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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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…)
- 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"???
- 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! 😉
- 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!