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Balancing Motherhood and Art: how to paint around your children.

 

This is a subject that has come up quite often for me in the past year. As women we wear many hats, whether they are voluntary or expected. We are mothers, housekeepers, cooks, earners, nurturers… just to name a few and these hats can obviously vary from person to person. In a “Women in Business” Course I did with the LEOs this came up a lot in discussion, not as a cause for complaint or lamenting our lot in life but simply as FACT. I found it so interesting that they had a business course specifically designed for women because our approach to business is from a completely different angle. Women are natural caretakers and nurturers; so when children come along it can be so difficult to not be faced with “mum guilt” a term I’m well acquainted with personally. How do you find time for hobbies let alone grow a creative business?

I’m a first-time mum; my son in 2 and a half and my business is 4 years old. An Art business is slow to grow anyway at the best of times so having a baby in the thick of it might not have been the most effective business strategy… technically. I think we can all safely say that there is never a convenient time to hand your life over to a baby. You could be the most organized person on the planet with charts, journals and planners and you will not be prepared for the highs and lows of raising a baby! We only have one, so kudos to the parents juggling many babies 😊

So, I have tried many things to make my life easier and more organized… batch cooking, daily walks, working in the evenings and so on. I have no childcare yet and his grannies are busy, in Ireland children start play school at 3 so I will have to wait another year. I enjoyed listening to a podcast “Creative Talks” by Paula McGurdy interviewing Jude Fenton about painting around small children and it was such a comfort to me that when their kids were small; they struggled to get their art done. They spoke about the “Flow” and I had never really thought about that before, how you need to enter this state of artistic absorption to be productive. How do you do that with small children around? You can’t!

You can however, carve out some time for yourself. You are your own person, yes, you’re a mother or father… but you are also a creative person who needs an outlet. Not just at night when you only have energy to watch TV (or fall asleep in front of it, you know who you are!) but during the day. Show your children that you have hobbies. The more I painted in front of Hugo, the more he wanted to paint and draw, nothing makes me happier than to see him paint!

Disclaimer: every child is different; every family situation is different, so I’m not saying this is the perfect formula. These are some things Hugo and I do at home that allow me to do some work.

 Here are some things that work for us when nap time is over:

  1. Let them join you: I’ve mentioned this already but the more Hugo watched me paint portraits, the more he wanted to join me. Get them a variety of materials and good paper that absorbs well and they will be kept busy for a while.
  2. Keep your supplies safe: Hugo would love nothing more than mush my good brushes into his watercolour palette or into his sandpit. So, I keep my things out of reach for my peace of mind. He has his own brushes, palette and colouring pencils. Teach them that your things are out of bounds. I’ve literally nailed paint tubes high up on the wall so he can’t get to them.
  3. Don’t micro-manage: Don’t tell your child how to paint, how to colour and how to draw. They are learning through play; they love the process not necessarily the result. Hugo likes to get stuck in and get mucky. Don’t worry about a bit of watercolour paint, it washes out no problem. If you start telling them how to play it will become a chore for both of you, leave them to it (as long as they are safe and not wrecking the gaff obviously 😉)
  4. Don’t be afraid to say no: This will depend on your parenting style and ideals. Hugo is a persistent chap (like both his parents… very stubborn) but when mummy is in the middle of something and he is winging for no reason then it’s time to say no, you can watch Peppa Pig later or whatever it is.
  5. Music: Hugo loves music, any music. I’ve noticed that when I have the radio on or Spotify, he often sings a long or plays away by himself.
  6. Don’t bite of more than you can chew: This is the most difficult one! You could have the most carefully planned week, with every minute accounted for; then you wake up and your child is sick or teething. Make your work load bearable and be reasonable in your expectations. Small steps at a time.
  7. Look after yourself: Make sure you eat healthy, get some fresh air and enough sleep. This is something I honestly need to remind myself of, especially at night when I’m finally enjoying my TV programme and a bit of peace… don’t stay up all night! Get some sleep and your future-self will thank you for it.
  8. Don’t be a Productive Procrastinator: last but not least, the killer. I’ll start painting or work after I’ve cleaned the house, changed the bed linen, emptied the dishwasher and cleaned the fridge. Honestly, I could clean the floor every day if I wanted to but it will still have crumbs, paint and doghair on it… my husband is a welder and we live on a farm so a perfect floor is the stuff of dreams. Make time to paint a priority, especially if its part of your work.

 

I know this isn’t life changing or anything, but this is what tends to work for our little family. Sometimes reading that others experience the same challenges as you can be a comfort. I do not get to paint every day, not in a meaningful way anyway, but I am able to paint with Hugo up and about and get some work done. This allows me to be my own person with my own interests as well as his mummy, I look forward to watching him grow and flourish while I grow my Creative Business!

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment any more tips below!

 


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