• Parenting With a Pen: Balancing Kids and Your Own Creativity

    Finding time for creativity while raising kids can feel impossible, but I promise it’s not. Today, I’m sharing six lessons I’ve learned about balancing the beautiful chaos of parenting with a passion for art and calligraphy.

    Mother’s Day, a holiday that I’ve celebrated for myself for five years now, was on Sunday. There are so many things that I love about being a parent: snuggling with my kids, watching them laugh and play together, and those times when they say something heart-breakingly sweet. (“Mom, I could never ever be mad at you, no matter what you do,” my five-year-old informed me.*) Parenthood, however, also comes with ample moments where you think you might lose your mind. We’ve all been there: zero personal space, exhausting negotiations, and big emotions.

    *That same five-year-old did, indeed, become livid at me within the hour when I wouldn’t let him watch The Super Mario Bros. Movie for the 10,000th time.

    My two-year-old becomes Godzilla anytime she notices I’ve sat down to indulge in some drawing or calligraphy.

    Before becoming a parent, I thought balancing small children and creative projects would be easy. As it turns out, obviously, I was wrong. I’m coming up on six years of experience staying true to my creative roots and my desire to be a good parent, which are two goals that are often at odds. Today, I’d like to share the lessons that I’ve learned about finding time for art, managing expectations, and maintaining a sense of self amidst the chaos of raising children.

    1. Set Realistic Goals

    Pre-kids, the days that I dedicated to a project were solely dedicated to that project. Now, I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself. Instead of giving myself a day or two to make something — like a time-consuming gift (say, a house portrait or a family tree) — I try to budget at least two weeks.

    A little hand sabotaged my photo of the Paris map cleaning cloth. I shrugged, then I promised my two-year-old that if she’d move her arm for the next photo, she could pour all of the paintbrushes on the floor. (She agreed, obviously. She knows a good deal when she hears one.)

    Furthermore, when it comes to tasks like taking photos for blog posts or making Instagram videos, I don’t push myself to perfection. Before I had kids, I would take 20 versions of the same photo. Then, I’d edit a couple until they were *just right*. It was a time-consuming process that, in retrospect, didn’t really matter. Now, my philosophy is to embrace “good enough”! And, if I don’t achieve exactly what I want to today, hey, there’s always tomorrow.

    2. Remember That There’s Always a Solution

    There will be a time when your children mess up a project you’re working on. When that happens, you have to shrug and remind yourself that there’s always a solution. Yes, maybe that solution is to re-do the piece — but more often than not, it’s not as dramatic as that.

    My child gave this illustration in progress a chocolatey accent after this photo was taken.

    For example, I’ve been working on a series of detailed illustrations to include in my upcoming book. When I was almost finished with the illustration above, my two-year-old crawled into my lap. She had, unbeknownst to me, been snacking on a chocolate tahini spread. Somehow, her greasy, chocolatey finger made its way right into the middle of the illustration. At first, I was so mad at myself — why had I let her near the illustration? Then, I took a breath and went into problem-solving mode. Turns out that, with the clever use of a sand eraser (affiliate link), that chocolate mark disappeared.

    3. Involve Your Children

    For me, this concept is often easier said than done. If you’re going to create alongside your child, they have to be a certain kind of kid in a certain kind of mood. Once in a while, I’ll hit a co-creativity sweet spot where my son says he wants to draw with me. Sometimes, we are able to complete a project — like these keepsake ornaments.

    Making DIY Paper Ornaments

    While it’s a fun time, I never work on projects that I really care about during “mommy and me” art sessions. Generally, I begin those sessions working on my own project, then my child asks me to help him draw something. I consider it to be a bonding experience and a creative challenge. After all, in what other context am I going to draw Thor fighting a zombified version of Goofy?

    There’s a lot to unpack here. A giant version of Goofy as a zombie, Thor, a plane crash, Captain America’s shield, and Spider-Man with his fleet of mice.

