How do I balance creative work with family life? While creative work can be more flexible, the challenges and joys of raising a family are no more or less tricky whether you’re tied to an office, theater or unfinished novel chapter.
For there to be a healthy balance, partners must be supportive, we know that. But the malignant myth of Superwoman still permeates our culture—the assumption that one partner takes on the majority of the domestic load (mental and physical) while the other is the “backup.” I refuse to subscribe to the idea that for me to be a successful (female) creative, I’m expected to run the household, micromanage the children’s timetables and whip my partner into shape when he doesn’t adequately perform tasks assigned to him. Instead, I believe we must take it on, all of it, together.
Once the home becomes a team project, attention can be devoted to other, juicier decisions. In our house, when job offers and interviews come up, we weigh their merit based on time commitment and personal development. We are a home of creatives willing to sacrifice earnings at times—live lean for a bit, squirrel away when we can—if a job offers benefits in other ways.
Last summer, for example, I performed at the Edinburgh Festival in a piece that tackled the subject of mortality in a refreshing, honest and powerful way. I was paid just enough to cover my food expenses, and accommodation and travel were provided. To do the project, I ducked out of our family trip to visit relatives in upstate New York and I missed my three boys horribly, but I knew the project was soul food and would energize me on a profound level.
My family joined me for the last few days at the festival. It was a delight watching my young sons’ eyes widen at the burst of creativity around them, and I loved taking the eldest to work, him helping with the mounting and dismounting of our set. My decision led to an enrichment we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. The show went on to a London theater run and was later awarded funding, and we begin a (paid) U.K. tour this month—I’m glad I followed my instinct, a skill often viewed with skepticism.
But is it possible to place creative needs on the never-ending list of priorities? Of course. Vital in fact.
In this world, we are encouraged to be logical, practical and measured; these qualities are essential for our survival. But if it is creative success and gratification you strive for, these qualities alone will not get you there. As a mother, tuning into my feral side is challenging, but once I accept that and tap into the openness, imagination and endurance needed to parent, my creative life expands, too.
Do I work regular hours? No. Do I schedule time to daydream, hatch, plan, source inspiration? Absolutely. Is it always ordered and peaceful? No. Being part of a family places huge demands on your time. But is it possible to place creative needs on the never-ending list of priorities? Of course. Vital in fact.
Right now, I’m sitting beneath a tree at the park, watching my sons alternately play and bicker over their beloved soccer ball. The eldest dashes close by with a new playmate.
“That your mum?” asks the new friend.
“Yeah,” my firstborn replies, all 10-year-old nonchalant. “She’s doing her writing right now, so…”
In the unfinished sentence, the new friend senses I’m not to be interrupted just yet, though the mention of writing piques his curiosity. I won’t spend our entire afternoon lost in my own thoughts, but offering them space to do what they love earns me a little space to do the same. Ultimately, isn’t that what we aspire to when collaborating within a group, be it a family, corporation or small business? A little space to devote time and attention to the things we love?
A creative life and family needs can be balanced, and with artful flexibility from all involved, it offers rewards in abundance.
Related: 14 Loving Quotes About Family
Sara Alexander graduated from Hampstead School in London and went on to attend the University of Bristol, graduating with a BA Honors in Theatre, Film and TV. She followed on to complete her postgraduate diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much loved productions such as Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Dr. Who and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow. Her debut novel, Under a Sardinian Sky, released April 25, 2017.