Welcome to Week 14 of Motherhood by Design – the series where mothers who also run creative businesses share their inspirations and their experiences juggling the demands of raising children while growing a creative career.
"The nature of creativity is to value process over the outcome of things. It’s a great life lesson in general. Goals are important, but the journey to reach them is equally important. There have to be rewards in both parts."
Lisa Cadigan of Cadigan Creative is a powerhouse of creativity. She is currently a graphic designer and a singer, but has also been an actor and a teacher and is active in cultivating her kids' musical talent. She's put her creativity to the test by finding unique ways to get her work done with small kids (I love how she managed it!) and now that they're a bit older, they take on new challenges together. And her 1o-minute tip is a good one - read on to find out what it is!
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Lisa - can you please describe your family?
Me, my husband, my 12-year-old son, my eight-year-old daughter, a middle-aged rescue hound, Nora, and a hamster named Ginger.
What is your business?
Eclectic. I have been joking about creating business cards with the job title, “Professional Bohemian.” I may actually order them. Mostly, I freelance as a graphic designer, but I earn the occasional paycheck singing with a jazz group called Pomona’s Trio. I have held positions as an editor, actor, and acting instructor in the past, and I enjoy event planning, especially fundraising events for causes I find meaningful. I serve on the board of my local arts council.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
When I was little I wanted to be on Broadway. In the third grade, my friends and I mounted a production of selections from Annie, which we choreographed and rehearsed at recess. Our teacher let us do our performance for family and friends accompanied by the record album on Grandparents’ Day. I started doing plays in elementary school, and continued through graduate school. I have always loved to sing, whether it is with a hairbrush microphone in the mirror, in the car, or in front of actual people.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
I enjoyed art projects, but they weren’t my first love. I was more of a mover and a shaker. That’s still true today. I wish I could paint, for example, but I am not sure I have the patience to learn and practice. I keep trying anyway, but not in any disciplined way – only when the spirit moves me.
When you were a child, did you have ideas about your own future as a mother? Was motherhood something you’d always imagined for yourself, or is it an idea you grew into later in life?
I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I can remember being little and trying to picture myself as an adult woman. For some reason, the image that always came to mind was of me with the dress and hairdo you would see on Lucille Ball in an “I Love Lucy” episode. I’m not sure why – I’ve never been one to even wear dresses often.
More realistically, though, I have always had a great relationship with my own mom, and as a little girl I hoped I would have the opportunity to sit on my own daughter’s bed at night to chat about life the way my mom did with me. I feel lucky that I get to do that now.
In your early years of motherhood, did you have/make time for your creative pursuits, or was your creative work put aside for a while? If the latter, when did you pick it back up?
I started working part-time out of my home as a freelance graphic designer after my son was born in 2002, but before joining Pomona’s Trio in 2011, I hadn’t performed in any capacity in over ten years. I did enjoy making creative birthday cakes for the kids, though, and hosting playdates with other moms in those early years. My part-time, work-at-home situation made that possible. More creative things were do-able when my daughter reached toddlerhood. My son mostly kept me running around a lot when he was a little guy. Both of my kids play musical instruments now, though, and I enjoy working with them while they practice, and watching them develop as musicians.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I was on staff at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) editing and designing their monthly magazine prior to having my son. When he was born, I left as a staffer, but I continued freelancing as the designer for the publication, and I also started taking on additional projects with other clients when time allowed.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
I knew in my 20’s that I wanted to lay groundwork to be able to continue working, while also being the primary presence in my future-kids’ lives as a stay-at-home mom. I took the job at AZA knowing it would be great experience in managing a pretty large project, and it has served me really well in my career since then.
Graphic design is a great gig, because it is portable and flexible. When my son was in pre-school, I would pack up my laptop and find a room at the back of the building to set up my “office” and work uninterrupted for the few hours he was with his class. I can also work at night after the kids are sleeping if I need to catch up on a project, and my business survived a move out of town when my husband took a new job, because I can communicate with clients electronically from any location.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
It was a lot crazier before they were both in school full-time. When they were little I worked during naps and preschool. I stopped working for my daughter’s first two years, and then enrolled her in a part-time preschool program when she was 2 ½, so I could start taking on projects again. Now my kids are both in school full time, so I just try to manage a workload between the hours of 9 and 3 that still allows me to volunteer at their schools, chaperone field trips, and be home when someone’s sick. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
It affects the hours, obviously – I work while the kids are at school, and I put it all away when they get home, so I can help with homework and shuttle them to their various activities. Motherhood has also taught me not to take anything too seriously or worry too terribly when things aren’t going exactly as planned. I have learned to be a lot more flexible thanks to being a mom.
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
The creative processes I enjoy most are ones I like to share with my kids. I enjoy being a part of their music instruction. My daughter and I will often spend a Saturday hiking with our cameras, or setting up paints and easels in the kitchen to try our hands at painting. The kids are also great subjects for when I dabble with photography. All things considered, however, it might be more accurate to say that my creative processes affect my mothering—I really want the kids to learn to value process over outcome. I’m still learning that, too.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
I hope my kids see me able to make a living doing things I love. I also want my creative pursuits to help them see me as a three-dimensional human being with a variety of interests. I want my daughter to know that she can retain all parts of her being even if she becomes a mom someday, and if my son ever marries, I hope he’ll choose a partner whose passions he respects, admires and supports. I hope that for both of them.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I want them to follow their hearts, focus on doing the next right thing, and have faith that if they do that, everything else works out exactly the way it’s supposed to. The nature of creativity is to value process over the outcome of things. It’s a great life lesson in general. Goals are important, but the journey to reach them is equally important. There have to be rewards in both parts.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Just find 10 minutes each day to focus on something you love, whether it’s ten minutes of quiet thought to simply identify the goal, or ten minutes to sing in the shower, or ten minutes to take a walk and find something you’d like to paint/create/sculpt/write about – whatever it is you’re longing to do. Once you know what you want to be doing, use those ten minutes to move toward it each day. The ten minutes will grow, the kids will grow, circumstances evolve, ideas germinate into actions. Tiny steps towards our passions accumulate over time, so just start with ten minutes, and really enjoy them.
Thank you so much, Lisa, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Lisa in the following places: