Being a mom to a toddler is pretty demanding. You spend a lot of time trying to repair the path of destruction they carve through your home. Even a well behaved toddler, the second your back is turned, will unleash the destructive force of several category five hurricanes. Five angry, petulant hurricanes, that can’t fathom why you won’t let them eat a box of Jello powder for breakfast, and are determined to exact their revenge the second you do something so irresponsibly crazy as take a shower. The second that happens, all bets are off. They’re mixing together the clean and dirty laundry. They’re emptying the cabinet in the corner of the kitchen (you know, the one that it’s impossible to put a child lock on?) and stashing cans of tomatoes beneath the couch like you’re preparing for WWIII. While your head is under the couch they’ve moved into your bedroom and are coloring on the wall with purple crayon, even though every crayon in the house is under Fort-Knox like security.
Not that any of these things have ever happened to me.
Okay- they have. All of them. My point is, I know what it’s like to live in a state of perpetual exhaustion. I’m sure you do too. Between family, relationships, job, school…LIFE…sometimes there’s very little time left for the things YOU want to do. Sometimes (often) life leaves me with little time left over for painting, or baking, or blogging, or any of the other creative outlets.
But there are little tricks for squeezing a little creative time into your day.
If you’re anything like me, when you’re used to getting very little time to yourself, then suddenly you’re presented with a glorious stretch of evening to do ANYTHING YOU WANT (!!!) you lock up. You’re overwhelmed/frozen. The possibilities are too mind-boggling. (I call this the music store syndrome, because when I was younger I would have huge lists of all the CDs I wanted in my head, under the minute I set foot in a music store, when I would promptly forget what kind of music I liked).
So…what can you do?
Keep a List
This is different from the “do the laundry, sweep the floor, drop clothes off at Goodwill, change the lightbulbs” list. This list is for YOU. I keep several notebooks all over the house, and a couple stashed in my purse. I also have the Evernote app on my phone so that my lists are with me wherever I go. That way, whenever I have an idea, it’s not problem to write it down, or make a quick sketch. I have a list, almost a page long, of projects I want to tackle, and projects I’ve started and not finished (if I don’t write them down I lose track). The more you record your ideas, the better. You don’t want to waste time desperately trying to remember that cool idea you had when you were in the shower yesterday morning. Long lists are great, because if you go to tackle one of your ideas and aren’t feeling it (it happens) you have several alternatives waiting for your attention.
Keep Your Supplies Accessible
If your supplies are shoved away in the back of a closet and you know you have to rearrange several boxes of Christmas decorations to access them, do you really think you’re going to use them? No. You’ll think about how long it’s going to take to dig them out, and since you know you have an hour (tops) to work, suddenly the whole task seems a lot more daunting and it’s much more likely you’ll end up on the couch watching episodes of Unwrapped learning about how jelly beans are made. I’m not saying your art supplies should reside on top of your kitchen table, but if you keep the materials you need for your current project in a nice accessible spot, you’re a lot more likely to reach for them when you have a few minutes to spare. If I’m working on a new marker drawing, for example, I keep my drawing board and whatever colors I’m using on the kitchen counter. If It’s a digital project, I keep the files on my desktop. Easy access is key.
Speaking of supplies….
Keep your supplies organized
This goes along with being accessible, but nothing is more frustrating than losing most of your work time to searching for the right supplies. I’m the first to confess that I’m no neat-freak (my bf calls my car the “pit of despair” and my sink is perpetually full of dishes) but my art supplies? Meticulously organized. Pencils, markers, pencils and paints each have their own container, and are rubber banded together by color. Need a mustard yellow marker? Boom. I can find one in two second flat. Paintbrushes are clean and free of hardened paint. The quicker you can get to your stuff, the better. Even the art files on my computer are carefully organized for quicker access.
Working for ten minutes is better than not working at all.
I get you. It’s frustrating to have so little time, when what you REALLY want is an uninterrupted eight hours to paint on a Saturday afternoon. But guess what? You might not get it, so learn to deal with what you have. Let’s say a piece of art takes four hours for you to create (maybe less, maybe more, I’m just throwing out an example). If you work for ten minutes a day, you’ll have it finished in under four weeks, even if you take a few days off. If you wait for the “perfect” opportunity to work, weeks could go by without you touching it, and months later you still have absolutely nothing. Isn’t slow progress better than no progress at all?
And for those of you with kids….
One hour of tv will not destroy your kids brains.
I don’t believe in letting the TV raise your kids, but if an hour of Yo Gabba Gabba or Seasame Street is going to hold my toddler’s attention long enough for me to squeeze in a bit of painting, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it.
Ask Someone to Babysit. Really. It’s okay.
I’m the worst person on earth for having working mom guilt. Ask anyone who knows me. I always thought it was inexcusable to be away from the kids even one extra hour unless I absolutely had to be. It felt selfish to me. But I’ve slowly come to realize, you absolutely need that time for your mental health. If someone offers to take the kids for a couple hours, don’t feel bad about taking them up on it!