Being a mom and an artist

Posted by Michelle Murdock on

I’ve wanted to write about being an artist and mother for some time to help dispel the myth that being both is an impossible task. I hope that by shedding some light on my experience I can provide some insight to others. So, here it goes…

When I was pregnant with my first child I had this idea (fantasy I suppose) that I would work (drawing away or printing) while my baby would just sit there staring at me lovingly from his crib, not demanding too much attention. Essentially this did not happen. My son was colicky and when he wasn’t sleeping, which could be a herculean task to make happen, he was crying. We lived in a beautiful but expensive community on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and childcare was outside of the budget. We also didn’t have family close by (however grandparents visited periodically which was a great help).

So we were facing some challenges. Still, something happened to both my husband Chip and me when we had our son. As cheesy as it sounds, a fire was ignited in the both of us as soon as we saw that wonderfully cute (albeit screaming) little face. This fire totally boosted our ambitions to build up Quail Lane and better our circumstances in general. We wanted the best for this new baby and it was a real motivational force. I’m sure many parents experience this. I love this parenting column in Vice in which the author states (appropriately), “when you have a kid the hustle sector of your brain expands.” This definitely happened with us. My husband worked a 9 to 5, came home and helped me with Quail Lane. On the weekends he was printing. Any chance I had two free hands, or even one free hand, I was drawing or designing or emailing or fulfilling orders, or working on my website-all the various tasks that go into running a small art business. We moved to another state and bought our first home where the cost of living was much lower than in California. I won’t lie, the concept of free time disappeared for a while. But, bit by bit, it gets easier as the baby gets older and more independent. And, to be honest when I considered some of the activities I did when I had all this previous free time they were pretty inconsequential. There was a lot of recreating and binge watching -SO MUCH NETFLIX. It wasn’t like I was using all the time I had before towards growing my business. I wasn’t as motivated.

At times I felt like I was missing out on just being a mom but when I realistically think about myself and my identity I realize that I could never just be a mom even if I had tons of money and didn’t have to work. I need to create art, it’s a part of what drives me. Yes, having a kid created some logistical obstacles at times, but the motivation it created negated those obstacles. Plus, you have this incredible new person in your life that teaches you so much, and I truly feel helped me grow as an artist.

I must also point out that being an artist/mother has been made easier by two facts.  One, was working from home and selling my art online. The majority of my business comes from online sales. This means I have lower overhead expenses (my studio is in my home) and I can bring my child to the office, so to speak, and work around my child’s schedule. Which brings me to my second kiddo, who arrived just a few months ago. Remember how I said that with my first kid I had this fantasy about having a baby that would contently sit and let me work? Well, with our daughter I discovered that some babies are actually like that. Incredible, we done did it! She just chills on a blanket in my workshop, occasionally cooing or falling asleep, and when I check on her she just smiles at me. The second thing that has made this whole endeavor much more palatable is that my partner in crime Chip has always brought in a steady paycheck.  Having a regular income in the mix really takes a lot of the anxiety away from the financial ups and downs while running your own business.  So shout out to all the significant others who are making it happen with that W2 money! 

So I hope my own anecdote is helpful for anyone thinking about having a kid and being an artist (or starting your own business), or just curious about how we did it. It wasn’t easy (and sometimes it was downright hard) but in a way it was sort of like type 2 fun. And my husband often says that any activity that challenges you always pays off,…and it has.


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