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How to be an artist and mother (without guilt or frustration)

You feel guilty you’re not spending time with your kids. You feel frustrated you’re not creating. It’s lose-lose right?

No.
It doesn’t have to be.

You see, I’ve been through most of the frustrations of being an artist and mother.

How can we juggle the need to be present for our children, whilst feeding our creative aspirations as designers, artists, sculptors, crafters, writers, fill in the __________ ?

How to be an artist & mother (without the guilt and frustration). Learn to make tme for your kids and your art and craft | Georgie St Clair, artist and illustrator

My creative struggles started 17 years ago. (Almost to the day. It’s my eldest sons birthday next month.)

As soon as I gave birth I felt I had to give up my creativity. I just didn’t have time for it. I didn’t have the energy, that’s for sure.

Yet after the first 3 months of hell that was life with a newborn (as it was for me – I suffered from PND), I began to feel those pangs of creative craving.

Three children later, those cravings have never stopped. In this time, I absolutely had to find a way to manage and satisfy them.

My life as an artist and mother

In 17 years I’ve faced various scenarios as a mother and artist. So yes, I do consider myself an expert in this area now! At every stage, I’ve maintained my creativity in some form or another:

  • I had two young boys, 27 months apart, under 5. Post Natal Depression turned into depression. Plus I was in an unhappy marriage. This is when I started drawing again.
  • When my boys were 4 and 6, I returned to University to do my MA in Digital Media Arts.
  • When they were 5 & 7, I divorced, was a single Mum and started blogging. Getting up at 5:30 every morning just to write.
  • After graduating with my MA, I started a freelance business helping other businesses with their social media & digital marketing. Moving the boys and myself to Brighton.
  • New city, new career, new man! I started an Etsy shop, selling prints and playing on Instagram. Juggling children, a freelance business and making time for my real passion: drawing.
  • In 2012, I became a mother again to my gorgeous daughter Daisy. Since having her, I’ve sold work on Not On the High Street, gained commissions and Influencer work on Instagram, learnt stop motion animation and created animation work for businesses and brands. I also teach Instagram workshops. It’s been a busy few years.

Today, with two teenage sons, 17 and 15, and a 6 year old daughter, the busy schedule and chaos that comes with that territory, I firmly, no, adamantly believe you can pursue a creative career or hobby and be a good parent.

Now I make my living from my creativity. Something I could only dream about before having my children.

You are not alone

Perhaps you’re sitting there with a newborn, right now, wondering if you’ll ever find your creative mojo again.

Or your children are at school now. You want to make time to explore those hobbies you promised yourself you would pursue, but work, washing and family errands, keep getting in the way.

Maybe your children are teenagers but how can you justify the time it would take to learn a new skill, when they are all still so demanding of your time?

Learn how to be an artist and mother without the guilt or frustration | Georgie St Clair, artist, illustrator, mum

I’m your fairy godmother and I’m granting all of your creative wishes.

But there’s 2 things you need to know first:

  1. Creative success, whatever that means to you, does NOT happen overnight when you have kids. You will have to be patient.
    Childless women have a lot more time. They have a lot more mental space too. They don’t have to divide themselves into a gazillion different pieces. You do. Fact. And that’s OK.
  2. DO NOT compare yourself to those childless artists. You know the ones. They seem to be living the dream, creating successful businesses and all in about 5 minutes (or so it seems, especially when you are scrolling through Instagram). You will not only have to be patient, you will have to be disciplined.

Discipline and patience. The antithesis to creativity?

Absolutely not.

I feel have gone from being a fairy godmother to a matron of doom on one blog post! Please stay with me for a moment.

By being more disciplined and patient, you will actually be more creative. You will structure your time to be more productive and you’ll go easy on yourself when you are feeling frustrated.

Did I mention assertiveness? Well you’re going to need that too I’m afraid.

Does this all sound like the ‘S’ word?

No not that one….I’m talking about the word: Selfish.

It upsets me that many creative mothers I speak to, say they feel it’s selfish or self indulgent to spend time on their creative needs.

