I got an email from a woman in South Carolina who asked me this question: “Do you have any advice on creating art while taking care of young children? How do you do it?”
My answer: ‘When my own kids were small they were number one - above my art, but I also realized that kids do get more self sufficient and eventually move away so I needed to have something for myself. Not to mention if I didn't spend any time on my art I wasn't able to give as much to the kids. Not only was it a good example to them to see their mom taking care of herself, but necessary to my own well being.
If you do have help - a supportive partner who also spends time with the kids then by all means make an arrangement so that you can spend some time each week devoted to your art with no distractions.
If you don't have help you're going to have be creative in finding some. Is there another parent of one of your children's friends who you can swap time with? A family member who can baby-sit once a week?
I remember many years ago I came to the realization that IF I was going to make art, it was really up to ME and no one else to make it happen. That thought transformed my life because I could no longer use other people not helping as an excuse.
The most fun and easiest thing to do is set up your house so that you can work while taking care of the kids.
Having a place in your home where you can keep your work set up helps a lot so that you don't have to put away your supplies all the time - I've worked on my kitchen table and then had to clean it off for dinner way too many times. The problem becomes that it's too hard to take it out again to finish a project. I eventually made my living room (I was fortunate enough to have a living room and a family room) into my studio and my dining room into my office. A table set up in a corner of the family room, or dining room will help tremendously. It's much better to have a space of your own - even if it's small. And then have a space for your kids to do art projects of their own with their own supplies. Most kids love to be creative. You can set aside an hour a day (and it could last longer if you're all having fun and depending on your kids ages) to everyone working on their own art project - including you!
Although it might seem at first thought to have a space far away from your main living area might be best because it's the most quiet place - I've found that having my work space near my family was what worked best for me because I was more likely to BE there. I wanted to know what my kids were doing and be there if they needed me. That's just my personal preference. I just got used to working with a lot of noise around me. As a matter of fact, as I sit here and type I've had to get up and let my Shelties in the house twice because they were barking at the neighbor dogs!
Another idea is that if the kids settle down to watch a movie each day there could be some quiet time for you - now, believe me, I'm not suggesting using the TV as a babysitter, but if you do allow some time for them to watch it - this could be a nice window of opportunity. They could look forward to seeing what you've created after the movie is over.
I would say that being PRESENT for your kids while you are sharing your day is the best thing you can do. Pay a lot of attention to them while you play, take them out, make meals - just every day stuff, and listen to them. They will be a lot more likely to understand YOUR needs if you give them some undisrupted time. And they won't be trying to get your attention every minute of the day if they feel they've already HAD your attention.’
If you don’t have small children, but other people or animals that take a lot of your attention, aging parents for example, you can use some of those same ideas or principles.