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    Meeting deadlines with kids underfoot

    meeting-deadlines-with-kids-underfoot-by-jasmine-mansbridge

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    Picasso once said that; “our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”. I don’t imagine Picasso frantically making kids lunches, rushing to get out the door by eight in the morning, so he could then get back to his studio to paint in a three hour time frame, but I do like this quote as there were never truer words spoken. Basically if you add raising children to any plan that’s when the challenges truly begin.

    Deadline stress is unavoidable and it seems that kids have inbuilt sensors which make them difficult when you least want them to be. So considering how to best manage your family as well as your creative work commitments will help you achieve maximum output with minimal stress.

    I am a painter and a mother of four children, aged 3 to 17 years of age (with a baby due any day). So I have a broad range of needs to work around. I try and avoid overloading myself with commitments, but when an important date looms (for me that is usually an exhibition), there are things I do to make life easier for myself and my family.

    I don’t recommend making a life out of living this way though. Seasons of work, and then rest, benefit everybody in a family. The wheels would come off my wagon if I did the things I am about to suggest all of the time. But, here goes: some things that work for me when facing deadlines with my business.

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    Simplify your wardrobe.

    Get a “uniform”. Mine for a while now has been black converse shoes, jeans and simple T shirts. I just add a jacket or scarf if its cold. This means dressing requires little thought in the mornings and I can get ready in about ten minutes. I save dressing the way I want for weekends and when I am going somewhere “nice”! This also goes for hair, whats happening up there? If it takes you a half hour to dry and straighten it, maybe try a messy bun when you're flat out. You don't have to look unkempt, but streamlining your weekday wear will ease you into a busy day and give you time for other stuff.

    Plan simple food.

    I generally think about food for the week on a Sunday afternoon. Although I am not a menu planning/spreadsheet kind of girl, a little thought and a quick shop will make a big difference to your meal time stress levels for the week. When I mean simple food, I mean things such as one pot dinners like roasts and pastas. Children can get involved in making food which is also a great help. Lazy meals like soups with bread or slow cooked meals means you can put them on and forget about them until its time to eat.

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    Fill the fridge with fresh, easy to use ingredients.

    When it comes to kids snacks, I cut back on baking and other foods that are time consuming to make. Instead I buy tubs of natural yoghurt and hommus, then for easy morning and afternoon teas I just have to add fruit or muesli to the yoghurt, or savoury biscuits, carrots and celery to the hommus. This keeps everyone full and healthy, without lots of preparation. It will stop you having to resort to the convenience of take away and it also saves money.

    Negotiate with your partner/husband to share or take over bedtime and other household duties.

    For example, when I am busy painting I can get so much more done if I can at least share the kids bedtime routine. If I can start working straight after dinner at night, I find that I have a lot more energy to paint and I am a lot more productive. If I wait until the kids are down for the night, I find it so much harder to restart my energy flow. Also, negotiate for weekend working time. My husband is really good at helping me get over the line when I am busy, but it does take good communication and verbalising your needs for this to happen. It is also about give and take, so be prepared for some compromise. When my husband is busy with his own work, I do of course try and pick up the slack and do the same for him.

    Have an “in bed” and “out of bed” time for yourself!

    When I am painting late into the night, I usually get a second wind at about eleven o'clock, even though I might have been exhausted at nine. So, I make myself go to bed by 12:30pm. The times I have broken this rule and stayed up half the night, I have paid for it by being very weary the next day and then I am not able to work the following night. I really have to be out of bed by seven to get everyone ready for school and to be prepared for the day ahead, so sleeping in is an impossibility. I seem to be able to function pretty well on seven or so hours sleep, so my set hours work for me, (though its still a commitment to work long hours). Work out what works for you and try to stick to it. To keep a bit of balance, I usually give myself a night off on a weekend, to watch a movie or do something with my husband.

    Get a cleaner in on a regular basis, at least once a fortnight if you can.

    If you have a busy life, this is probably my number one de-stressing tip! Having a cleaner won’t mean you don’t have to do housework, but it does ease the pressure on your household while you go AWOL into your creative workaholic zone. If you are worried about the cost of a cleaner, try tallying what you might spend on coffee, wine, or other extras, and all of a sudden a cleaner may seem cheap, (but be warned they are equally addictive).

    Source some kind of childcare.

    Childcare is a tough one I know, and it can be expensive, especially if your not making any money up front from your creative work. I have had different help at different times. My mother in law is wonderful and has had my youngest children many times when I have a deadline to meet. But mostly I have had to just work with my kids around (not ideal, but necessary at times). I have also paid my teenage children’s friends and other friends to play with and entertain my small children, (picnics or games in the back yard work for a couple of hours). I have used occasional childcare, in the form of two hour sessions available at my local gym. It does take focus to switch in and out of creative mode so quickly and work when you have limited time or you are sharing your head space, but it is better than no time to work at all.

    Try and find creative ways to let your children work alongside of you, some of the time.

    In my studio I have a couple of tubs of basic crafting materials. Pencils, colouring books, glue etc… My children don’t find me painting that exciting, as they are used to seeing me do it on a daily basis. This means they are happy to take up a corner (or half the studio) with their activities while I paint. Age is obviously a consideration, but stick some tunes on and you might get an hour or so of work done and they will get to use their own imaginations. It does take patience and tolerance and a certain kind of head space to make this work for you. If you have a deadline though, a couple of hours will be invaluable. If you are stuck for ideas, the internet is full of age appropriate kids activities, so get Googling!

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    Don’t take it all to seriously.

    This is my last tip, and its because it’s probably the most important. While on the one hand it takes a hell of an effort and consistent commitment to pursue creative success and also raise a happy family, on the other hand , your family will always be your greatest measure of success. So, if you're having a day when you feel like you are banging your head against a wall and getting nowhere, or if you feel tired, frustrated and worn out, then the best thing you can probably do it take a deep breath, call a friend and head to the park or the beach, or somewhere that is not at home or your studio for a few hours! When I do do this I come home recharged and refreshed, my tank full again. Remember being a creative person should be fun! (at least most of the time).

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to four (almost five) kids. She regularly blogs about the intersection of creative work and family life at www.jasminemansbridge.com, and you can also find her on Instagram @jasminemansbridge.

    {All photos by Jasmine Mansbridge}

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: Advice and Tips, Finding Balance, Growing a Business, Starting a Business | Comments Off on Meeting deadlines with kids underfoot

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