Last week in Part One of this essay series we laid it all out: you can have children and a creative career (with all its unpredictable demands), but it will be a constant — and worthwhile — balancing act.
I’ve interviewed and examined the wisdom of textile designer Hana Getachew of Bolé Road Textiles, June & January CEO Amy Richardson-Golia, designer Justina Blakeney, and novelist Rumaan Alam (who’s also writing on behalf of his husband photographer David A. Land). Their own experiences and outlooks have completely reenergized me as a working parent (as I write this piece with a six-month-old baby strapped to my chest).
For me, some days feel endlessly stacked with tasks both parenting- and work-related, but when I step back to look at what I’ve accomplished, I marvel at how much I can juggle now that I’ve adapted to parenthood. The early days of uncertainty in my capabilities to handle all I want from life seem far away as I’ve grown into my creative roles with children at my side.
“Parenthood may change you profoundly, but you’re still yourself,” Rumaan points out. “Those early days with an infant can feel so consuming and impossible, but they do pass. And having a kid can be a process of re-prioritizing that is good for you and your work — the things that don’t matter fall away quickly, and can make you more focused and efficient than you might have expected.”
In Part Two, we’re discussing overcoming daily obstacles, fostering creativity at home, life hacks learned along the way, and advice for future parents (or reaffirmations for those who already have children). —Kelli
Set mini goals, both for your personal and professional life. Celebrate every win. Don’t compare yourself to others — focus on YOUR path. -Amy Richardson-Golia
Overcoming Daily Obstacles
While achieving the nirvana of a perfect work/life balance is in the forefront of most of our minds, it’s in reality something that has to be finessed daily — even hour by hour — as we work through obstacles.
“Currently with a toddler my challenges are feeling overstretched,” Hana says. “Trying to squeeze all my creative and business activities in the workday is such a challenge. It takes me much longer to reach my daily and weekly goals than it used to, but I’m learning how to accept that. My biggest obstacle after becoming a mother was negotiating wanting to be home with my baby and running my business. So for the first six months I was a full-time mom and a full-time business owner with no childcare. I do not recommend this! Even though my studio was in my apartment at the time, it was too challenging to juggle everything.”
“I am ALWAYS torn between work and family,” Justina echoes. “It’s hard to turn off my business brain and impossible to turn off my mama brain, too. I always feel like I’m needed in two places at once — even if I know that ultimately, both my business and my daughter are just fine without me for hours (and sometimes days) on end.” This back and forth of our priorities and identities — our working self and our parenting self — can leave us feeling scatter-brained. Amy’s implemented a simple daily trick that helps promote success and streamline priorities with work: “I have a ridiculously hard time staying on task, a trait my son has inherited. I’ve heard many great speakers and CEOs and entrepreneurs who swear by making a to-do list that only has ONE item on it, each day — so I do my best to make just ONE item my top priority every single day. I also make sure my COO has access to said list so she can nag me about it all day long.”
If there is something you value, prioritize that. -Rumaan Alam
Develop and Rely on Trusty Life Hacks
Parenting tricks — we all have them (and we all want more!). Here’s how these parents use what they’ve learned along the way to make their days more efficient.
Rumaan: “I often make dinner a day in advance or first thing in the morning. This is a great time saver but it’s worth noting: I only do this because I happen to value giving the kids something home cooked, and I find the act of cooking meditative. So I suppose the trick is: if there is something you value, prioritize that. I care much less about, say, folding the laundry, so often it’ll just hang out in baskets in my bedroom.”
Amy: “On Sundays I make a daily itinerary of what needs to be done that week at school, I plan my entire meals for the week and I crosscheck everything with my and my husband’s work schedules. Tutoring sessions, swim lessons, special snack days at school, etc. Putting it all on paper, in order of what is happening and on what day and what time and who is doing it keeps me on task.”
Justina: “One of the best things that I did was make my studio/office walking distance from my home. This takes out commute time and maximizes family time. Also, my daughter visits often at the office and gets to be a part of Jungalow fun.”