    If you choose to make something with your child, remember to keep the focus on them. Sometimes, we get so serious about whatever we’re making that it can be frustrating when you don’t get to concentrate like you’d be able to in a solo creation session. If you start to feel that way, remember that they’re only this little once, and they’ll remember these moments for years to come*.

    *One of my most cherished collection of memories is drawing with my grandmother as a young child. Those creation sessions cultivated the love that I have for art and creativity now.

    4. Delegate

    As a mother, I often find it difficult to delegate — even to my spouse. I have this idea that I should be able to do it all, and I have to actively remind myself that is not the case. We all have stressful days. When those days feel like too much, I ask my husband to occupy the kids while I work on a sketchbook page.

    Hernán and Baby Working | The Postman's Knock
    I constantly remind myself to delegate to my spouse — whether that’s by asking him to empty the dishwasher or to be in charge of entertaining the kids.

    For me, working on that sketchbook page isn’t about finishing it: it’s about improving my mental health in the process. I go into that office feeling frazzled. Then, a while later, I come out with a calm energy that allows me to be a better mother.

    5. Stay Organized (and Practical)

    In the pre-children days, I prided myself on a certain chaotic no-rhyme-or-reason organizational system. I more or less knew where everything was, and it was okay if it took me a while to find what I was looking for. Now, I always put things back like I’ve got to keep it organized for someone else. Why? Because I know that Future Lindsey will have zero memory of what Today Lindsey did with the glue. I didn’t seem to have that problem before; parenthood does that to you.

    Staying organized has many benefits. Mainly, though, you can find everything quickly so you can be efficient with the time that you have to make your project. Another bonus to being organized is that, ideally, your organization system should keep items out of the hands of little people. Nib tins, pen rolls, and strategic positioning that keep brushes and pens out of reach go a long way in that respect!

    6. Give Yourself a Dedicated Space

    As a parent, you have to wear a lot of hats. Throughout the day, you’re a chef, a personal assistant, a cleaning professional, and a therapist — among many other roles. It can be very difficult to throw off those other hats to just be “artist”. If you have the space, it’s a good idea to designate a place in your home just for making art. Even the smallest of organized spaces can signal to the brain that it’s time to switch into a creative mode.

    When I enter this room, I immediately feel more relaxed and creative.

    When you don’t have children, it’s much easier to take over the kitchen table or make a casual project in the living room. Once you have kids, though, it’s remarkable how much some structure can benefit everyone. I’ve found that my children take what I’m doing more seriously if I am creating in my office versus the dining table or the couch. It’s a signal to everyone, myself included, that I’m giving myself a few moments of “me time”. (Not everyone has the space for a dedicated workspace, and that’s okay. Other solutions exist, like transforming an unused corner into your work area or just taking your creation sessions on the road.)

    Child looking at watercolor paint palettes

    A lot of you who read this blog are more seasoned parents than I am. Some of you have older kids, while others are grandparents. Some readers aren’t parents to children, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have things in your life that vie for your attention like a child would. The main takeaway from this blog post — and this applies to everyone — is this: taking care of yourself ensures you can take care of others. Every time you sit down to work on your art, you’re also working on your mental health.

    Remy and Lindsey Making Art

    So, whether you’re guiding a toddler through their first steps, supporting a teenager through exams, or balancing other demanding aspects of life, remember that your creative pursuits are not just a hobby; they’re a vital part of maintaining your wellbeing. I encourage you to continue to embrace your creative endeavors not just as escapes, but as essential practices for living a balanced life. Remember, nurturing your own spirit enables you to be the best version of yourself for those who depend on you. If you need ideas for what to make, feel free to browse TPK’s extensive collection of free tutorials.

    Hats off to all the caregivers out there. You’re doing a great job!


    PS – If you liked this article, check out Samantha Dion Baker‘s recent blog post Mothering Two Kids and My Craft. I thought it was a great read!