In the first few years, a child is a big handicap in that department. I have a process that is pretty labor intensive, so finding a working window was one of my main difficulties. Now that Leona is 4, she will entertain herself in the studio drawing and painting, making things much easier. Now she is incredibly creative and has a curiosity that I may have lost as I’ve aged. Being around that curiosity is inspiring.
A first born is a wild ride. They completely change your life, especially if you’ve never been around children. The first few years with Leona, who is 4 now, I mostly worked on smaller projects. I was lucky enough to have a studio next to our house, so I could watch her on the monitor while she was napping. I also had a gated play area in my studio. She is old enough now where she will stay in the studio and draw and paint and basically entertain herself.
Ultimately, I’d say working on smaller projects or things that you can put down at any moment was key for my productivity during the first years.
When Agatha was born I felt like more people called me to illustrate than ever before. It was crazy.
Children are the best inspiration and I do not mean to be a typical cliche. My best paintings have come out of phrases that Agatha has told me like “you turned off the dark mom”. Your time will never be as it was before. Now it is really sacred. If this is really what you want to do, you will find the perfect balance between playing hide and seek and painting at the same time.
I try to sit on my legs while I paint. We really spend a lot of time together and I think we have a particular relationship. She doesn’t see me as an adult and I don’t see her as a child. I think only time will tell if I did the right thing, but she is my masterpiece.
Don’t expect to have a moment of calm to create because it probably won’t happen. Try to create while life itself happens–while your daughter screams. While she’s laughing. There are parents who talk on the phone or who are in meetings, which is okay. But if your work is to paint, it will be part of their lives. Try to make your child feel included.
Raising good human beings is the most important thing you have to do.
Featured artwork by Keith Negley