Work/study/kids/life balance rant and questions



  • Many of us parents are in the same boat, it seems... especially in countries where parenting is considered a largely independent initiative instead of a community endeavor. I've also struggled with having energy and time to complete illustration goals. A project I hoped to finish before my second child was born is still ongoing, and he just turned three. Sometimes my perspective is negative and I feel upset for not having more time to pursue my goals. Other times it strikes me how critical our work as parents is. The future of the planet can literally depend on the work of certain people, and our kids could easily be those people of the future. Honestly, whether my illustration career comes together now or in ten years from now seems to have less importance in the grand scheme of things.

    There's a quote from the Baha'i Writings that's my mantra on days when I'd rather be painting than parenting and need help remembering the once-in-a-lifetime season of opportunity with kids: "Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom." I think I've finally, after years of internal struggle, come to peace with educating my children wholeheartedly and letting my artistic ambitions flower in their own time. It's not the most helpful perspective for everyone, but thought I'd share since it's such a great topic that you brought up and is so constantly on my mind in connection with art. Best wishes to all the busy parents out there!



  • You probably weren't asking for suggestions but here goes...Perhaps you can make artwork a group project. Let's all make pictures at the same time. It might help to elevate yourself. Stand to work or sit on a high stool so they are less inclined to tug at your leg for attention. Maybe back up a little and give the kids some freedom to explore their world, where it's safe like in the house, while you sit off to the side and doodle. I've never seen any kid, except extreme medical needs, that take 100% of the parent's time and it might not be good for them to give them 100% of your time. Give them what they need but encourage some independence. Or, hire a baby sitter for 5 hours a week and sneak off to work. My friend gives his preschool aged children walkie talkies so they can contact him while he's outside working on their property. Take them to a park, if you can, and doodle in your sketch book while keeping an eye on them. Make a deal with other parents you like so take turns watching each other's kids for a few hours. You're a creative person. Be creative.



  • I 100% relate to this. I have a full time job, 3 kids with one on the way and a small farm my wife and I are trying to build up. By the end of the day all I want to do is go to bed and watch TV. My energy is completely sapped.
    I fail a lot of nights to get anything done but I have found one trick that seems to work pretty well and that is committing to 5 minutes no matter what. I put in 5 minutes of illustration work no matter how tired or uninspired I feel. Sometimes 5 minutes is all I can squeeze out but at least I kept the fire burning so to speak and I'm 5 minutes closer to a finished project. Often though, five minutes leads to an hour or more and I notice that I forget about the exhaustion or stress of the day.
    You also might be able to apply that to 5 minutes in the morning before work or at a lunch break. Anything that keeps you moving because I've found that when I let a project sit for too long it gets harder and harder to get back into it.
    Anyway, I don't know if that helps but keep at it and don't put too much pressure on yourself.



  • My kids are grown now, but I went through this as well (only with writing: I'm relatively new to illustration). Our kids had health issues that meant no family members were willing to help with childcare and paying a babysitter was out of the question. We were also the only caretakers for both sets of grandparents (my husband's parents were wonderful: my parents were demanding and felt they were having emergencies (that weren't really emergencies) at the drop of a hat, two to four times a week).

    I'd meet deadlines by working until 2 or 3 in the morning, then get up early to get everyone ready for school. On only 4 or 5 hours of sleep, I was getting frequent ocular migraines (the kind where you lose vision).

    We started delegating childcare more...my husband handled after-dinner to bedtime, which gave me an extra three hours a night, which meant I could go to bed earlier. Only one of us would go to school functions and activities. I started handling all my parents' issues alone once we realized having an additional person there just lengthened the time spent. (I realize I'm grousing here, but my parents undermined us and my work and felt I should get a job with the postal office instead).

    I realize this wouldn't work as well for illustration, but if I really needed a solid chunk of time, I'd go to the public library and hermit in one of the carrels.

    My husband and I would trade weekends, where one could schedule work time without worrying about interruption.

    Our house is a mess. We rarely eat dinner at the table. Many meals we eat "college style," standing in the kitchen. Often from paper plates (we compost). We have four meals we cycle through (because planning new meals takes mental effort and requires changes to the shopping list) and take out on weekends. We don't iron our clothing.

    My husband and I are essentially a karass and aren't particularly social. That frees up a lot of time right there. We made certain to socialize our kids, but eventually they took that over for themselves. It would've been much harder if I hadn't been married to him.



  • @Jonathon-B-Baker-0 I started to just draw 5 minutes no matter what. For me I think it is being ok with just 5 minutes and plan to a work on bigger projects on the weekend or when I know I have time.



  • I totally feel the same way on this. I agree with so many of the ideas here. Just five minutes a day has been a huge help to me at times. Setting goals with concrete deadlines is important for me. Then I break it down into how many hours are needed (or guessed?) per week and that helps motivate me to stay away from whatever mindless thing I may want to do at the end of the day. I recently got a dishwasher too. We couldn't figure out where to put it in pur kitchen for 4 years.... and that has given me about an hour a day

    . Look for ways you can free up time. How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend watching tv? Make sure those things are in check. Also, have less kids toys and stuff around the house. The kids play better, everybody is less stressed, and it takes much less time to keep tidy.

    The oldest of my four kids is autistic so he takes up a great big part of my time. You can do this though. Look for those little bits of time and you'll find them.



  • 100 % there with you! my three kids are two, five and 7 all right about the highest energy and most needy of ages. I have gone to great lengths to keep them occupied so I can have creative time to myself that isn’t from the hours of nine to twelve at night. Even so much as to getting a puppy! Which helped a lot at first lol, but now she is big enough to terrorize them and my plan sort of backfired... but the most productive thing I’ve done, is give them more work. I will admit my kids are SPOILED! So I’ve upped their chore load made them work for things they want and if they didn’t want to work are they pushed outside! Either way it worked in a little bit more time for me here and there. YOURE NOT ALONE there are plenty of us in your same situation and are here for you anytime you need blow off some steam!



  • Lisa Clark has good points. We don't have a dishwasher and that particular chore is an hour a day (which is why we now frequently use paper plates). My kids were horrified when their earth-conscious mother started buying paper plates, so we have assigned cups that each person is responsible for, and my kids will use and wash plates they use on their own. Doesn't help with the pans and pots, but it's a start.

    You're also right about possessions...the more you have, the more work. One thing I've noticed is that my kids are much less into possessions than I expected. I don't think it's necessarily because they are boys (their female friends are the same) or even because they saw the hundreds of hours I spent clearing out and cleaning their grandparents' houses. I'm hoping it's generational: they are more interested in doing than accumulating.

    Social media clutters time as well. Facebook doesn't work for me anymore: I used to get commissions for my watercolors, but when I looked at the hours I spent, it was a case of diminishing return. I hardly use is anymore. Twitter is the same: It's fun for pitch events, but everything else is lost in the stream. At this point, Instagram is the only one I put much effort.



  • Reading others comments about five minutes a day just reminded me of something. When my kids were in elementary school and I packed their lunches, I would draw comics on their brown paper bags each day. Their school discouraged bringing lunch boxes, and I didn't want my (food allergic) kids to confuse their bags with anyone else's.

    You would not believe how wonderful Crayola colored pencils look on brown paper.



  • @RachelArmington Your post reminds me, when I was a kid, only the rich kids had lunch boxes. The rest of us brown bagged it and no store bought treats either. Mom baked goodies for us. One day, out of nowhere, Mom drew a cartoon fish on my bag. She didn't know but I ripped it off the bag and kept it for years. Thanks for sparking that wonderful memory for me. Cheers!


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