Everything seems to be going to plan. You’ve slogged your way through your 20s, honing your craft and charming the requisite industry schmoozebags. But just as it’s all taking off, a stork swoops in and throws a baby in the works. A wailing, puking, albeit cute, bundle of neediness. How do you feel?
“Terrified,” recalls Dave Stitch, one half of live electronic music duo TReen, together with his partner Louisa Yorke. Now a father of two, Dave had his first child when he was 28 and Louisa was 29. “My whole existence up until the moment I had kids had been geared towards minimising costs in my life so I could devote myself to the creative process. How can I be responsible for a tiny new person?”
Photographers Gawain Barnard and Chiara Tocci had similar concerns. “Personal work takes up time and mental energy,” says Gawain. “We were both very worried that, physically, we wouldn’t have that space to continue.” Initially they didn’t. “The impact for the first couple of months was that everything stopped,” Gawain remembers. “It was a whole new life, but then you start to work around it.”
Arguably, being self-employed in the creative industries (rather than having a “proper job”) is more conducive to “working around” children. Twenty-nine-year-old Poppy Burton-Morgan, Artistic Director of Metta Theatre, was back directing a show two weeks after the birth of her son. “I just took him with me,” she says, adding, “If you run your own company, you can create working practices that suit having a family.” Poppy continues: “I can call the shots and say, ‘We are going to rehearse these hours’, or ‘We’re going to rehearse sporadically’.”
On those occasions when she really can’t bring her son along, Poppy sometimes saves money on childcare by “crowd sourcing” it from among her friends and family. “There was one week of rehearsals last year where he went to 12 different people! I’d give him out for three hours, they’d bring him back, I’d make him lunch and then pass him on for another three hours.”
That’s not to say it’s going to be easy, particularly if you’re juggling a more traditional day job alongside your creative work. “The last thing I feel like doing after battling with kids' bedtimes and being at work all day is wrestling with recalcitrant hardware,” Louisa says. “But I’ve learnt to be tough with myself and push through the fatigue.” Dave has also developed a more disciplined approach. “As my responsibilities have multiplied, my focus has become finer. I've found there are loads of small things you can achieve in 10 minutes with kids knocking around your feet."
Instead of smothering your creativity under a mountain of stinky nappies, parenthood might propel you forward artistically. “I didn't realise how inspiring having kids would be” says Dave. “I want to create things that have genuine worth; it seems disrespectful to my kids to do anything else." Gawain concurs: “Regardless of whether my work is successful, I want my child to know that I’ve put all my effort in to it.”
Louisa attributes her decision to take music more seriously to the birth of her kids. “The nature of time changes; all of a sudden you experience and appreciate it as the precious resource it is. If there’s anything you want to do in your life, now is the time to do it,” she says. “The thought I’d be defined as a wife and mother – that my identity and all my time would be consumed by my children – terrified me. I wanted to be a good role-model for my girls: how better to teach them that they can do anything they want than by doing it myself?"
Are you concerned about how having kids in the future might affect your creative ambitions? Or do you have kids already? Share your thoughts and experiences below!
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Image by Andy Matthews, on a Creative Commons license.