Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fulfilling Your Dreams- Being a Mom and an lllustrator

If you know me, you may know that one of my favorite silly movies is Nacho Libre. My husband and I always find a way to fit at least one quote from Nacho Libre into our day.

In the movie Nacho Libre, the main character Ignacio is a monk who lives at a monastery. He loves the orphans he watches over, but he has a strange desire to be a luchador- a wrestler. He finds himself a sidekick, and sets off to secretly pursue his dreams. He must do it in secret because he is told that wrestling is a sin. At one point he doesn't know who he is. He fails as a monk and he fails as a wrestler. But then he gets the courage to wrestle one last time so he can win the money to help the poor orphans at the monastery. And with the encouragement of his friends he is able to live his dream as a wrestler to beat Ramseys (the champion wrester) and as a monk to help the children he loves and provide them a better life.

So what does this have to do with being an illustrator and a mom? I will tell you. Many women that are going into illustration and want to be a stay-at home mom also, can see how impossible this seems. I know that is how I felt when I was in college. I had such a passion for art and such a desire to pursue that passion. I spent all day painting my homework and thought to myself, how can I possibly have a career in art and have enough time to be a mom. We all know being a mom is not a small job. Sometimes we feel like Ignacio, we want to be part of both worlds, but find it impossible to do both, or feel like we are failing at both, or feel judged if we pursue both.

Those of us who are artists have a spiritual desire born in us to create. It is part of our soul, part of the person we are. It is my belief that the God who created me, gave me the ability to create, and I have the responsibility to use it for good. Bringing my children to the earth to live is part of what I have given also, and it's my responsibility to raise them the best that I can. And that gives me joy too. But since I have this need to create art, it is part of what I need to do to be fulfilled and be happy.

So here it is. I release you (and myself) from feeling guilty. You no longer need to feel guilty that sometimes you are not the best mom because you have spent time drawing instead of cleaning your house. It is okay.

Now I do really feel it is important that your family comes first. But you also need to make sure that you have enough time for art. If this is your career, you need to make time for work. It is always a balancing act- working from home as a freelance illustrator and being a mom. But here are some things that help me.

1. Stick with a schedule. Get up early in the morning and get yourself ready for the day. If you get dressed for work, you will work better. Spend a half an hour in the morning doing house work that needs to be done, and then get to work right away (this is advice I'm giving to myself). If you have little kids make sure they have quiet time or nap time so you can have time to work. If you have school aged kids, make sure you are spending lots of your time working while they are at school.  Have meal times at a regularly scheduled time. Eat family meals together, and spend time reading with your kids and helping them with their homework. It's hard to work it all in when you are on a tight deadline, but if you stick with a schedule, it will be easier. Illustrating and being a parent are both big deals.  Keep asking how you can keep a balance. Make priorites.

2. Disconnect. Here is a great blog post by Noah Bradley about how to disconnect so you will have more time to be creative. Turn off the internet. A great tool that helps me is called Freedom for Mac. It helps you disconnect from the internet for any amount of time you choose. Another great program is Antisocial which helps you disconnect from email and other social media for the amount of time you choose. You also need to disconnect from the tv. I am out of the loop with my friends because I don't stay up with all the popular shows they watch. My hubby and I watch one or two shows a week together on Netflix or the internet, but it's not constantly on. We got rid of our dish. This is another thing that gives me more time.

3. Your house is not spotlessly clean. It is okay. Do what you need to do to keep your family running as well as possible. Take care of the things that are necessary. Don't have a disgusting house that you aren't able to function in. Clear your desk of clutter often and have an organized work area. But don't feel guilty if you don't have a perfectly clean spotless and disinfected house like your neighbors do. Don't feel guilty if you haven't done the dishes, or there is a pile of laundry a mile high that hasn't been folded. Just do your best. You are still a good mom, you are still a good person, and you are still a good artist.

4. Set goals for yourself and reward yourself when you meet those goals. If you are working on a freelance project and have a deadline, schedule out when you need to get parts of the job done. If you are working on a personal project, make yourself a due date and stick with it. When you meet your goals, celebrate your accomplishments.

5. Stay focused. When it's work time and the kids or at school or taking a nap, try listening to good music or an audio book to help you stay focused and on task. Again, avoid surfing the internet.

6. Homemade costumes may be out. You can't do everything. So you may not have a home filled with cute homemade crafts. You may not have time to do daily art projects with your kids. You may not have hours to read your favorite novel (this is why audiobooks rock). You may not make homemade bread. Your kids probably won't have homemade Halloween costumes. But it's okay. You have to make a choice. If illustrating is your passion and your career, then you will have to focus on that and let some other things go. Your worth as a mom is not measured by how many homemade things you make for your kids. You are using your creative skills in other ways.

7. Work things into the cracks. You can take your sketch book or current project to swimming lessons and doctor appointments.

8. Involve your kids in your art. If you are painting, get a set of watercolors out for your child. Read them one of the books you have illustrated. If you are at the zoo, bring paper so everyone can draw the animals together. Get involved in your child's school class to teach them about art. This can be fun for everyone!

Keep asking yourself how you can keep a balance. Things won't be perfect. In fact, you'll make a lot of mistakes. Just get up the next day and try again. Make priorites. Give yourself permission to pursue your artwork dreams. Be Persistent, and you can be both a mom and a freelance illustrator.

I am the gatekeeper to my own destiny, and I will have my glory day in the hot sun. -Nacho


Bethany said...

This is a wonderful post. All very true, and helpful to any mom, working or not!

Jenn said...

Good post Shawna. I agree. And it's definitely a hard balance. I have tried the "I'm not going to illustrate or do art and be a mom instead". Both my husband and I noticed how much it affected my well being and I was probably a worse mom at the time- because I need that creative outlet. So in the end it is healthier for our family to have me illustrating or painting.

Joanne Roberts said...

Thanks, Shawna. These are things we have to tell ourselves over and over. It's so good to hear them from another mom. I highly recommend The Creative Gift, by H. R. Rookmaaker. Art is our talent, our gift, and our Divine calling. Read it in your spare time. Ha ha.