Seriously my friend. You are not selfish by honouring your creative souls desire. You are a creative human being who needs art in your life. The world needs your art. Because the equation is simple

Happy Mum = happy kids/hubby/family/work colleagues/neighbours/

Let’s scrap the ISH from SELFISH . This word is no longer in your vocabulary.
Go on.
Get rid of it!

You are now all about the SELF.
Self-discipline
Self-devotion
Self-esteem
Self-belief
Self-expression
Self-confidence
Self-knowing
Self-employed

From now on you’ll PASS. You’ll use a set of building blocks to create a successful life as and artist and mother.

PASS: The Building Blocks of Creating a Successful Life as an Artist and Mother

  1. Patience
  2. Assertiveness
  3. Schedule
  4. Self
How to be an artist and mother with guilt or frustration. Use these  building blocks to become a success as both parent and artist | Georgie St Clair, artist, illustrator, mum.

Patience

This is crucial to avoiding frustration. Managing time as parents and artists requires patience. A lot of it.

Patience is the step I have found the hardest and I’ll admit, I have only recently found peace with it.

How did I find patience?

I’m a big fan of the 6 Minute Diary. The premise of this diary is built on the powerful act of focusing on small, positive moments and daily gratitude. This simple written exercise has been scientifically proven to promote a sense of happiness. (Personally, I don’t like using the word happiness I prefer to use the word contentment. But that’s another blog post.)

Gratitude helps us focus on the present and appreciate what we have rather what we don’t have. In turn, expressing gratitude turns our mental focus to the positive rather than worrying about all of the things that we consider ‘wrong’ in our lives.

Also part of the 6 minute diary is writing a positive affirmation. Everyday one of my positive affirmations is:

Every small step I take, brings me closer to my goals.


Even if I only draw for 10 minutes a day, it’s taking me a step closer to completing an artwork. I may only draft a blog post, but it’s a step closer to publishing it.

Patience is accepting your limitations. Accepting them. Being comfortable with them.

And please remember…

As I’ve already mentioned there is no point comparing yourself to those childless artists, swooning with gallery owners on Instagram. Or at a book signing, swigging Prosecco. Seemingly living the life you think you can only dream of.

That is not your life. You don’t know what they have had to go through to get there.

If you want it badly enough, it will come. Have faith.

Assertiveness

This one is going to be the hardest for the people around you.
It is going to be the most liberating feeling for you though!

You will have to make time for your art. Regardless of what’s going on.

When I was married to my first husband, everyone around me told me I couldn’t be an artist. It was a waste of time. There was no money in it, I didn’t have the right training, the right contacts. I was told to get a proper job and that I could pursue my ‘hobby’ in my spare time.

Are you joking? Spare time when you’ve got children? I don’t bloody think so!

Eventually, people started to get the message. I used the old lean-to at the back of our house, with no heating and leaky walls, as my makeshift studio. And instead of spending my ‘spare time’ washing, cleaning, cooking and doing what I was ‘expected’ to do, I chose instead to paint and draw.

Today, I tell my family, that I’m not doing any more family jobs. I tell them, I need some creative time. And I’ll get out my drawing out or go to my studio.

It’s taken me a REALLY long time to be comfortable doing this. I’m probably not 100% there yet either. I don’t expect it will come easily to many of you either.

However, everyone around me has realised I’m a lot nicer when I’ve had time to be creative. And when I say time, I mean child free time to be creative.

Even when my kids were babies and I wasn’t working, I used child minders and nursery, just a couple of mornings a week, for my creativity.

Be assertive with those people around you who may not realise how important your creative time is. They’ll soon notice the difference in your happiness and ultimately that of your children, because you’re more fulfilled.

Remember the equation:

Happy Mum = happy kids/husband/partner/family/work colleagues/neighbours/

Schedule

It’s no secret many artists adhere to daily rituals in order to fulfil their creative work. From early risers to daily walks, the secret to creative productivity is some kind of schedule. Separate for your parenting duties.

Don’t wait for some sort of creative hoorah to strike. By showing up, regularly, a concept touched upon by Elizabeth Gilbert in her brilliant book ‘Big Magic’, the creative magic will happen. The ideas will arrive.

