MDR posts about the reality of parenting children with vital careers.
VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE!
Sculpting your self identity as a creative parent allows you to see the world from an empowered and unique view, with depth and height others may not experience. Don’t be shy. Take full control of who you really are.
About two weeks after I found out I was going to be a mom, I realized I had been transported into a scene from the Wizard of Oz: I was no longer in Kansas! My existing friends had magically changed themselves into either warm, furry suits or cold metal tin cans. The hipster world around me had changed and morphed into the new reality of what I was about to face. I was scared and excited at the same time.
I was definitely not the babysitter kid from next door. I was a ‘serious’ concert cellist as a child, and my whole life was about preparing for the next concert performance. No siree! I was a card carrying “artiste.” The thought of being a mom someday conjured up visions from the film Alien.
At the time, I thought children were weird little creatures for other people to cultivate. However, after the delicious shock at the doctor’s office after hearing my son’s heart beat for the first time, my worldview changed forever. I was (and still am 27 years later) deeply in love with my husband, and the thought of a little tyke from our sweet union was actually not such a bad idea anymore. Looking back now, I have never embarked upon a more profound and beautiful life-endurance test.
How would being parents affect the success of our professional lives that we had worked so hard to create? We were clueless about the significant change about to take place. My husband and I had an initial crisis of self identification in the shock of thinking we had to take on boring traditional roles to be “good” parents. We immediately began troubleshooting how to manage the pressure of having to support our new family for the next few decades. It was clearly a new chapter in our lives.
All the logistics of our world changed in those first few months. My husband even tackled the issue of coaching soccer in his rock star long blond hair. A month later, he came home with short hair! Argghhh ... He decided it was no big deal and sported a chic geek look instead. I told him that Henry David Thoreau said, ”distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.” But he felt he could be more effective to focus on the kids and his new role with shorter hair. Fair enough, but he remained a vital artist and business entrepreneur. Our love for being parents flourished and motivated us to be ten times more efficient in our daily time and dedication. Trust me, being a parent will kick your time management ‘arse’ if you don't master how you use your time.
You want to be your ‘best self’ when you parent, not some facade of someone else’s idea of what you should be. This requires wisdom and honesty. The best you equals a healthy atmosphere for your child.
But the world met us with the message, “You have a son on the way! Get a real day job.”
I applauded my husband’s choice to create a consulting business that supported his healthy(?) love of technical gear. We clearly defined for ourselves what stayed, and what went. We imagined the loss of certain liberties as a tragedy, that the world as we knew it would end. As we fell in love with the role of parenthood, we became filled with such joy, that, honestly, after awhile, we didn’t even remember what worried us at the beginning. The massive love and heart opening a child brings rocks any ‘alone’ time you ever had. And with precious care of scheduling and delegating, you will earn and enjoy your guilty pleasures all the more.
In 25 years of parenting, I have done most everything I wanted to do and I did it with the added joy of being in a meaningful marriage and raising a child. It’s all about having the right mindsets.
THE NEW LIFE
It was fascinating what a hot button a new baby brings out in people. Many good people came forth with support and understanding. On the other hand, it didn’t help when a few of my international clients dropped their accounts. They considered my change of status to a new mom unacceptable, assuming that I would no longer be available or as fully dedicated. Honestly, I did lose the small handful of these childlike clients, because I suppose they felt that my attention was on a new baby and not their own needs. I re-examined my next steps and focused on a smaller, but better, client base. That was a fantastic move in my life, scary, but an amazing, time to depart from the safety net and start becoming what I was really meant to be. The maturity of parenthood was serious business, you could see it in my every cell of being and the faker friends evaporated like a morning fog.
