Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summertime Imbalance

The kids are off from school, and I am trying to find the new balance in my day between work and family. There have been more distractions, and more demands on my time. So what does an at-home artrepreneur do?

These are some of my solutions:

1. My studio is on the main floor of the house. We sacrificed the family room to become my studio. I am at the front of the house, so I can see outside to see what is going on there, and I can see and hear what is happening in the house. "Mom's ears" are vital. They let me know what is going on and when I need to stop what I am doing and investigate. This solution will not work for everyone, but if you can manage it, I highly recommend it.

2. My studio door is never shut. My kids are welcome to come in, sit down, look at what I am working on, or carry on a conversation. I have found that these conversations are much like the conversation you have in a car. I may be busy doing my work while I listen, so my eyes are not focused on whoever is talking. Sometimes it is easier to share things that might otherwise be hard to share under these circumstances. My kids know they can come talk to me about nearly anything, and they do.

3. Be able to work for 15 minutes if that is all you have. I have the luxury of working in a media that can be left for five hours or five days and not need special attention in that time away. It may be much more satisfying to work for five or even ten hours straight without interruptions or distractions. But that is a luxury I do not have. So I have to work with the time I have, in whatever form it comes. And if you can't possibly do your art work in small chunks, there is always some sort of business task that needs to be done. Emails to send. Papers to file. Postcards to address.

4. Books and videos. I am lucky to have two great readers. My youngest is actually a voracious reader. She can consume three or more good size books in a week. Yesterday we hit Borders, and later this week we will be visiting the library. This buys me chunks of time that is worth every penny I spent on those books. We also signed up for the program at Blockbuster this week where you can exchange out videos as often as you would like. We got two videos, and we have already done one trade. I would rather have them watching movies than much of what is on TV.

5. Putting the kids to work. The postcards were addressed this weekend while we were away, but now I need to stamp them and put the stickers with the information about the show on them. The kids love to do this, and I can pay them a minimal sum of money to do this job. It frees me up to do other work, and they are happy to be able to help out and make a few dollars.

6. Don't make deadlines that are too tight. You need as much flexibility as you can possibly get when you have kids. Too tight a deadline, and you may find yourself losing your temper with the kids or husband, and spending late nights trying to make up time. You need as much slack time as you can possibly give yourself.

7. If there is work that can be done sitting in front of the television, sit with the kids while they watch those movies. I have a laptop now, so I can sit and check my email, maybe write a blog, or otherwise get caught up while I am with my family. My drawing/coloring on my work is often done at this time. I may not "watch" television, as much as I listen to it, but being in the same room with everyone is important. A physical presence counts for a lot. And it is a way to keep an eye on what is being watched, or being there if something needs to be talked about.

8. Be flexible. This should be rule number one for any working mom. You need as much flexibility as you possibly can muster. Things will happen. Plans will need to be changed. Going with the flow is the main survival tool.

9. If you can afford it, camp. My kids will spend two or three weeks at day camp this summer. Those will be the weeks that will be the most productive of the summer. More time would be great, but it is not in the budget. The range of costs for camp is huge. And cost is not always an indicator of quality. Check around. Talk with other parents. My daughter's school has a summer camp fair each year around February. It is a chance to learn about some options that we might not have otherwise known about.

10. Don't be unrealistic about housekeeping or meals. Pare down to the essentials. Take out from time to time is acceptable. Trader Joe's is my best friend. Shopping is fast and easy because the choices are not overwhelming. The food is reasonably priced and reasonably healthy, and most of it is easy to prepare. If they are old enough, teach your kids how to put their dishes in the dishwasher. Familiarize them with the workings of the laundry room. The same can be said for spouses. This is the place where most people struggle. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing? Is it to satisfy someone else? Is it realistic for your life? Balance is the objective here. Give a little in one area, get a little somewhere else.

I work a lot. But I also have the luxury of being home when my kids get off the bus, or when there is no school, or when someone gets sick. I know what makes them tick, and they know they can come talk to me at nearly anytime...just stay away when I am on the phone with a customer! They have learned a lot. Not just about clay....but about what it takes to run a business. They know what Mom does at work. The juggling may be a struggle at times. But how many companies offer benefits like these?


Libby said...

Welcome back! You're doing a better job than I am at getting the summer balance. I love being home for the kids, but the summer schedule can make me feel like a dry leaf to be blon about in the breeze willy nilly. On the other hand summer also holds some of the best family moments. So I keep trying to fin the balance.

Judy said...

ALl you can do is try, Libby. It is never truly a balance....only an attempt at getting a little closer. And as soon as I feel like I am in the summer rhythm, the back to school rush happens, and a new balance needs to be found. :-)

Loretta said...

I'm with Libby.
It's multitasking at its most draining, in the summertime, for the homeworking mom.
You spend all day/week juggling. and end up most days feeling like you've misplaced one of the damn balls!
Having said all that, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Polka Dot Creations said...

I have to say, buying a laptop is the best thing in terms of striking a balance. I can take care of all kinds of business tasks and still be wherever the kids happen to be playing. Right now, we're outside while one swings and the other plays on a ride-on toy. Without the laptop, I'd either have told them we couldn't play outside, or I'd be sitting here stressing out about everything I want to do IN the house but can't drag out here.

I'm still working on finding ways to make my creative work portable. I've only been able to do that in very small ways at this point.

Christine said...

I'm a teacher who should be having a polymer filled summer but we are moving so I'm living vicariously through blogs.

Judy, when you mention addressing or stamping postcards, I'm kind of surprised. I use SendOutCards to take care of all my postcards. I craete an image of my work in photoshop, go online and use image for front of card, add copy then choose the lucky recipients from my address book. It's very fast and cost effective. I can send 1 or 1000 cards. I can send one card to my jewelry people and another to my functional art customers. I sound like a commercial but I'm a customer. My distributor is Toni and She's good with artists. I can send you a card if you'd like.


Judy said...

So much great feedback! I love the image Loretta of losing the "damn ball" does feel that way too many days!

Cat, I love my laptop. It really gives me the mobility I need. I can picture you out with your laptop while the kids play. Working with very young kids is even more of a challenge. Naptimes are great, but never long enough to do all that has to be done.

Christine, I hear your pain! Moving is such a daunting task. I truly appreciate the tip about SendOutCards. I will definitely look into it for future mailings. After all, I won't have child labor forever! Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

Great advice as always! Love your blog.