Artist-Mother Tips

Barbara & Alyson Stanfield
With my mom in front of the Denver Art Museum a few years ago.

Happy Mother’s Day!
I hope you had a chance to read Sandhya Manne’s blog post yesterday on balancing the roles of artist and mother.
This is a recurring theme for my clients. It comes up so often that today, I ask again for your tips.
What advice would you give other artist-mothers who might be struggling to find time for their art or feeling guilty about spending time on their art and away from their families?
Dads also encouraged to respond!

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19 thoughts on “Artist-Mother Tips”

  1. I was going to skip this because I’m at the other end of the spectrum: I am a daughter caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s as well as some other ailments common to the modern elderly person. Then it occurred to me that there is an overlap in at least the guilty feelings area.
    As a parent-artist, you are afraid of not showing your love and attention and that this will affect both your relationship with and the maturation of your children. What you need to remember is that quantity does not equal quality. When you are with your children give them the entirety of your attention. Let them know that you are there at that moment for them and that your work is not even a speck of thought. With very young children, just being with you is great. Give them something creative of their own to do. When I was very little, my mom used to let us cut up her catalogs to make collages.
    Just remember, that kids can sense weakness and if they can guilt you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with (“please can I have those 2,000 dollar sneakers? I won’t mention you don’t come to my all my games…”), many of them will. ;>

  2. My mom is very artistic- and a wonderful art teacher. She always encouraged me to draw growing up. Having her art hanging in our house, watching her draw, arrange flowers, place fruit in a bowl… even the way she cleaned and arranged the house made a profound impression on me growing up. And for all that, I’m truly grateful.
    There are tons of ways to channel creativity and do a little something to keep that creative spark alive every day.
    My advice to other moms would be- do it! Make the time, somehow, someway. Even if it’s NOT away or in a quiet spot. It could be as simple as drawing on your kids’ lunch bags. If it makes you happy- don’t feel guilty! We daughters and sons WANT you to be happy! Happy moms make happy kids! : )

  3. The perspective seems to be that when a woman pursues an artistic endeavor it’s an “extra”. Being a Mom involves more than sitting at every possible dance recital or ball game. It’s also about showing children how to fullfil one’s self, and to live well.
    Know that one day those children will be young adults who can support Mom as she supported them. Guilt doesn’t help anything. Use that energy to balance the family life so that all members can be honored.

    1. Patty, I both agree and disagree. I agree with everything after your first statement but disagree with the first statement itself. Being a mother is a more-than-full-time job. It’s more than a career. It is a calling; and until one’s children are self-sufficient responsible adults (barring exceptional circumstances) everything else a mother does is an extra. At least it is if we want to have a better world where no one takes advantage of anyone else; where wars do not occur and no one is starving.
      Being a mother is a very special responsibility to both the children and to the world. Just because we can have children doesn’t mean every woman should have children.
      Yes, this is just my perspective, but I am very adamant about it.

    2. Patricia, my point was that – unfortunately – many people see women’s art as frivilous, and that if she does spend time on it she should feel guilt. I believe that strong children are raised when both parents are fulfilled.
      Vanessa and Shannon nail it. I have no doubt they are not only successful artists, but a great moms as well.

    3. Patty, does anyone nowadays really feel that art created by a woman is frivolous? That would actually surprise me. I think there are, unfortunately, people who consider art to frivolous (unless it’s old and worth a lot of money) but that’s not a matter of gender.
      Art, both the creating of and the owning of, is seen as a luxury, not a necessity – which is both sad and wrong but also a topic for another day. Parenthood, as well, is given short shrift and the lack of a mature, compassionate, humanity is one result of that. I do agree, though, that it takes a fulfilled, intelligent, compassionate, and creative person to successfully raise a child who turns out happy, compassionate, and capable of also finding her fulfillment in life.

  4. Oh I can definitely relate. I’m a full time working mom who is trying to keep an art career going on the side. I find that it’s all about organisation and realistic goals.
    Sometimes we have a tendency to focus on what we haven’t done and it’s self defeating. It’s a cycle I have to continuously work hard to break. So what I do is organise myself. I break down my goals into tasks. For example if I’m entering an exhibition, I’ll note tasks such as painting, framing, application deadline etc. and I’ll make time slots for all of these through the week. (I learned a great deal of this in Alyson’s Blast Off Class in Jan 2011)
    If you are able to get a good routine going it will become habit and your family will eventually adapt to that schedule. But at the same time, I have to keep my goals realistic. Expecting to finish a painting in 3 days just isn’t realistic when there’s work, followed by caring for the fam, laundry and cooking etc.
    So in all –> Routine : Organised Tasks + Realistic Goals

  5. Just saw a video that talks about viewing art and how it creates pleasure, happiness, in our brains. (I did a short post about it.) If just viewing art does that, can you imagine what creating art does? Even before the video, I’ve viewed creating art (while my main priority is raising my children) as rejuvenating myself. That in turn, gives my children a better mother. It really isn’t an either/or situation.

