Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On Being an Illustrator with Kids or, OMG what did I get myself into??? Part 1



So as I type this, my three year old is lounging on the couch watching Madagascar 3.  I always told myself I was never going to be THAT mom.  But as an illustrator with deadlines, sometimes I gotta do what I gotta do.

A little background here: my kids are now ages three and six and my husband is a firefighter (with a sometimes unpredictable schedule). I don’t have a babysitter to help with the kids just because that’s a choice we have made as a family. Luckily, being an illustrator allows me to work from home and my parents live close by to help me when they can. And when my husband IS home, he is super good about taking the kids out and about to give me some time to work.

And when it comes to work, as the old saying goes: when it rains, it pours. I currently have two illustration jobs going and will be adding a third soon. Yay for work!

But also: oh crap! How am I going to get everything done?! When am I going to get everything done between chauffeuring the kids around and feeding them???


I spent the better part of last year really fishing around for answers on how to be a better multi-tasker. I thought that other people were doing this way better than me. I constantly asked myself and other illustrator moms, “How can I be the domestic goddess, illustrator and healthy (sane) mom I want to be?” Isn’t there a better way??? I got really down on myself because I felt taking on my career as an illustrator was an uphill battle. I didn't get enough sleep, I felt that I didn't spend enough time on my work and that basically, I felt like I was doing it all wrong.

But over the past couple of months, I had some realizations that really helped my outlook. In a nutshell, a big game-changer for me really has to do with BEING ADAPTABLE on both a small and large scale.  

Here are some of the major epiphanies and rules I’ve made for myself which help me cope when I need to GET IT ALL DONE.
  1. I will not compare myself to other moms in real life nor on Facebook
    I spent too much time comparing myself a lot to Facebook friends who seemed to be doing everything like a pro. I’m trying to eliminate self-talk that goes like this: “You mean she baked cookies from scratch, rearranged the house, mowed the lawn, spit-shined their husband’s shoes AND storyboarded a feature length film all in one day?!?!? I'm a slacker.” Comparing myself just creates negative self-talk and that’s not good for my self-esteem.
  2. I realize I will probably never be a domestic goddess. My family’s health and happiness is obviously number one on the priority list.  The state of my house is the thing that usually gives. I’m giving myself permission to say that it’s OK for these house to be in a state of disarray if need be.  Yep. I’m admitting here that there are usually toys, shoes and laundry everywhere (and probably dishes in the sink). My husband is really good about helping out with the cleaning when he’s home though!
  3. It is a MUST to enlist close family and/or friends.
    Heck, bribe them with money if need be! (But don't forget to pay them. Sorry, mom.) I am the worst when it comes to reaching out and asking for help with my kids, but I am getting better at it. Knowing that someone else has my kids for a few hours and that I have a finite amount of time to get work done, helps me to stay focused.

    Also, if someone offers to help me out with the kids, I need to TAKE THE HELP! (I’m working on this one still...)
  4. Gone are the days of marathon painting sessions.
    This was my latest epiphany and maybe one of the most important. As an artist, it’s so easy to sit and paint for hours on end; to get in The Zone. With small kids, there are less opportunities for this. Unless someone has my children for more than a few hours, I'm still trying to train myself to realize that my work sessions might be 15 minutes here, thirty minutes there, etc.  Having to illustrate in smaller bursts of time is not fun and not easy to do. This might make sketching during my son's soccer practice easier though! Can you say, "droooooool"???

  5. Just count on NO SLEEP the couple of days before a deadline.As a creative, all-nighters are just bound to happen. But I think most of us kinda love hours upon hours of drawing and painting, right? And think of all the Starbucks you get to drink the next day! ;)
  6. Hello, kids...mommy is working!!!
    There are those desperate moments when my husband gets unexpectedly called in to work (you mean you have to go save lives TODAY?!?), my parents are out of town and my mother-in-law is working. That's when the good 'ol Disney movie and popcorn trick come in handy. This doesn't happen too often, but hey, it buys me a good hour and 45 minutes! I used to feel horribly guilty about this. But, they are getting old enough for me to explain that I need to work for a bit.

    They are becoming slightly more understanding about this:

So, obviously, these are things that work for MY family (or rather I'm trying to make work for my family). The scales are constantly tipping in different directions and learning to be ADAPTABLE is really helping me. Since I’ve learned that fitting in work when I can is how it has to be for now, I’m actually getting better at being more productive when I have the time to work.

In part two of this article I'll discuss how my methods and tools for creating artwork have changed and adapted to now that I have small kids running around here! 

26 comments:

  1. Christina, this post could have been written by me! haha! That picture of the kids climbing all over you, pretty much happens to me every day with my 7 year old. She wants to get my attention by climbing all over me.

    I have also learned so much over the years. Sometimes I get down because, yes, I do compare myself to the other moms. But the things is I think a lot of people post the best things that are going on in their lives, and we forget about all the messy houses that might be behind the scenes. It's important for us never to expect perfection and just let a lot of things go. We of course, will always try to do our best because we want to be the best moms we can for our kids, but we can't ever expect to be the perfect home-schooling moms that always do everything with their kids.

    It has been good for me to remember that I might not bake a perfect pie and make an adorable center piece for my table, but I spend my creativity on something else- my art and my kids, and that is even more fulfilling and enjoyable.

    It's so great that your hubby is so supportive and helpful. Mine is too, and I don't know how I would do it without him sometimes. Sometimes I go to the library on Saturdays while my hubby stays home with the kids and I go work- especially if I have a big looming deadline.

    It is true that we don't lead the life of a typical mom, not even the typical working mom. We are trying to care for our kids and work- which is very difficult. Great post, and thanks so much for sharing! We should talk sometime!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this! It's so important to hear that there's lots of us going through the same things. And since we're illustrators (which is a very solitary job), it can feel like we're going it alone.
      We totally should talk some time!

