The New Stuff

Three Sanity-Saving Tips for Women Artists Who Juggle Motherhood and Art

No matter how independent and brave and modern a woman is, she is still bound to worry about her career in art once she steps inside motherhood territory. This kind of dilemma is also experienced by men but only if they’re not earning enough to support the family. But for women, even if they earn big bucks for their art, they still feel like a bad person for not giving their children all the time they have but instead spend time staring at the ceiling to contemplate about life while they make their art.

If you’re a woman artist and you have children or about to give birth, here are some tips for you:

I never feel as if I’m actually succeeding at achieving a balance between art making and motherhood and I struggle with constant low-level anxiety about the choices I make from hour-to-hour and day-to-day. I had a major epiphany when I realized that it is impossible to be both the mother I want to be and the artist I want to be. Both are full-time occupations and if you throw in needing make a living (which really does inhabit third place for me, emotionally) then all bets are off. So the most important ingredient in the balancing act has been to accept and embrace that I will fail. This realization has been incredibly liberating. —Marina Berio

This is important for any artist but women find this more difficult to do because of guilt. For women, it feels like they’re committing a crime if they shut their door when their kids are still awake. But nothing good comes out if the door is remained open. There has to be a place in your home that is only yours, that would let you be in the zone. Treat it as a version of a man cave except that you’re actually doing art and every person in the house should respect that, including you. Set a special time for you to be there and treat it as work…because it is.

I think what I wanted to do was not just to map out and organize my time, but also my mental space. In blue ink, I wrote out the parts of my maternal identity that I could not sacrifice or change, the things I knew I had to do in order to live with myself. I wrote in blue that I would feed my children, bathe them, care for them when they were sick, read to them, and bring them to and from school. Then, in red ink, I began writing all the other things I did, worried about, argued about, or obsessed over on a daily basis as part of my life as a mother. The white noise of parenthood. The low-level, chronic hum of anxious agitation. I wrote about playdates and birthday parties and parent nights and after-school activities and fund-raisers. I wrote about music lessons and dance lessons and swim lessons and soccer and Little League. I wrote about high-fructose corn syrup, about screen time, about standardized-test scores, about their academic performance and their social-emotional development. The list went on in this vein for seven pages.


Here are some more things that could help:

  1. Learn to designate tasks. You shouldn’t be the only one doing work in the kitchen!
  2. If you’re tired, rest. Self-care is a must. Treat yourself as you treat your child.
  3. Let things be dirty and imperfect. You can’t be good at both. If you always want a clean house, well…something in your art will suffer.
  4. Treat your husband as your partner. Do not be shy in demanding his full support to your household.
  5. Stay up late at night, wake up early. Most of the work gets done when everyone else is asleep. This is a must especially if you’re in the early stages of your career.

Creating art is hard. Being a mother makes it crazy-hard. But it is definitely very rewarding that any mother who’s made art, even without the accolades, should be proud of herself.


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