Being a parent can feel like a full-time job. So if you have a creative calling, what can you do to make sure that it gets honoured? Here are some tips to make sure your creative self doesn’t get buried.
#1 - Decide how important balancing your creative career with being a parent is
There are times when other priorities come to the fore. If you’re working in a part-time or full-time job plus being a parent, or also caring for an elderly parent, then carving out a creative career may have to wait a few years. No one ever gets to ‘have it all’ – well not all at once anyway.
Equally you need to make a proper audit of what you really want in life. If the idea of being a ‘glamourous’ artist (it’s in inverted commas because it never actually feels that way), or being famous is the only appeal, you won’t stay the course when your creative career is difficult. And if you love being a parent, or spending a lot of time with your children is important, e.g. home-schooling them, then you need to acknowledge that your creative calling will probably have to take on ‘hobby’ status for a few years.
#2 – When balancing a creative career with being a parent, cut back ruthlessly on non-essential commitments
Chances are, you’ve added to your schedule incrementally with things that are not really that important. So go through your commitments now with an eagle eye. Ruthlessly cut away anything that isn’t important or feels onerous. Explain to people that you have a new priority and arrange for someone else to volunteer/give someone a lift etc. Rope in your partner if you can, especially if having an income stream from your creative activities is important to the household.
Equally, try down cutting the number of activities you have to ferry your children to (or if they’re of an appropriate age, teach them how to get there themselves safely). While it is important that children experience a wide range of things it’s also true that unstructured play and boredom are crucial to helping them learn to manage their time, and develop creativity. And if the predictions for automation of the modern workplace in 30 years’ time are true, they’ll need all the creativity they can find within themselves.
#3 - Carve out time for your creative career while being a parent
The first thing to do is acknowledge that you need focused time to create; in blocks of at least an hour, and before you’re utterly mentally exhausted at the end of the day. So I recommend keeping a time diary, not of how you intended to spend your time, but how you actually did. Note the time you spent in physically demanding tasks and how your energy levels felt at various points in the day.
Balance your creative career with being a parent by carving out time to work creatively. So maybe during your child’s nap time? While your children are at playschool? While your partner watches them in the early evenings? When your parents take them for half a day? An hour first thing before anyone else is up? Rope in some help and get these time slots written in your diary.
#4 - Use precious creative time away from being a parent by planning your work
You’re going to have to be extremely well organized with your projects. Have a clear idea of what you’ll work on and when. Check in regularly when you have a moment, with what your deadlines are, and ‘where you are’ with a project so that you can just pick up the threads of it immediately you have concerted time to work on it.
#5 - Use precious creative time to its optimum by focussing in a concentrated way
As I’ve already said, you should be keeping tabs on what you’ll do next with your creative projects so that you’re ready to work when you have some focussed time to do so. And when you have an hour, really allow yourself to get lost in it – setting an alarm if necessary so that you remember to pick your children up from school or start preparing dinner.
This is not just so that you’ll be using the time well. It also makes working on your creative projects feel much more satisfying. And when you have the satisfying feeling under your belt – that you have moved your project forward in a concerted way – it’s much easier to work to realistic deadlines, and to feel contented with the limited time you have to work on your creative career.
If you’d like to know more about balancing your career priorities read more in chapter six of my new book ‘Organizing for Creative People’. It’ll help you work out what your perfect balance is.