I am lucky! I love what I do and I have always done it….
Financially rewarding or not somehow, by hook or by crook, we muddle through! A typical family; two children, two parents one mad spaniel and a rather horrified cat! (she came first)!
I am an artist. I've been painting forever. When my first daughter came along my husband and I were living in Normandy. He too is self-employed, so caring for our daughter was relatively easy. If I had work to do, my husband would look after her for a few hours and we were very fortunate that she took a bottle!
Although my output became much less, I was still able to take on commissions and look after my little girl. It all just happens around you as you learn what it is to be needed 24/7. It all seems so long ago now, though it isn't!
We moved back to London when Tilly was 4 months old. Our two-bedroom flat became a world of first steps, first words, and mainly organised chaos. My easel was up in the 'dining room' and I was able to paint in the evenings. As Tilly grew, things had to be rearranged a little! The day I found her covered in oil paint having nipped into the kitchen to stir the lunch was two minutes too long! Lack of space and flow meant that although continuously working, my focus became very specific. I was lucky enough to have a steady line of commissions to keep me busy but my own work was a treat I rarely indulged in.
Financially things were tight, but then I have never needed all that much! Our social life carried on at home with suppers with friends at ours rather than going out and the joy of wet dog walks, toddler groups, playdates and tired cafés became our entertainment.
I became pregnant with my second daughter before Tilly turned one! A game changer for work and for my husband! Being a self-employed working mum, with no help and no one else to pick up the slack with my painting, meant it was put on hold for a little while. My second daughter refused to be held by anyone but me. She refused a bottle and she would not sleep! My husband decided to go in-house to secure a regular income and I had to be patient and wait. Although taking on work here and there, life as a regular working mum was put on hold! The problem with my job is only I can do it! A few months in, I had to redefine my work. I started teaching privately from my home. Fellow artists would come to me. They knew I had two children under two and were wonderfully supportive of my feeding whilst teaching! The need to be a mother and the need to be creative were met. I had to be brave, I had to put myself out there and I had to be the mother my breastfeeding 4month old required, as well as an attentive teacher. The mature students I met are friends to this day! Embracing madness, accepting failure, understanding limitations are a huge thing. Motherhood in the long run has made me a better person, (most of the time!) and a much more focused person. Although frustrating, I would say my work has actually evolved because of it!
It soon became apparent that we were going to have to move. Working from home in a very tiny space is hard! We sold our flat (on the 3rd attempt) when my youngest daughter was 16 months old! A brief stay between houses with my wonderful grandmother and a move into a house in Wiltshire breathed fresh life into all of us, and most importantly into my work!
The kaleidoscope of me was fragmented into millions of colourful pieces! Me: wife, mother, artist, daughter, granddaughter, sister, the list goes on…! For the first time I was able to take a look at all these pieces of me and start to really put them together! I had been in survival mode for so long!
During the day, the girls were my priority. We explored our new home, we made wonderful friends and tried to create our new life here. My husband was commuting to London four days a week, so home life was down to me. We built a shed at the bottom of our garden soon after arriving and the easel made it from the sitting room to the garden studio; a space just for me! Although I worked every night in the sitting room, being able to leave things out; paints, papers, varnishes, charcoal and general studio clutter was both freeing and energising! The kids couldn't ruin it, the dog couldn’t knock things over! Working life was coming back! Flow was returning and my work benefited. I feel so blessed that although times were tight and often stressful, the plate spinning was becoming easier to negotiate. I could feel myself reappearing through the fog! I certainly have not achieved utopia and I am often dropping plates, but adjusting my expectations of myself and my family has enabled me to continue as a working mum! This is something that will evolve and change throughout my children’s lives. I am so lucky to be a part of the madness, and madness it is! Sometimes, I think we all forget how lucky we really are! To even have the choice!
Little people are growing here in our home! They no longer need me every second... (only every other) and with the start of school, I have been able to become more focused than I ever thought I could be. My working day is ridiculously short, but I probably achieve almost as much as I did before the girls came along. I have had to become more organised than I believed possible. I have to be realistic with what I can do. I have to adjust my financial aims. Holidays are nocturnal for me, as it's just me and the girls! God bless the day light bulb!
I am acutely aware that my babies are growing so fast. Although the days are long the years are fast! I can scarcely believe my youngest has started school. I remind myself on the days when work implodes and the bills are almost out of reach that this time is so short! In a few years I will be able to work whilst they play in the house and fend for themselves. There are some fabulous creative people supporting my journey and helping me define what is really important in my life. Working and being a full-time mother is hard! I am always exhausted, always a little more hectic than I probably feel and lists are a constant in my life! Somehow, we all make it through to the end of the day. When I see my babies sleeping and breathe a sigh of relief and head down to the studio for the next session of evening work, I know it is all worth it! We've moved country, we’ve moved house three times in three years, we have new jobs, new roles, ever changing pulls on our time, and yet here we all are.
To help remind me of how blessed I really am, a percentage of my income goes to The Woman's Refuge in Salisbury. You can see a few examples of my work on my website: www.lucindacoldreyfineart.com