“For those who have defied the advice of mentors and gallerists by deciding to raise children while also pursuing an artistic practice, it can be hard to know how to proceed. While many well-known artists have managed to be engaged parents while pursing successful careers, mention of this creative balancing act is largely absent from critical discourse, and so we find ourselves reinventing the wheel again and again.”
Over the past 4 years, since our girls were born, Oliver and I have become more and more aware of the challenges and struggles parents go through in balancing a creative practice and raising children. Remember when you were a teenager and full of angst and relationships were just hard sometimes? When life’s big questions felt like they needed an answer, now? When you were struggling to find out who you were and how you were going to find your place in the world? I’ve found that becoming a parent is sort of like that: challenging emotionally, full of identity crises, and a process that involves a re-alignment of your priorities and world view.
That’s not to say it’s all bad – in fact, if we stick with the high school metaphor, think of all the strong memories you have from those short 4 years and compare that number to any previous set of 4 years. All that change, those struggles, those questions of identity that challenge us can make space for beautiful new things to happen, for a new open-ness to experiences, and for spaces of awe and wonder.
I don’t know if it’s really harder for parents pursuing a creative practice, but I do know that it’s hard. Artists are great at scrimping for money generally, but sometimes being responsible for a helpless little thing makes many of us less willing to scrape the bottom. While we’ve toted along our children to many art events, sometimes inappropriately, it’s pretty much unacceptable to participate in a lecture with kids in tow. While we’ve never been great at getting out, you might say that our social capital has decreased in the past years. Many opportunities and residencies are off limits. Even ones with good intentions don’t always work out. The Bemis Center announced a residency for artist-parents this past November only to have to pull the program when it became clear they hadn’t fully figured out all the childcare logistics. Time changes as you work around naptimes, more rigid mealtimes, and meltdowns. Getting from bed to door in the morning can no longer be a 15 minute endeavor.
Too many artistic lives are built for single, childless, workaholic 23-year-olds. That can’t last. Raising children forces us to change, and that is good in the long run for us and for our field. It’s true that I could no longer write grants at midnight when I had a kid. But thank god I stopped writing grants at midnight, right? – Andrew Simonet, Artists Raising Kids
The adjustment that happens after having kids happens to everyone who has kids. You know it will happen, but it’s still surprising when it does. But sometimes it forces us to face things that were not working. We stopped taking jobs – either self-assigned or asked for by others – that didn’t pay or didn’t have at least some small stipend or grant attached to it. It forced us to professionalize in that way. I used to be a floral designer. Now I rarely take a job because the cost of childcare is the same as what I would bring in. Instead I do web design more professionally now, where I can work less for more money.
I’m pregnant again and am looking forward to and dreading the phase that will come this fall, so this topic is close to my mind. But before that happens, Oliver and I want to announce our call for nominations for the next Present Prize – to be given to someone balancing a creative practice and parenthood. The money we give away might be enough for a month of daycare, for some on-demand childcare, or for whatever else the parent in question needs. Let’s reward someone for making the time, for playing the long game, for proving it can be done, for taking a break or taking it slow for a while, for being selfish while at the same time giving all of themselves, and for setting the example for their kids that balance is possible – you just have to work at it. Because in the end, family matters.
If you are a current web hosting client, nominate up to three parents pursuing a creative practice. Include their name and some sort of contact info (preferably email). Email your nominations here.
If you think this is a good idea and want to both contribute to the prize and nominate some people, go here to Buy in.
Additional Resources for Parents:
Cultural ReProducers - an evolving group of active cultural workers who are also parents – has compiled a great list of Resources for parent cultural workers that includes grants, publications, and parent friendly residency programs.