Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Handmade: Balancing Art and Motherhood

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

It’s 2:30 pm. An order has come in for a pair of earrings. The convo received notes the recipient’s birthday is in two days. The customer realizes it’s last minute, but if there’s any possibility they can arrive on time… I turn on my torch to anneal the metal. Really, these earrings take thirty minutes, and I most likely can at least come close to getting them to her on her birthday. I know enough not to make any promises.

Earrings by Prunella's Workshop

The baby gate comes crashing down. This one piece of plastic separates my two-year-old daughter from meeting up with my torch. It has never come down before, but she decided it was time to climb it, as “Baby” doll “fell” over the gate moments before. The torch is turned off faster than it takes for me to write this sentence, and no harm comes to anyone. However, this is only one example of the struggles we moms face when we pursue a career in the arts. There is no office daycare, and daycare centers are expensive. What would only take thirty minutes can take hours due to interruptions through out the day. It becomes easier to stay up and work to the wee hours of morning, or wake up before the crack of dawn to accomplish anything, especially when the kids are still toddlers.

K trying to get a closer look at mommy's work

Bev of Linkouture points out that while they are still infants it isn’t so difficult. There are
interruptions to meet with the baby’s feeding schedule. However, babies can be worn. They aren’t mobile yet; therefore, they are limited in how much trouble they can find.

They don’t stay small and immobile, though, as Jessica Burko can tell you. As a mother to two small children ages 2 and 4, Jessica notes and it has been a real struggle to maintain an erratic and intense work schedule since becoming a mother. She suggests to mothers to remain organized. Keeping a really accurate and detailed calendar that includes both work and family activities and deadlines can help a mother plan ahead and make sure child care is available as necessary as well as balance family fun time with work life. Jessica notes that having a husband who is understanding of her scheduling needs, who shares in the responsibilities of family and home is beneficial.

Jessica Burko's daughter Naomi painting pumpkins

However, dads have to go to work too, and at some point we need to get our work done with the little kids under foot. Jessica Burko says when her two toddlers are home climbing the mama mountain, and she has work to complete, she gives them a project of their own so they can "work" in tandem. Jessica explains in her house this is often something mildly destructive/messy like painting with glitter glue, using the paper slicer (for the 4 year old) or drawing with the "big markers" (for the 2 year old). 

Susanne Guirakhoo of Enchanted Hue has older kids, now; however, she points out not all kids are the same. Her eldest, not dissimilar to my oldest child, was content to sit and play quietly. If you told him not to do something he listened. Susanne had seventeen rooms to paint from floor to ceiling, including the trim of an old Victorian, and her toddler cooperated. Her second son was more like my second; he was filled with unending energy, and constantly in to something. She assures us, there was no way she could have accomplished the same quantity of work she was able to do with her first. Furthermore, Susanne and her husband are not native to the United States, and they don’t have family who could watch the kids on occasion. She notes she utilized a local babysitting exchange. Now her oldest is in college, and her husband is working abroad. She is running her business while caring for her teenage son on her own, in addition to a part time job. While he is far more self sufficient than a two year old, her son still has needs and demands on his mother.

As much time and effort as I put into being the primary person running Prunella’s Workshop, I am in charge of running my house and caring for my children. I am fortunate my husband also makes jewelry, and he takes on certain roles in the business as well. When we have a deadline to meet he burns the midnight oil fabricating. He fluctuates in how much responsibility for the house he needs to take on so I can do what I need to do. He also is my constant reminder that I have in fact accomplished everything I could do on a day I
didn’t make it into the workshop due to child issues. 

My son C helping make some earrings
I also make it a point to leave the house almost once a day. Sometimes it is merely the grocery store. I have joined a MOMS club, where I meet with other moms who are home with their kids. Perhaps they cannot relate to what it is like to try to work metal while their child is trying to climb the baby gate, but they understand so much of what goes on in the day-to-day life of a mom. It takes me away from my work, but it provides my daughter with
much needed socialization and exhausts her. I can get that Etsy order done during her nap and mail it before the birthday after all.

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