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by Katy Otto

Erin and I met as teens while touring the DIY/punk/riot grrrl circuit. We later played together in a few bands when she moved to DC. She's currently in Governess, Pygmy Lush and Hand Grenade Job, and is my utter inspiration in motherhood and music.

Please tell us about both your creative life/practice and your experience with parenting.

My creative life includes running a design/screen print studio/online shop, as well as playing music in multiple bands. The amount of time I spend doing any of those things was pretty consistent from the time I was a teenager up until I had kids, but since my first child was born, my creative time has ebbed and flowed. My children are very close in age, and while my son was a baby and I was pregnant with my second I managed to play in a band for a few months. As soon as number two was born, I essentially had to stop doing all of those things for about a year. I had two under two, and as much as I would have liked to continue my creative life, I just could not sustain any energy for it. I was in survival mode and just trying to keep my head above the diapers/feedings/laundry/shitshow that is new parenthood. My personality thrives on "alone time" and I found the transition into parenthood very difficult.

What were some of the fears you had (if any) about how becoming a parent would impact your creative life? Would you say now, in retrospect, that they were well founded?

I didn't really give much thought about how becoming a parent would impact my creative life. I feel like I was so naive. I figured it would all be fine and I'd figure something out, but I had no way of realistically understanding the impact my children would have on my energy.

What does your creative life look like currently? How is it different from before you were a parent?

The types of creative things I do haven't changed. I think the difference is in the efficiency and deliberateness of it. I don't have the luxury of doing things when inspiration strikes. I have to write way more things down now, and a lot of planning goes into carving out time to create and work on projects. Even if a project is a solitary one, I cannot do it alone and it really takes a community of support for even the most basic creative things to happen in my life. Things take longer. The pace is slower because there's a myriad of things that can derail the momentum at any minute. Kids get sick. They share their germs generously. Ear infections happen. Child care support cancels. Partners want your time too :-)

How do you carve out time and space for your creative practice as a parent?

Family and friends are important. If I didn't have a supportive partner or free grandma childcare, I don't think I could afford to pay for a sitter as much as I would need to make things happen. I still do a lot of stuff after the kids go to bed. It's my "third" shift. But on those days when I'm just too tired, it's gotta wait.

What kinds of adjustments did you make to your creative practices when you became a parent?

For me becoming a parent also coincided with a lot of new technology in my life. I had never had a smart phone before I had kids, and voice memos have proved to be an important tool for documenting ideas on the fly. I had also never used Garageband or any sort of digital recording program before kids, so it was all great timing as far as being able to be a bit more self contained and independent in how and when I worked. Being able to share ideas via these things helped keep things moving in the really slow moments.

What do you tell your children, if anything, about the role of creativity in your life?

They're still pretty young, so aside from them consistently seeing both their parents making time to fulfill creative pursuits, we have yet to have conversations about it. It's their normal.

Do you talk to them (if age appropriate) about the role of creativity in their lives?

We generally try to lead by example. We have musical instruments around for them to use. We have art supplies and an art space that they can access whenever they want. If the desire is there, they have no obstacles for creativity.

In what ways do you think being an active artist/writer/musician/creator helps make your parenting stronger?

I think whenever a parent has an opportunity to engage in anything that allows them to express themselves or revisit their own identity outside of their role as parent/caregiver, they can benefit. It doesn't necessarily have to be artistic or musical.

In what ways do you think being a parent has made your artistic practice stronger?

I'm not sure I'd say that it has.

Are there other people who inspired you in the ways they approached creative work as a parent?

Anytime I see someone who is a parent doing something creative that they're passionate about, it inspires me. I have so much more appreciation for the amount of time and energy it takes, regardless of whether I personally like what they're doing or not. I have a baseline of respect for them.

What do your children think of your creative work?

Sometimes they like it. They are not shy critics. They are not into the amount of time it takes me away from them, but I am comfortable and confident that I have a balance, so I don't worry about it.

Do you think creative communities are friendly to children and parents and encourage their presence? Are there any ways these communities could improve? Feel free to be specific if you would like to.

It depends. In music, there's the places that definitely are not, like clubs and bars and shows starting late, etc. Which is fine by me. I don't expect them to be or care that they aren't. I want to be away from my kids when I'm there! There's also places like Fort Reno that are absolutely awesome for children and parents. I think it's funny when the odd flier for a show says, "kids welcome!" but the show isn't billed to start until 9pm. Hah. I mean, I know everyone has their own schedule with their kids but 8 out of 10 little kids I know are in bed by then. So I think it's a case of some DIY/ punk communities wanting to be family friendly, but it's still mostly people without kids, so as the saying goes, you don't know what you don't know. I guess if I wanted to take my kids, I'd find a way, but I'm into the time apart from them, so I don't mind.

How did becoming a parent affect your creative partnerships with other people?

I am appreciative when people are willing to accommodate my haphazard schedule and the last minute things that come up with kids.

Do you think that some of the challenges parenting presents for creative practice are impacted by your gender? Please share any thoughts you have about this.

Of course. As the body in the family that carried and grew the children, my creative practice was impacted immediately. It's awkward playing guitar with a pregnant belly. When you drum you get all squished and you can't breathe. Then there's the recovery from birth. If my partner could have breastfed our kids I think I would have wept with joy. So many hours spend just feeding these little creatures. Having an infant who only wants to be held by mom is a very real thing. They get over it, but it's a lot to contend with if trying to keep pace with a creative life.

Do you have any more thoughts to share with other prospective or current parents about preserving and nurturing one's own creative efforts while raising children?

For current parents, a high five and the reminder that it's okay to slow down. Don't compare yourself to your peers who don't have kids, or expect to keep pace with them. Go easy on yourself, physically, mentally, spiritually. Most of us are just plugging away and we're doing our best. That's all you can do, and that can be enough. If you don't have kids and are thinking about whether or not you will decide to have them, take a very real look at who you are and be honest with yourself about what you want to prioritize. Parenthood is not for everyone. Also, the people i know who have one child have very different (and less disrupted) lives from those with more than that. Just something to consider.

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