‘Balance doesn’t exist’ and other lessons for parents

Parents have a lot to juggle regardless of whether or not they work outside the home. But parenting artists, most of whom have day jobs in addition to the hours they spend practicing, coordinating, making, producing and the like, have a few more balls to keep in the air.

Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker, co-directors of Works Progress, are just starting to figure it out. Before their son was born five months ago, they thought they’d have no problem watching him and continuing to work in the storefront office space that is part of their home. They quickly realized that wasn’t going to work.

“We’ve had to just be really focused and guarded with our time in a way that we weren’t before,” said Shanai, and they’ve had to ask for help. They’ve also changed the way they look at their art. “When you have a kid it’s this point in your life that you’re asking yourself how do I want to relate to this human. What is this relationship and how does who I am matter as their parent? As this person they’re looking to to tell them about the world?” said Shanai.

Shanai and Colin are new to the juggling act, but actor Levi Weinhagen has been at it for a while. When Levi’s daughter was born seven years ago, he was an actor making comedy — and it wasn’t suitable for children. A few years later he realized his daughter had never seen him perform, which led him to found the family-friendly theater company Comedy Suitcase with fellow actor and dad Joshua English Scrimshaw.

LeviIrene.JPG“Having a kid changed my artistic career and I realized that was probably true for a lot of artistic parents,” said Levi. “I started talking to people about it and they all had these interesting stories. I thought it would be worth sharing with other people.”

Since May 2012, Levi has been sharing these conversations on his Pratfalls of Parenting podcast. After dozens of conversations with artist/parents, Levi shared the key lessons that have emerged:

1) You’ll be more efficient than you thought possible

Pre-kids, you might work when the muse inspires. But when you’re a parent, you might have twenty minutes — RIGHT NOW — to make art. So you do it. According to Levi, “you actually end up having less time to do your work but most people I talked to felt like they’ve been making more work and being more proud of the work they’ve been making since they’ve had kids.”

2) Your cultural horizons will expand

You might have never have had reason to watch “Yo, Gabba Gabba!” or see a show at The Children’s Theater, but now you will — and it will open your eyes. Levi said, “You’ll be exposed to different mediums you can use to communicate with an audience. For me, it opened up new avenues.”

3) Balance doesn’t exist

“It’s not a real thing, the idea that you can balance things, but that doesn’t have to be bad,” Levi said. Some things in your life will be neglected at different times — art, friends, spouse, but it’s impossible to make it all happen at once. Many of the artists Levi spoke with have found ways to make it easier, but it doesn’t all magically fall into place.

4) Failing is ok, and often funny

The name of the podcast comes from Levi’s love of physical comedy and how this idea relates to parenting. “One of my favorite things to talk about with parents is how they’ve failed, which is what a pratfall essentially is: making something fun out of something not going right. You fall down but everyone knows you’re ok, so it’s hilarious.” These conversations can be particularly therapeutic and helpful in realizing that no one knows exactly what to do — and that’s ok.