How to find community:
1. Intentionally create community. Offer help to people. Ask to borrow things. After meeting people, think about your ideal group culture. Be the one to initiate it! As artists we influence and create culture. Invite people to hang out in your home or yard or at a park.
2. Explore options to connect with a faith-based community. Many can be really easy to get involved with.
3. Look for existing opportunities. Artist Mothers of MAWA is one that's incredibly supportive. So many collectives and groups exist around common hobbies and interests.
Being an artist allows you to create a truly magical world for your children. As someone who can readily come up with ideas, and has the facility to make our kids virtually any toy or object, even if it's a silly version of the original, there are no bounds to the experiences you can set up for them. You can see the path to play ahead, give them enough tools and mystery for the journey, and set them free to explore their own imaginations...
Sometimes this is possible. Sometimes there's energy for this kind of wonderful engagement with our kids. ...Sometimes it leaves very little creative energy for creating our own work. We find ourselves negotiating between diving in creatively with them, and immersing ourselves in the creation of the art we feel is truly adding to the world we're building for them. We want to set examples for them. We want to show them what all the tinkering explorative play looks like when you keep going with it for decades and watch it become something that almost seems to breathe on it's own. We want to show them how to take risks, make mistakes, and just try something. We want to teach them how to observe and to be self-learners, a characteristic that will serve them in whatever (likely multiple) professions they'll have as adults.
So how do we continue to work? The lack of a guaranteed income can make paying for childcare impossible. A day job leaves even less time. We work in snippets here and there, when the kids are asleep, at school ...if that's possible with our process. When our husbands/partners are off work, we see the opportunity to make art without paying for childcare, and we take it! ...while feeling we're missing out on being together as a family, and missing out on building our most vital relationships.
And this is where community is SO important.
Early when I became a mother, I read an article that profiled several artist mothers. The disturbing thing was that the consensus seemed to be "You can be successful as an artist and mother if you do only those two things. Give up on having a social life, and spend all your spare time making art. It takes commitment." The logic is there...
after all, there are only so many hours in the day.
However, I have found that I need community. I need to be around people who are encountering the same struggles. I need people who aren't artists, too. I need an outside perspective, to be pulled outside of that world, and to be reminded of other things. There's value in getting creative by sharing resources and trading childcare. True community also involves going beyond convenience when you help people. It means others are there when opportunities come along; offering to babysit, to help transport your work, cheerleading you on, giving you feedback. These are people who don't care how crazy messy your house has gotten in the final stages of a project, who continue to see the bigger picture of your life.
How to find community:
1. If you live in Winnipeg and are an artist mother, I'd strongly suggest being a part of a community called Artist Mothers of MAWA. They are incredibly supportive.
2. If you are at all interested, explore options to connect with a faith-based community. It's easy to see these types of communities just as time take‑away‑ers, but I'm convinced that there are many options that can be incredibly refreshing and beneficial to us as artists, and strongly suggest spending a bit of time looking for one that's right for you.
3. Intentionally create community. We have friends that made a priority of inviting people over for supper every Friday night. They made it simple by making the same food repeatedly, and "Spaghetti Supper" became a tradition. They've continued the tradition even after moving to Nova Scotia, and though we miss them, we continue to remember what they've taught us about community.
Offer help to people.
Ask to borrow things.
Invite people to hang out in your home or yard or a park.
After meeting people, think about your ideal group culture. Nicknames? Hugging? Fist bumps? Sarcasm/Sincerity? What makes you feel a part of a group? What do other people like? Be bold. Ask people, "Hugger? Not a Hugger?" Over-communicate. What's the harm?
We often don't invite others because we think, "I already see that person at ___. I'll talk to them there." Somehow though, getting together in a more intimate or different context is what actually deepens the relationship.
It's definitely not about numbers; we don't have an endless capacity for intimate community, but we do need to be and be surrounded by consistent, dependable people who are intentional about supporting and encouraging one another.
In the spirit of community, I'm going to open up the comments for this post. Please add to the conversation by sharing your own tips below!