1. You can't always work when the passion strikes
Many art students graduate from school, find a job, then struggle to make time for their art. Suddenly they have no studio to paint in, no teachers assigning work, no deadlines, and no peer support to continue making their art. Now, picture having a full-time job, and having a little baby who requires constant care. This means you will have to operate on less sleep while having more chores than you ever thought possible thanks to the baby pooping, spitting up, needing baths, going to doctor's appointments, and a whole other list of new tasks. Really, you can't realistically fathom this until it's happening to you, but I would say you can count on your baby needing something from you (ie food, diaper, clothing change) almost 1-2 hours, even at night sometimes. So, obviously, even if a new idea for a project enters your head, you can't always act on it the moment you actually want to. It will take real discipline to get to it when you actually have the time. You will have to learn to create the time, demand the time, and then maximize the time like nobody's business. You will have to forgive yourself for taking a little bit of a hiatus to figure out your new normal, but you have to stay committed in your head that you are a long-term artist, and sometimes long-term artists need a temporary break.
2. The passion may strike more often, or less often
Now, with a new baby you will start to see things differently, which may cause you to want to make more art. This new life and perspective may spark your creative side, where you want to start drawing, scrapbooking, sewing, sculpting like never before. On the contrary, you may also find that you might want to make less art. Life has become more demanding in all directions, so why force yourself to make art on top of everything else that needs to get done? Again, be kind to yourself, but remind yourself that you are a long-term artist and make a plan about how you will continue to seek out art exhibitions, opportunities and creative time after you've had some time to adjust to your new life. Even if you're not so much of a sketchbook person, keep a sketchbook so you can sketch or write down quick ideas for the future. You might get to them sooner than you think.
3. Inspiration is found in new places
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I now find children's books and illustrations so inspiring. Many of the classics are true artistic masterpieces, so you may find your art being influenced by them. Then again, as I watch my baby grow, it makes me think about life, nature, and family, among other things. I am thinking about the life spans of insects, animal and human instincts, evolution, the existence of a higher power, the state of the world, and what the future holds. My brain is focusing on different things, so my next art piece will reflect a new state of mind. It's exciting to be transformed this way, but it also feels a little new and foreign. Just embrace whatever inspiration you get and go ahead and act on it.
4. You want to make a different kind of art
With all these new sources of inspiration, the demands on your time, and all the cleaning that you find yourself doing, the type of art you want to make may change. For me, instead of making my usual time-consuming, labor-intensive installations, I now feel like making simple drawings with pen and paper, or maybe even doing some photography and photo-collage. Those art forms are easier to start and stop than the type of installation art I normally do, faster to complete, and less messy. I have always also enjoyed writing, so resuming my blog is sort of like a casual form of art.
5. You want to de-clutter
All artists know that we sometimes struggle with mild to severe hoarding. The "studio" in my house has mostly been a room where I stash potential art materials such as boxes and bags of newspaper, magazines, rope, fabrics, paint swatches, discarded wood, cardboard, broken furniture and whatever old knick-knacks that for some reason seemed meaningful or interesting enough to save. Now that I have a baby, I am determined to finally go up there and trash or recycle most of it. I'm of the mindset now that the fewer things I have, the better. I don't need much; the baby doesn't need much; what's most important now is a healthy routine and a healthy place to live. Everything else just gets in the way.
6. You try to think of ways to get your kid involved
Now that you have a baby, before you make any move, one question comes up: what am I going to do with the baby? You will ask this question at every turn--when you want to wash the dishes, when you want to take a shower, when you want to go for a run, and when you want to make art. Some parents decide to involve their children in their art projects. One of my favorites is Queenie Liao who crafts scenes with her sleeping baby using blankets and other props:
7. You also try to think of ways to get away from your kid
Even though many people out there are creating amazing things with their kids, you still may be trying to figure out how to work on the types of projects you used to make or were planning on pursuing. In that case, it's time to make your needs known to your spouse, family, friends, and babysitter so they can help you have the time and space to have some quality solo creative time.
8. You may want to quit your day job
If you haven't figured it out by now, babies need a lot of your time. You also need to take care of your relationships with your spouse, friends, and family. That means there may be less time for yourself and your art. Even if you don't actually want to quit your day job, it is a good idea for you to evaluate how your very valuable time and talents are spent.
When I was pregnant, I was sick every day for about 5 months, struggled with insomnia for about 6 months, worked a full time job where I was barely managing the time to eat a protein bar for lunch, served on the board of a marketing association, and participated in a few art opportunities and exhibitions. While I have always considered myself a high-achiever with diverse interests and good time management skills, I finally had to admit to myself I was doing too much when my husband told me I looked like a train wreck. What good are you to anybody when you're stretched too thin? How are you enjoying life? How are far can you go? Supposedly Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading and avoids the frantic work environment of the common worker. While not everyone can shape their lives like this and still make ends meet, it does remind you that there are different ways to live your life. I do think it is essential for artists to live a lifestyle that is stimulating, not draining, so it may be time to stop for a second and re-examine how you spend your energy and what you really want out of life.
9. You want to go to museums more
Having a baby means you're at home a lot. During my six-week maternity leave I barely left the house. While it's nice and necessary to spend time at home with your new baby, you will have the urge to get out occasionally, and you should. You will start appreciating the times when you could go wherever you wanted, and you will reminisce about going downtown or even to the store with relative ease. As an artist, you will have the desire to visit museums, with or without the baby. You'll want to seek out the beautiful things in life and nature. You will want to browse art books and websites. And you should. Take the baby and make it happen, or get a babysitter and go.
10. You read more
As I mentioned earlier, you will find yourself at home a lot with your baby, especially during the early weeks. While this may mean increased time spent in front of the TV, you will naturally find yourself reading more as well. Despite your best efforts, you will read mommy books and mommy websites. While I was pregnant, my sister very thoughtfully sent me Chicken Soup for the New Mom Soul. I had never read those Chicken Soup books before, but this one is very good with lots of real-life short stories by moms. A friend also recommended the Scary Mommy blog to me, which is filled with excellent information, advice and funny stories. All of this is good to keep your sanity and feel normal about being a mom. Then of course, you will be reading the children's books to your baby. I am hoping all this reading will lead to more trips to the library and more intellectual and artistic reading, which hopefully will eventually make me the next Warren Buffett, except I'll be an artist-style Warren Buffett.
Life overall has changed for the better since the arrival of the little baby. I am slowly getting acclimated to the juggle of working and mothering and being an artist, but I'm excited to see what is next and how I can make life as purposeful and artful as possible. Any other artist moms out there, feel free to leave a comment!