Hana: “I walk my daughter to daycare three days a week. It’s a 45-minute walk, but I love it because it’s a way to get some movement into my day and also to spend some one-on-one time with my babe. I [also] do my daughter’s hair in the high chair now. It just makes things infinitely easier! Also, my husband is my life hack. Seriously. There would be no Bolé Road without my husband. In addition to running my brand, I’m also consulting as an interior designer and enrolled in a business program. I couldn’t do this without an amazing co-parent.”
I hope my daughter learns the value of perseverance, hard work and believing in your ideas and vision. -Hana Getachew
Pass Your Traits Onto Your Children
In all our creative endeavors, there is much to learn and pass onto our children. Here’s what these parents hope their children learn from watching them work.
Rumaan: “I hope they understand that even though they are our greatest joy, parents have an identity outside of their children. It can be their job, their hobby, or whatever — but that the role of parent, however important, is not all a person is.”
Amy: “This year, I’ve found it to be a little bit of a double edged sword. I have told my son in the past that I wasn’t a very good student but he’s suddenly hyper aware of the fact that I started a company and I have people that work for me, and that I get to travel a lot. Sometimes he will sass me and say that he doesn’t need to do his school work because he can just come work for me when he’s older. Overall, though, I hope that my children learn to be incredible problem solvers. To never panic. It’s something I’ve essentially been forced to do as the company has scaled: recognize growing pains and come out on the other side all the better.”
Hana: “I hope my daughter learns the value of perseverance, hard work and believing in your ideas and vision. The sense of fulfillment and purpose that is possible when you follow your own path. The value in loving your work and genuinely enjoying the people you work with.”
Justina: “I hope that Ida sees that it’s possible to love your work and be passionate about it. I hope she sees that she can be a boss if she wants to. I hope that she sees that work can (and should!) be fun, challenging and stimulating.”
Foster Creativity at Home for Your Children
As creative beings, stimulating the creativity of our children is of great importance — and the first step to that is making the home a welcoming place for explorative, growing minds.
Rumaan: “We’ve tried to make our home a dynamic and fun place for kids and adults alike. We keep a lot of art and books around because those are things that we love, and hopefully they will have an inspiring effect on the kids.”
Amy: “We are a big Tegu family. Those magnet blocks are almost like therapy for a busy mind. I play with them sometimes on conference calls.”
Hana: “Both my husband and I are creatives. For us the most important thing is having a home that’s restorative, which is key to constantly to staying inspired for us. That means trying to keep our main spaces as open and clutter-free as possible, which is not always easy with a child. Our apartment also has beautiful light and architectural details which adds to the feeling of respite. Our accessories and furnishings are pretty colorful and eclectic, especially in our daughter’s room. I can’t wait to set up an art station in our home just for her — and maybe me, too!”
Justina: “For me, it’s more about how we keep our home than what we keep in our home. We let Ida move furniture around, draw/paint on the walls in her room, make design and decor decisions. She chooses her own clothing, and has responsibilities too — like helping to water the plants, bussing her dishes, etc. I think this helps foster creativity and responsibility.”
Take things as they come. It’s hard to know what kind of parent you’re going to be until you are one. -Justina Blakeney
Advice for Other Parents
Hana: “Talk to your partner, if you have one, about your expectations of each other as co-parents. Also talk to other family members about any wants or expectations you may have of them. There is no way you can thrive in any endeavor without the support of lots of caregivers. And that support shouldn’t feel like a chore, it should feel like you are creating your child’s eco-system. The second thing would be to reassess your expectations of yourself, your work and your productivity after you become a parent. And not just during the early weeks and months of your child’s life, but afterwards, for the next several years. Understand that being a parent is — like starting a business — a larger-than-life (permanent) undertaking. Ultimately, there’s only so much you can truly prepare for and you can never wrap your head around any of it until you’re there in the moment. The important thing is to be kind and patient with yourself and the process.”
Justina: “Take things as they come. It’s hard to know what kind of parent you’re going to be until you are one. Before having my daughter [below], there was a big part of me that thought I’d want to be a stay-at-home mom but it became clear to me pretty early on after she was born that I need my work too. Also, be kind to yourself. This shit is hard — but totally worth it.”
We want to hear from you — what tricks do you employ to get through a working day with kids, or what positive affirmations do you give to yourself to achieve all of your goals? Let us know in the comments.