Yes, You Can Be a Mother and an Artist. Here’s How.

by Melanie Hoopes
Originally Published: 

So you’re an artist with kids. Let me guess. You’re having a hell of a time making room for your work. Your kids absorb every smidge of time and energy you have to give and you haven’t been able to get to your computer or canvas in days/weeks/months. In order for you not to go insane and/or broke, you need large pockets of uninterrupted time. Here are some well-tested tips to help you get just that.

Get out of the kitchen. Lower the family’s expectations about what passes for dinner. Carrots and salami, nachos, butter and egg noodles, and clam chowder out of a can are all examples of dinner. Repetition is your friend. Serving burritos two nights in a row? On the second night, call them wraps. Teach your kids how to use a can opener as soon as they can reach the silverware drawer, then assign them a night when they are responsible for feeding the family.

Stop the laundry madness. Lower the family’s expectations about what clean means. Just because you wore it once does not mean it goes in the hamper. Clean means it smells fairly decent and there is no visible dirt. Toothpaste stains are okay—they can be easily sucked off.

Lower everyone’s standards on what a vacation is. A night in a hotel with a pool is a vacation. A road trip to the Museum of Medical Oddities is a vacation. A walk to the A&P to get more half and half is a vacation.

Introduce your kids to binge watching. Depending on the age, there are many suitable shows that have several seasons that can occupy them up to a month at a time. Suggestions: Malcolm in the Middle, The Wonder Years, iCarly. These all feature kids who are left to play by themselves for long periods of time.

Give your dog away (just for a little while). Dogs give love but they also need a lot of attention. Your mother-in-law is in that big house all alone upstate. Lend her Scrappy for a year or two until you finish the manuscript/series of block prints. Scrappy will lose weight and maybe Grandma will pay to get his teeth cleaned.

Find other parent artists or sympathizers to barter with. You drive their kids to soccer games or the mall, they double their lasagna recipe and give you a full sheet pan at drop off.

Most important! Show your kids your art. They should see that you do other things besides make burritos and tell them to get off the computer. They should know how cool you are. Get them involved. If you’re a theater artist, enlist your kids to help you with load-in and strike. If you’re a sculptor, they can pose for you and then help with sweeping up.

You will eventually get back to your uber-productive way of working, but it might not be until you pack your kids up for college. Until then, try your best and think of your kids as your creations. After all, they are each so unique and beautiful….

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