As a creative, self-employed, freelancing, stay-at-home-mum, I am often asked “how do you find time to be creative when there’s so much to do at home?”
In fact, “often” doesn’t cover it. I am asked that question, or variations thereon, all the time.
And it bugs me, because it rests on a premise that I take serious issue with: that home duties should always be the first priority of a mother, or a woman at home.
Regardless of her other interests, passions, or goals, she should always be working to maintain her home as her first priority. All other pursuits should fall into the snatches of spare time she might be able to grasp at when every surface is gleaming, and every sock is paired.
The idea that creative work is non-essential, and has to be left to the fringe hours is not one that I accept.
Instead, I like to turn that question inside out and ask: “how do I find time to get any housework done when I’m so busy doing creative work?”
Do you see what I did there? I just rearranged the implied value ascribed to the two types of work that the question addresses. I made the question reflect what I consider to be important, and didn’t allow it to implicitly judge me with it’s socially determined expectations.
Suddenly, it’s a whole lot more useful and interesting question.
So, how do I find time to get any housework done when I’m so busy doing creative work?
I’m glad you asked!
1. Cram it into the mini-chunks of time that present themselves throughout the day.
I do things like: hang out a load of washing while waiting for photos to upload from my phone to the computer, or load the dishwasher while letting an undercoat in my art journal dry. You can get a lot done in the in-between minutes, and they don’t have to disrupt your flow.
2. Embrace the ebb and flow.
Some days creative work pours out of me. I fill pages and pages in my art journal, write thousands of words of my novel, or make dozens of felt flowers. On those days I get into the flow, and just make make make.
On those days, I often don’t do much house work. Or any at all.
And then there will be the days where I have nothing to write about. My hands don’t want to be making. My mind isn’t cluttered with pictures and ideas that need to get out.
On those days I put myself to work in the kitchen, to do a giant pile of dishes. I set myself to sorting all my clothes, or clearing off the kitchen bench.
I’ve learned to embrace the ebb and flow of creative work, and respect the demands of both the creative days and the lull days, to get the most value out of each.
Make the time you have to spend away from your creative work count.
You have to shower your kid, yes? Great! Get in with them, and give the walls of the shower box a once over while you supervise them.
Need to read a book that’s going to inform your creative work? Ace! Download it as an audiobook, and listen while doing the vacuuming or the the dishes.
Got some imaginative groundwork to do before you sit down to write? Yay! Do some deliberate daydreaming while you fold the laundry (just keep a notepad handy to jot down your best ideas so they don’t fly away – I’ve lost some beauties that way, and it makes me very frustrated when I can’t bring them back!).
There are a whole lot of ways you can get double value out of your time, and the hours you spend doing home-stuff don’t necessarily have to be hours not spent in creativity.
4. Accept some mess.
The simple fact is: our house is messy.
We don’t let it get too dirty, because that’s not healthy, but we are generally to be found living with a certain degree of mess. And I am okay with that, because to me, making art is more important than having clear surfaces. Writing is more important than having an empty washing basket.
I don’t know that it’s possible to ‘have it all’ when it comes to creativity and homemaking. I choose to accept some chaos and untidiness in exchange for the fulfilment, happiness, and sanity that my creative work grants me.
I’d like to challenge you to start thinking differently about how you prioritise creativity in your own life, particularly if the majority of the work you do takes place in the home. If your creative pursuits are always coming in at last priority, maybe it’s time to shake things up a little.
Your creative voice matters, and it deserves expression.