I did not see other role models to follow at the time who were successful artist-moms, who were not weirded out, diva-devils or absentee parents. The advice was two-fold: you either became a regular mom with occasional baby-sitters and mom back-up teams, or, you paid a full-time nanny and staff to leave the mess and hassle to somebody else. At first, for a month, I chose the full-time nanny route while I completed my clients’ projects. I went back to work, but I had changed, matured, and felt I’d graduated from another big chunk of life-school. The route I had been on didn’t fit me at all, despite the excellent cash I earned, my role as a woman and mother was not respected, seen as weak or now ineffective. It was a surreal experience to let my advertising career go, and it was the best thing I ever did. As a parent, I didn't want to work in industries that did not respect parenting as a healthy and wholistic part of life. I did not want to see myself always making excuses for being a parent, with endless begging of nannies to stay an extra hour to go out with the team or for drinks with clients. I had to seriously look at my talents and what I REALLY wanted to do in life and say ‘this is it’. I had always wanted to be a recording artist, but the advertising work was so darn lucrative that I was tempted each year to stay. It was not until that option became unauthentic to me that I actually embarked on the career in family media that I am still on today. Telling the truth so many years ago led me to an amazing deep career I am very grateful for. It takes guts to forge ahead to be your true self, to speak what you are meant to speak.
It took two years to get my body and hormones back in shape after having a baby. Those years were a time to create the inner architecture and heathy life structure that defines my current trajectory now, so many years later.
We went from a fancy loft space condo with groovy cars, to driving our “magic” Volvo wagon, living in a little cottage surrounded by trees and a creek. We were the cozy, frugal, hobbit family baking bread, growing plums, hiking, making music, and most importantly, watching our son take his first steps. We only took on crucial projects to spend luxurious time nurturing our baby son.
Considering that I had been going full throttle since I was ten years old, the change was a welcome relief. At 33, I took maternity leave as the first meaningful extended period of down time I had allowed myself. We were determined to ensure the quality of life of our child was more valuable than having “stuff ”. I highly recommend taking a period of time out of the busy rat race loop (however you can manage it) to make absolutely sure your life priorities are clear. This is not a week at disney but many months quiet together just 'being together bonding'. Neither my husband or I had silver spoon family trust funds. We earned, saved and took the risk. Today as I write this is my son's 24th birthday and that time of bonding still pays dividends today as we are a close and 'real' as one can ever ask for. Why we took the time away from the rat race. To stregnthen the family bonds when they mattered the most. I can safely say that was one of the smartest things my husband and I ever did. Even weekend weaning away from the world in the early years, to go super analog and do lots of nothing together is not only free of cost but worth a kings ransom in formulating the golden bonds of a healthy loving family that last a lifetime.
Time passes quickly. So make sure your family compass is pointed the right way. Give yourself time to know the real reason you were born and why you do your art. This mission definition will strengthen your life to be the best possible parent you can be. Your child may magnify your strength or weakness, so it is not his/her fault if you stop your art. You can be a good parent and a successful creative professional at the same time.
You were born to be creative. Dare I say, you have the “sacred” gift of the stewardship of your talents. You don’t want to regret anything. The world is filled with old dudes that could-a’ should-a’ been. Don’t be that. For those that make a full-time living in the arts, they develop a balance of wise entrepreneurial acumen married with clarity of wisdom and positive energy.
Creative professionals who are parents need to give themselves permission to make their family work and thrive outside of the box, to make money, to get positive recognition, and do all the neat things that go with enjoying a successful career.
What do we recommend? Place your child at the center of your daily world. This is your number one job. Your career becomes an extension of that commitment, not the other way around. Embrace that shift in perception to grow a successful adult.
Plan your calendar a year in advance as your guide map. As soon as your child is old enough to define goals, place the goals in the schedule as active projects on your to do list. Be serious with these goals. Each person in the family team is then aware and supportive of each other as individuals. uWe did this with our son who is a passionate, focused lion of a man who has earned our trust.
Here is the gold, folks!
We knew in our bones that the end game was to raise an adult, not a baby. We took the time from day one to include our son in the center of our artistic life, not as an appendage who had to follow our careers.
That’s the key. Your children are individuals. Start day one or as soon as you understand this principle by respecting their ideas and what inspires them. Over the years, we still see that family-centered creativity works.
Support and share in projects to enjoy a life-giving relationship as a family.
Over the years, we have received awards and international success, but we have still managed to coach soccer, take out the trash on Tuesday and attend 98% of all his school events. By proactively planning your schedule, you minimize distractions.
Succeed with the panache of a true artist while being a brilliant family unit with a mission.
Publisher and Founder of ChildGood Magazine