  6. Kimberly Lennox

    Keep in mind, that while we may be raising children, we are hopefully raising fellow artists as well. My Mother raised 7 artistic children. I have three, ages 21, 13 and 11. I paint murals and theatrical sets and my oldest, Kelley is my right hand girl. That’s because at the age of 7, I gave her a big sea sponge and the bucket of green paint and said “Go make leaves on that tree.” I am also a photographer, and I remember my husband’s Grandpa rolling his eyes when I let my 6 year old son be in charge of the birthday party pictures with my $1500 camera. But at age 11, he’s got a pretty good eye now! Don’t let the kids be an obstacle to your career, let them be your biggest fans. Give them a corner of your studio and let them inspire you! Children’s watercolors are cheap, let them loose with a whole ream of copy paper.
    My 13 year old daughter is into Anime cartooning these days. Not my kind of art at all, but I love that she loves it!

  7. I have always been a bit of a night-owl and I get the most work done between about 9p-1a. It’s my natural creative rhythm so I roll with it! But I’ve made a conscious decision to do some amount of artwork, even if just a little, during my kids’ waking hours for the express purpose of letting them see it happen. I want them to really get that it’s something they can do and be a part of and that paintings don’t simply appear in the night!
    I also let them fully explore their own creativity by allowing them to break their crayons and mix their Play-Doh – two things my mother NEVER would have allowed from me! We have lots of tiny paperless crayons and about 8 tubs of brown Play-Doh. 😉

    1. When the crayon nubs get too little, one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to take muffin tins, line individual wells with little squares of plastic wrap and toss those nubs into the cups in fun combinations. A few hours out in the summer sun, and you can squish them in to marbled crayon balls (or in retrospect probably any shape really) drop them in some ice water or stick them in the fridge to cool and then you’ve got funky usable crayons again!

    2. Whoa what an awesome idea! I’m definitely going to give that a try – we do have an extensive collection of teeny tiny crayons!

    3. My Mom is a pretty smart/creative lady. I forgot to specify that you want to do the squishing *inside* the plastic wrap… could be a heck of a mess otherwise!

  8. Pingback: Balancing Act - Artist + Mother | Fine Art by Vanessa Turner

  9. I find it’s a constant juggling act – I need to be organised and have a regular time-slot every day when ‘mummy is sewing’ – but that this needs to be flexible, and I need to be accepting of the fact that some days it just won’t happen.
    The children often join in, though – they play in my fabric boxes, use scraps for collages, do finger knitting, or if I’m sketching, they sketch too (I had great fun in the garden with my two daughters yesterday doing 5-minute leaf studies – my 10yo is pretty good, the 3yo’s results were …. interesting 😉 ). But they like to be involved and often have input on projects. My oldest now regularly comes with me to craft fairs, and I love having her company – and she’s getting to be a fairly accomplished needlewoman and knitter herself, now.
    I think it’s important that they know that I have something that is important to me, that makes me “more than” “just” mummy – not only for them to realise that I’m a human as well, but also to show them that the way to achieve your dreams is to go for it – and that it involves a fair amount of hard work and commitment along the way. I can’t tell them that they can do or be whatever they choose, without setting them that example myself.

  10. As a professional artist and a professional mother (grin) I look at it very simply. You treat your art as a job. You set your work hours, and you go and show up. If you are hired to work at a “real” job it is not an option to “go” to work. I am fortunate, my studio is away from home, so “going” to work is exactly that “going”.
    I also knew that until my son was in school full time (i.e. grade 1), I would not have the same time to devote to my work. I’ve done anything from working from 6:30 am until 10:45 am when he was in Kindergarten, to ensuring that one day during the week my husband does dinner and bed-time duty as well so that I can just stay at the studio without having to worry about any motherly, wifely and home-based duties.
    Of course, a mother’s career no matter if it is as an artist, or as a high-powered politician, is only as successful as she treats it. I believe that the only reason men have been more successful in art is because they just take the time for their careers and us women and mothers let them have it by taking care of all life’s necessities. Let’s face it, if we did that, our careers would all be different.
    Women also have choices how many children they have. This too plays a part in our career choices. Of course it is possible to have 4 or 5 children, but then it becomes even harder to manage those many people Being an artist is not a choice, living a creative life and creating, that is a choice.

  11. Pingback: Balancing Act - Artist + Mother | Vanessa Turner - Bermuda Art

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