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the juggling act

I hopped on a plane on Thursday to fly to a little town in Northern California to art direct a really lovely wedding. (It was beautiful all on it's own, I can take no credit. My job was just to make sure we documented it's loveliness as well as we could.)

Every once in a while I get to run off and do a photo shoot, thanks to JR who will step in and take a day off work when needed so I can run and play "art director" once again. Photo shoots on location sound glamorous and exciting, but they are long hard days. We were up at 6 AM shooting clovers in the morning light, and still working at 8 PM trying to capture the last few minutes of daylight after the sun dropped behind the hills. Then we would race off to make it into town (a 40 minute drive away.. longer than that if you have to wait for the cows to move off the dirt road) before the only sit down restaurant closed their kitchen at 9.

Most of you know I stopped working full time at my job when I had my son C, almost 5 years ago. Now I work freelance for a few of my favorite clients, usually late at night when the kids are asleep, squeezing in a book design project when I can. It's a juggling act, trying to balance the work and being home with my family. I have tipped the scale to the "work" side, and found that I am a very cranky mother if I am staying up late each night working and always sweating a deadline. I have then tipped the scale to the "family" side and found that (after a few months of carefree bliss) I feel a little lost when I am not working on any projects. I need to be gathering inspiration, playing with color swatches, working and reworking a design until it is finally just right. I don't feel quite like myself when I'm not designing something.

So I try to balance my scale somewhere in the middle. There are times when I feel I am doing poorly at everything.. that I don't have enough hours in the day to be a good mom and a good designer and a good wife. But I think I'm getting better at the balancing act.

I flew back home Saturday night, as the wedding was in full swing, so I could be back in time for Mother's day. (Homemade cards and JR making dinner? How could I miss that?) As I walked out of the airport and saw my little ones through the car window, I was happy to be home. My children are never as cute as when I have been away from them for a few days. I am always so happy to see their little smiling faces.

On the ride home I filled JR in about how the shoot had gone: the long days, the many shots, how tired I was. He looked over and said "And you loved every minute of it, right?". I smiled. He knows me too well.

Image from one of our favorite alphabet books, Bruno Munari's ABC.

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Reader Comments (25)

So, what does it mean to art direct a wedding? Especially if you say that you can't take credit for how lovely it was. Apologies if this is a silly question, I'm just starting to learn about different artistic professions so a lot of it is still very confusing to me.

05.12.2009 | Unregistered Commentercdelphine

I'm doing the same sort of juggling act with my children, husband, and work. In my field, I get to go out on my own schedule and improve families' financial situations. It's gratifying work, especially when you can save a family their home and their car all in the same day. They end up being friends for life. However, it is difficult for me to find just the right balance between that and family life. I'm getting better as well, but I feel I still have a ways to go. I congratulate you on your efforts to meld your passions (family and work) until they're seemless. Good luck!

It's the paradox of being a woman in this world. If we are home (for many of us) something is missing and if we are at work something else fails. Much has been written about finding balance and I believe it's a constant. What works one day/week/year might not work the next. Keeping at finding the right mixture (if you're lucky enough to have the option) is the game. Good luck with it.

05.12.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Thank you for posting on this topic. I love your blog and your work. I have been home for the past five years with my child folk too and like you (and I am sure a lot of other parents) need to be involved in other aspects of life. I am an artist and I am trying to get back into creating on a daily basis. I struggled a lot with lack of time issues etc .. but realised that I am a much better mother and person when I have invested back into myself. Simpy put - you can't share what you haven't got.

05.12.2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

i always think of it as a balancing act. for two full years i was home with the boys, occ. working in my field to stay active and present. now, i am back to working three days a week and it is a tough adjustment...and not one i was totally convinced i could make. it is getting easier and i am so glad they are with my husband while i work, he is able to participate in so much now. but, it is a delicate balance, one i am not so great with but always striving for. thanks for sharing yours.

05.12.2009 | Unregistered Commentermamie

I understand the juggling part. My goal is to work just enough to maintain a presence so that I can expand my work as the kids get older and are in school. I'm also taking the opportunity to be pickier about the jobs I'm taking, and chose ones that will move my portfolio of work more towards my passions versus what pays the bills... Love your blog by the way.

05.12.2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

There have been lots of images from ABC books floating around lately. They're just a great source of clean illustration.
I know how you feel about balancing your work and your family. I am currently in a major "work" tip to my scale between work and my love of Theatre. I feel like I am a drone who isn't contributing to the world right now and I would give anything just to be NEAR a stage in any capacity. But when there is too much Theatre I long for stretches of time to sit down and just think about life, detatch into my mindless work.
I guess the best we can hope for is a nice balance, and it seems you have it right now mostly. Yay for you! : )

05.12.2009 | Unregistered CommenterRhiannonM

This is a beautiful, thoughtful post.. you've captured the struggle so many women (and men) face trying to find a balance that feels right between family, work, creativity... I've never heard of an art director for a wedding; sounds intriguing. When you say up early for a photo shoot: are you the photographer too? Or advising what should happen. Sounds fascinating!

05.12.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLecia

It's so nice to hear that I'm not the only one who is constantly trying to find that balance. It seems so rare that I get work & home balanced just right. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

05.13.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I can only imagine how hard it must be to balance work and family. I'm 5 months pregnant right now with twins and know that soon enough I'll be right there with you trying to figure it all out.

I am definitely going to check this book out... the design looks wonderful.

A lovely, lovely post. You summed it up so well. I'm really looking forward to seeing you soon!

05.13.2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

How lovely that you have the opportunity to do what you love both with being a Mom and with work. I remember the thrill of getting out and working and can imagine the weekend you had.

05.13.2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeachMama

oh yeah you are so right! I would love to see some of your shoots - will you show them here?

05.14.2009 | Unregistered CommenterIvalou

What an honest post. You really nailed it on the head, as this is the struggle of so many women. I think the "juggling act" helps us fight for the best in both aspects of our lives, work and family. I know I am on the track to being the best mom I can be when I am doing other things that nurture myself, the same is true with my family. If I am with them all the time I go crazy, time without them and I miss them like crazy. I have been following your blog for awhile and love tapping into your creative world everyonceinawhile.

05.14.2009 | Unregistered Commenterkarin

do you happen to be the creative genuis juices behind this california wedding? (thought obviously the couple is incredibly creative & detailed oriented, imaginative & able to execute)...the beauty here is unreal. and made me think of you.

05.15.2009 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie alaine

hold the phone: definitely says who the wedding was designed by, and its not your name. so. reading helps. but still. it made me think of you. wink*wink

05.15.2009 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie alaine

fun getting to know you a little more. your blog is one of my favorites.=)

05.15.2009 | Unregistered Commenteramy

i "re-tired" for a dozen years for motherhood and then jumped back in, and realized that actually I had never stopped working, one fills their life with all kinds of creative urges and goals and experiences and develops and defines themselves is exciting ways, that carries them straight back into the work force when the time is ripe.

05.17.2009 | Unregistered Commenternancy minsky

I totally get what you're saying about tipping the scale and doing the balancing act. It would probably be so much easier if I never tipped that scale toward work related stuff...but then I would just find myself a little lost...like I've actually LOST a piece of myself, if that makes any sense. I think juggling and tipping that scale from time to time actually makes me a better mother - it's just hard to do :)

Love your blog, btw.

05.20.2009 | Unregistered Commenterchloe

I can relate to everything you said here. The balancing act is something that I'm always battling. The good thing is that, much like you, I'm so very lucky that I'm married to someone who understands all my craziness.

06.3.2009 | Unregistered Commenterpatricia

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