      Delete
  2. Well, isn't it lovely to see that it happens to all of us...I feel guilty about the movie or IPad thing but really, why on earth? It's a sensible thing to do. I hope that soon the words "mummy is on a deadline" will be understood and they'll leave me alone for a bit. Ha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's why I wrote this, to share how these types of things pretty much happen to all of us. Keeping it real! Yes...how much longer until they understand what a deadline is? :)

      Delete
  3. Christina thanks so much for this post! I'm due in November with our first, and I'm taking notes...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Right with you, mama....my Littles are 2 and 5 it is crazy, fun and exhausting. Laundry suffers, my sink is rarely empty and a small part of me screams inside when 5 rolls around and I realize I still have to cook dinner and I still have hours worth of work to do. My Littles are happy and that is what matters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's what makes this all so tiring. We're putting lots and lots of energy into our Littles (I love that term, "Littles"). It helps to know there's lots of us out there going through the same thing! Thank you for reading!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for the honesty and the advice. My anxiety level just went down a notch. I wish I could say it gets better/easier, but as the single mom of a 14 year old I feel the demands now more than ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenn, this makes me freak out a little. :)

      Delete
    2. Oh boy...teenagers! That scares me a bit! And hats off to you. There are times when my husband is away for a few days at a time and then I think about the single moms. You gotta be one STRONG mama to handle that. Props to you, Jenn!!! You're art is coming along awesomely, by the way!

      Delete
  6. Christina, I'm right there with you. I've got a 21 month old and a 4 year old. I love them to pieces, but I CAN NOT WAIT until they're both in school. Right now, my husband works from home, locked in his office, except for when he wants me to make him food, of course. In a few weeks he'll be leaving his current job to open up his own gym, an hour away. We don't have any family in the area so it usually ends up on my shoulders to take care of the house AND the kids AND make my clients happy. I usually end up working until 1 or 2am just because it's the only time I can have to myself! It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in this mommy/self-employed struggle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, full time school will be AMAZING for work time! I know what you're going through! Hang in there, mama!

      Delete
  7. Wow, So what I needed to read right now. I get overwhelmed with the demands of the messy house, and all that needs to get done. When I'm hanging out with my kid, I have guilt for not working on illustration, but the guilt is still there when I'm illustrating and not hanging out with my kid. I'm figuring out you just can't have it all, all of the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes...the guilt will get you all day every day if you think about it! Thank you so much for reading this and I'm glad you could relate. There's lots of us here who totally get it! Hang in there, mama!

      Delete
  8. Love this - balancing here, too. My kids are a bit older, and I got a locking doorknob for my bedroom/office door for mother's day. BUT, they've figured out how to jimmy the lock. It was a nice thought though. At least they know that if the door is locked, it means they need to think twice about how urgently they need me before barging in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh...a locking doorknob! That's awesome! Haha! Keep it up with the balancing, mama!

      Delete
  9. So great-so honest. Thank you. We have three-one is a toddler and when I come in from the studio it can be a major challenge to get back out there! Some nights/days are good others are a total free-fall. So grateful that people are sharing their freelance experiences and life-makes us all feel a bit better and laugh a but about it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you so much for your kind words, Christopher! I'm a big fan of your work! I think it helps to know that a lot of this is universal. Things can get so crazy, you've just got to laugh sometimes!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for posting this! I'm currently trying to break into the illustration market, while homeschooling a 12 and 7 year old and chasing a 1 year old. I've been trying to streamline different parts of my life to make this work, but I've had many moments of wondering if it's possible. (And many times I think I'm losing my mind) It's nice to know that it is possible, and to see how a stay at home mom who is in this business makes it work.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Christina - this is SUCH a wonderful post. Thank you! The picture of you says it all, I think. Yes to all of it, really.
    Generous and honest illustrator-mommies like you provide an invaluable reality check for the rest of us. I had a very clingy newborn a few years back and I would have been in dire straits if not for several kind illustrator-mommies those long late nights: holding a baby and an itouch and tweeting about how to handle this new life. Now that I have a 4.5yo and a 2yo my house is even messier and baby book #2 is totally blank (gasp!) but I'm good at stepping over the legos to get to my work, even for short spurts.
    I look forward to part 2! And it's so great to read all the comments here, too.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I enjoyed reading your post. My kids are about grown up now, but they keep me very busy still. My son is 19 and is working to be a graphic designer, so I read a lot about that to help him get going, and my daughter is16 and working on writing her first novel, so I'm doing the NaNoWriMo challenge with her in November, as well as homeschooling her, going to school online myself and working part-time. All I can say is my sink is never empty of dirty dishes, no matter how often if feels like I do them, and I wouldn't want anyone but my closest friends to stop by unannounced! There are never enough hours in the day to get it all done. When my kids were little, I bought time by letting them watch videos at times, by buying lego sets that would get put together way too quickly and by getting up early or staying up late. The best thing is to spend about an hour really playing with them and being totally focused on them just before your "work time." Then you won't feel guilty about them watching a movie, and they will be more content to do so. I know everyone says this, because I did myself, but the years are going to fly by and they get faster as the kids get older. Trust me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. THanks so much for this post. This made me feel not so alone as I go down this picture book path...and gave me tons of tips. Yay to you!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I LOVE this support group! :) It was refreshing to read your post. It's amazing how little time you have with kids (I've got a 2 year old and a 4 year old). I have so many goals and I need to be patient with finding the right balance.

    I'm definitely reposting this on my Facebook page. Thanks for the amazing blog and the intuitive post!

    ReplyDelete