The artist/parent conundrum

Well, it's finally happened. This week we sent our baby off to preschool. Right now it's only two half days a week, but still it has been a week of mixed emotions. It's hard to send her out into the world without me nearby, but on the other hand, I can enter my studio for a few precious, blissful hours without interruption. Ahhh! Once we get into a groove, (and get past the tears that come with each parting) we should be able to arrange a schedule where Dad takes her to school on his way to work, while Mom starts painting and doesn't have to stop for 4 or 5 hours. Heck, I may even be able to take my easel outdoors this fall and actually do some plein air painting! It feels like its been a long road to get to this point, both in terms of health and time to work. And yet, I look at my daughter and marvel at how quickly she has grown. She's only two, but she's definitely not a baby any more.

In my next post I will share with you a new painting I've gotten under way during this momentous week. But before I get back to the "art" part of my art blog, I just want to put a shout out to all of those artist moms and dads out there who may struggle to find a balance between being a dedicated primary caregiver to a child and being a creative artist dedicated to their craft.

First of all, hats off to you! It is a tough balancing act. If I had any advice to give to anyone who is struggling to find the time and energy to do creative work while also being the primary caregiver to a child, it would be this: Lower your expectations and don't give up.

Now that may not sound very inspirational, but hear me out. After I had my daughter, I fully expected to get back to my painting in full swing after about 6 months or so. But when my health took a nose dive, it was all I could do most days to parent my daughter and give her some Q.T., and get hot meals on the table (after which point I promptly collapsed in a heap). And on top of feeling really physically awful most days over the past 2 years, I made myself feel worse by being horribly disappointed in my inability to develop a routine of steady work. (What was wrong with me? I "should" be able to do this! ) Had I been gentler and adjusted my expectations to allow for my situation, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and emotional angst, and perhaps even possibly hastened my recovery. (Not to mention that feeling rotten about yourself isn't exactly an environment for creative bursts of energy, either).

On the second point, don't give up; sooner or later you will find a groove with yourself and your family. It may be a groove that will need constant tweaking, but some sense of rythm WILL happen. It may not happen as quickly as you want, but one day you will blink and your once tiny, helpless infant will be playing quietly by herself here and there (in between running around tearing the house down ;-) ). Gasps for air will give way to moments of breathing space and then at some point actual stretches of uninterrupted time.

Thankfully I seem to be finding my way out of the worst of the health issues now and am actually sleeping again and feeling a lot better. But nothing is like it was b.b. (before baby). I don't have the flexibilty of time and freedom that I used to have. Now I am the one who has to be flexible, and I have to manufacture stretches of time by getting up extra early to make it happen. Any blogs I do write are usually done via my mobile, written piecemeal in short bursts. But with the right attitude and a little bit of creative scheduling, it is happening, and for that I am extremely grateful!

When my daughter was an infant, I would again and again be told this same phrase by veteran parents: "It goes by fast." And it does. When you are in the trenches dealing with colic and diapers and nursing and zero sleep and no time to shower, you might not think so. But it really does. So enjoy the moments with your child and appreciate the moments you can find to feed the Art Spirit. Nurture both as best you can and you may find them growing stronger and more vibrant with each passing day.

"Happy Faces", by 2 year old Eva

"Happy Faces", by 2 year old Eva