When my kids were very young and actually even now, I’ll get up at 6 to spend an hour to myself. Writing. Journalling. Or maybe some yoga. I relish this time and can’t bear it, if any of my family decide to get up early with me!

“Stop treating your creativity like it’s a tired, old, unhappy marriage ( a grind, a drag) and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover. Even if you only have fifteen minutes a day in a stairwell alone with your creativity, take it. Go hide in that stairwell and make out with your art. […] Sneak off and have an affair with your most creative self.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Self

This may sound a little ‘wooo’ but Self Care is so important.

If you don’t value yourself, you won’t value the creative work you make. If you don’t look after yourself and treat yourself badly, you won’t produce your best work.

I’ve mentioned I’ll do some yoga in the mornings, but my most important self care ritual is walking.

After I’ve dropped my daughter off at school, I go for a 30 to 45 minute brisk walk – enough to get me warm and a little puffed. This is amazing for my creative inspiration (I was inspired to write this very post on one of these walks). The number of creative solutions or ideas for illustrations and stop motion animations I’ve conceived on these walks is astounding.

It’s proven that walking boosts creativity.

Stanford University researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.

If walking isn’t for you, find a ritual preferably daily or one that you can practice a few times a week, that focuses on your physical health. Again, child free if possible.

Even coffee with a friend can be rejuvenating. A swim. An exercise class. Meditation. Dancing around the kitchen and singing at the top of your voice when no one is around (one of my favourites) will rejuvenate you. Importantly they are all a way of practising self-love.

You Are A Mother. You Are An Artist

They are not mutually exclusive. They are wrapped up in one beautiful being. You. Don’t deny either of them.

In Summary

Do be patient
Do assert yourself to your family about your needs
Do create disciplined schedule for maximum productivity
Do practice self-care. Your art will thank you for it

Don’t leave out any of the PASS building blocks
Don’t use the S…ish word.
Don’t compare yourself to childless artists

What is your biggest struggle as a mother and artist?

Or perhaps you have bridged the divide and have advice for other mothers or fathers who are struggling.

Please share your experiences in the comments below. So we know we’re not alone.

And Finally…

Here’s links to the resources I mentioned in this blog post (to be transparent, these are affiliate links to Amazon, but are only included because I 100% believe in them!)

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – brilliant insightful book on creativity, debunking myths about the struggling artist.

The 6 Minute Diary – I swear I have avoided any of the January blues I would normally feel at this time of year, due to using this diary!

Have an inspired day.

georgie st clair signature

An important note. I realise I have focused on mothers as artists out there. I’m fully aware there are many fathers who feel the same. My hubby included. However, I speak only from my own experience on this blog. As a woman and mother. I do feel men will face different struggles in their journey to realising their creativity. If there are any men out there struggling to meet their creative needs, please do leave a comment. I’d love to hear your point of view on this issue.

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Comments 2

  1. Thank you for the lovely reminder and helpful tips. I too am a mom (both of mine
    are still toddlers) and finding time between them is an absolute mission. There are days were I get 0% done and I’ve come to accept that. On the other hand, once I start a new project it’s constantly on my mind, does often get in the way and makes me feel quite guilty.

  2. Hi!

    I found your blog today while searching for Instagram Story Highlight information and I really like it! It´s beautiful and personal, yet informative.

    I can totally relate to your post and it made me think of when I had that “Aha-moment” a couple of years ago. Me and my husband were living in a perfect house on the perfect Swedish countryside but I was still unhappy. We were taking a walk when it sort of “popped” in my head haha. I suddenly knew we were meant to create things together. Great things.

    Since then we have published a book, released four albums, been played by Rome´s biggest radio station, and we´re soon about to have our first gig abroad.

    Many people ask us how we achieved this in 3 years. Well… We sold our house and moved to an apartment, we often buy food that doesn´t take forever to prepare, the kids follow us everywhere we go (even to the studio), and we try to set deadlines for everything we wish to accomplish so that we have to take time for our projects.

    Anyone can do it if they really want to.

    Thanks for a great blog!

    /Lilou

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