Today my son Ilan turns eleven. He was the first of my three children and the child who made me a mother. It was through parenting Ilan that I initially learned how to continue to work as a musician while being available as a parent. So, in honor of the occasion, I’ve decided to write this post highlighting ways to balance creative work with parenthood. Happy birthday Ilanster!
1. Let Your Children See You Pursue Your Passion
Every day my children see me working to sustain a career as a singer/songwriter. They witness my passion, dedication, hard work, and persistence. While every once in a while I have to leave for a gig or go out of town amidst the scene of a crying child tugging at my leg, most of the time my children understand that I do my thing and then come back home. Also, my husband is more than capable of taking care of them for an evening or when I am out of town. It is good for my children to see their mother excelling at something outside of the realm of parenting.
2. Allow Parenthood to Make You More Creative
One reason that my husband and I waited a while to have children was that I was afraid that I would stop writing music once I had a child to care for. This is true in the short term. After each of my children was born, it took me a good two or three years to ramp up to my previous level of professional engagement. However, having children awakened something in my heart that I hadn’t been in touch with before: a huge new well of openness, creativity, vulnerability and depth that I can tap into creatively.
3. Separate Work and Family Time
So, how does one have time for creative endeavors? You set aside time. Mornings, when all of my children are out of the house, are my time to write music. Even though I’m at home, I don’t use that time for laundry, cleaning the house, or any of that stuff. That’s when I write music and blog posts, book shows and build my career. Then, later in the day when I’m with my kids, I do my best to actually be with them (you can read about my struggles with that here). After we put them to bed or before they wake up the next morning, I put in a few more hours in my music studio.
4. Involve Your Children in Your Work
While it is good to have boundaries around the times you work (see #3), it is also good to engage your children in it when appropriate. Example: One night last year, Ilan came down to my studio around midnight. He wanted to hear what I was recording and, somewhat annoyed that he was up and bothering me so late on a school night, I reluctantly agreed. He listened through once to my song and immediately had a great idea for me. I got so excited that I threw the headphones on him, put him in front of the mic and had him sing his idea through (it made it onto theCD). My kids have also been camera people for my videos, with Ilan giving me staging directions (and me taking them!). In fact, I let him miss a day of school so he could drive around town with me filming a video. My kids love selling CDs at my concerts. I feel great about giving them life skills related to creating, leadership, vision, execution, and running a business, as well as the technical aspects of producing music, concerts and videos.
5. Learn to Do More With Less
I have very few hours in the day to work on music so I don’t waste them. Before having children, I could waste an entire day (not) writing a song. Now, I’m much more efficient. I’ve spoken with other artist parents who have also come to appreciate the value of short bursts of concentrated work. Consistency is the key. Use the time you’ve got; it’s more than you think.
6. Work Through Your Own Issues
Never worked through your childhood grievances? Still angry? The best investment in being a good parent (and person, and artist) is sorting through your own issues. Make peace with your past, yourself and your family of origin. The clearer and more comfortable you get with yourself and your family of origin, the better parent (and child!) you will be. Plus, the more extended family members there are around to love your children, the better for everybody.
7. Become the Person You Hope Your Children Will Become
Do you want your children to be comfortable in their skin? Then become comfortable in your own skin. Want them to be fearless? Then cultivate fearlessness in your own life. Charitable? Involved? Creative? Children learn how to walk in this world through observing how their parents do it. Do your best to embody the values that you want to impart to your children.
8. Give Your Children Time and Space to Be Themselves
Let them wear pajamas to school, dress up, be who they are. Let your boys wear dresses, play with dolls, let your girls play with the diggers in the mud. Don’t squash their inborn creativity by insisting that they be a certain way or look and act like mini adults. Kids are innately creative and, unlike many adults, unafraid to express themselves. They are not yet the sheep that so many of us are, needing to conform to gender/class/race/community expectations Don’t rush them from activity to activity. Give them time to experiment, explore and just be.
9. Let Your Children Know How Much You Love Them
This will go a long way (I hope!) toward offsetting the many parenting mistakes we are all making along the way.
10. Unplug as a Family
My family is blessed to observe shabbat, where we unplug physically and emotionally from sundown Friday through sundown on Saturday. This is when we have long, relaxed meals with family and friends, catch up with each other, and enjoy the sound of children of all ages running and playing throughout our house – without electronics. It’s what keeps our family and community together.
11. Create Shalom Bayit (a Peaceful Home)
For the sake of everyone who lives under your roof, do everything you can to create a peaceful environment in your home.
So, what have your children taught you about being a parent? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Julie Geller is a singer/songwriter based in Denver, CO. She is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting, positive music in English and Hebrew. Sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.