The Secret of Success: Being a Parent AND an Artist

Photo credit: AEM Photography

I often get asked, “How do you do it? How do you manage to write novels and have time for all those creative projects when you’re a homeschooling mom of three?” The answer is complicated, and multi-faceted. In fact, at first glance I’m not sure I fully know how to answer that question. But I’m going to try to tackle it.

Stated simply, it’s not easy. I’m not some wonder of the universe whose super-power is lengthening days. I don’t have a time turner. Most days I feel like I’m just scraping by. Not mother of the year, not a creative genius. Just a chick living a whirlwind life, full of tantalizing opportunities for which I never seem to have enough time.

The How and the Why

I’ve let this question, along with my own response simmer in my mind for a long while now. In fact, the more I consider it, the more I think the answer to how I stay sane is: I don’t. I’m likely a little bit insane. I can’t handle everything. Sometimes my projects get pushed back because of family things. Sometimes I’m tempted to get bitter about that. Sometimes I yell at my kids. Sometimes I turn around and watch them grow in hyper-speed and wish I could steal more moments with them and impart more things to them before they evolve to the next level of childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve chosen this life because two things are highly important to me: utilizing my creative gifts and raising a family that can impact the world for the better. I’m not willing to sacrifice either of them. And when I analyze the whys (Why am I here? Why am I doing this?) I can only end up with one rationale. This is my destiny.

Balance

I walk a tightrope and I walk it daily. It’s like the knife-edge thin crest of a mountain that spans between two valleys.* Each side has an appeal. Just like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the valley often looks brighter when you aren’t there. But I’m not deceived. I know what awaits me if I fall off on one side or the other.

On one side is a life where I’m submerged in motherhood. Here I sacrifice not only my wishes and my time, but the very essence of who I am for my family. I squelch all means of creativity if it isn’t in direct service to others. I don’t take time for myself, and if I even think about doing so, I’m flooded with guilt for not being one hundred percent focused on them. In this life, I’m miserable. Creatively, I’m stagnant, and I’m not fulfilling the purpose my Creator designed in me. I’m unhappy and it affects every facet of my life. I eagerly await the day my kids grow up and move out so I can have some me time. But when that finally does happen, I’m unable to rid myself of the lingering bitterness I feel to my family for stifling my creative gifts.

On the other side is a life submerged in the creative realm. In that possibility, I’ve risen to new heights of creativity and my imagination has paid off big time. I’m flourishing as an artist. But I’m drowning as a mother. If I choose this life, my kids learn they are less important than my art. My husband sees me as distant and self-centered. My family wishes they could share some of the me that I’ve spread thin across a myriad of projects. Eventually, this life will lead to losing all that I hold dear. And if I lose my family, my art doesn’t matter anymore.

The Walk

Although sometimes I glance wistfully over my shoulder down into one of those valleys, I don’t want to live in either of them. They key to success (and ultimately happiness)  is staying on the knife-edged crest.  It’s about balance. But there’s one little problem with that. Walking the ridgepole of a roof is easier said than done. Just ask Anne Shirley.

Balancing on something as narrow as a tightrope is hard work. It’s uncomfortable. And who likes being uncomfortable? I, for one, want to get on a nice wide patch of solid ground asap. But if I want success in this life, I must conquer balance. I must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is the key to being a full-time parent and a full-time artist.

Unsweetened and Burning Hot

Not the answer you were hoping for, eh? Honestly, it’s not the one I thought I would come up with either, when I first decided to write this post. But it’s true. This is the real stuff, folks, no watered-down, lukewarm coffee here. When I finally discovered this truth, it changed my entire outlook. If you can accept that you will be uncomfortable, this life of tricky balance becomes much more palatable. Instead of the daily grind crushing you with blows to your expectations, you’ll see every day as a challenge. Misery turns to opportunity.

My goal in a given day is to succeed two ways. First, to be the best mother I can. Second, to utilize every spare moment to harvest my creativity. With those objectives in mind, I press forward, trying to make every day the best I can.

I don’t always succeed. I do my best when I have a little help from Up Above. Okay, a lot.

Can you relate? How is your life a walk of balance? What are your tricks to success?

*Ever since the image first hit me, I’ve been wanting to do a painting to express the idea of balance. Maybe someday I’ll get around to it. 🙂

You might also be interested in:

Why Being a Mother Is Like Being a Writer

Sowing and Reaping

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8 thoughts on “The Secret of Success: Being a Parent AND an Artist

    • You know, seeing that reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman. She works with her hands, she takes care of her family, etc. I can’t remember all the rest. But you’re right. It’s not really a new concept, is it?

  • Thanks for the insight, Becca. I really do admire how you manage to pull off being both a full-time mom and a full-time artist. I’ve been working to find that balance ever since we got Elizabeth, and it’s hard! I’ll probably be coming back to you for advice as the months wear on.

    • Jessie,

      It IS hard. I’m not sure if it gets any easier (I kind of doubt it), but humans are highly adaptable, and we can adapt to the tricky balance. Practice, practice, practice. After all the best life isn’t the easiest one, right?

  • Becca, I know the rest of us don’t see all the frustration and heartache that go on behind-the-scenes — so thank you for being so transparent and vulnerable about it here. But still, you remain my strongest example for living the parenting AND the creative life. You give me hope and assurance that when the time comes, I won’t have to bury my creative self and forget about it for 25 years.

    Thank you. : )

    • Thanks, Court. I’m glad I can encourage you in any way.
      But you know what creative hibernation feels like and I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about burying your creative self, even when/if you decide to be a parent. I just can’t see that happening. 🙂

  • I admit that I haven’t been reading your blog regularly, but this post really was nice to hear. I don’t have a husband or kids, and I still feel how complicated it is to find balance in life… Thanks for sharing this.

    • Balance can be tricky in whatever aspect of life you’re in. That’s so true, even if I only focused on my own dilemma here. I also thought back to your post on “How to be Miserable” when I talked about being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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